The Story Of The Brazilian Alfas
Despite its worldwide fame and prestige, Alfa Romeo had always been a small company. One that you wouldn't expect to run an overseas assembly operation on the other side of the globe. But you'd be wrong.
"Our" story begins in 1958.
The Brazilian state-owned company FNM was a truck manufacturer that, under pressure from the country's president, entered the automobile sector by assembling under license the Alfa Romeo 2000 saloon.
The FNM 2000 was by far and away the most sophisticated and expensive automobile made in Brazil at the time
Launched in 1960, the FNM 2000 was identical to its Italian sister, save for a reduced compression ratio of its four-cylinder engine, an evolution of the unit launched in 1950 with the 1900 saloon. Over the cast-iron block sat an aluminum cylinder head with twin overhead camshafts and hemispheric combustion chambers, in the best Alfa Romeo tradition.
The FNM 2000 was by far and away the most sophisticated and expensive automobile made in Brazil at the time, ensuring that yearly sales remained in the low hundreds during most of the decade.
While the 2000 "Ti" and "Timb" were the first FNM models not to have an Italian equivalent, the most intriguing FNM model certainly is the coupé "Onça." Its fiberglass body took inspiration from the Ford Mustang and sat on a 2000 platform with a shorter wheelbase.
Meanwhile, in Italy, Alfa Romeo was successfully riding the wave of new money created during the country's economic boom, and in 1968 took direct control of FNM from the Brazilian government.
The new 2300 saloon wore the Alfa Romeo badge rather than the FNM logo, and, at first glance, it looked like the Italian Alfetta
The new era's first product was the "2150," a mildly refreshed version of the old saloon with an enlarged engine and a more modern interior, but a new model, developed in Milan, arrived in 1974.
The new 2300 saloon wore the Alfa Romeo badge rather than the FNM logo, and, at first glance, it looked like the Italian Alfetta. But the Brazilian car was substantially larger in all dimensions, and its four-cylinder engine was still based on the old 2000 block.
The basic chassis design still was very much rooted in the 1950s, but disc brakes all around, a collapsible steering column, and a modern ventilation system were all welcome improvements.
Fiat kept manufacturing the model on Alfa's behalf until as late as 1986.
1976 saw the improved 2300 B and Ti's introduction, the latter a luxury variant with a more powerful engine and upgraded cabin. With its financial situation rapidly deteriorating in Europe, Alfa Romeo sold its Brazilian venture to Fiat the same year.
This didn't spell the end of Alfa Romeo 2300 production, though, as Fiat kept manufacturing the model on Alfa's behalf until as late as 1986.
Due to its high price, the 2300 had never really been a strong seller, though, and its aging design made it severely uncompetitive in the face of the increased competition of the 1980s. Alfa Romeo's "swan song" in Brazil was the 1985 model year, incorporating a new front grille, new bumpers, and taillights... But it was too little too late.
Production of Alfa Romeo cars in Brazil stopped for good in December of 1986.