The Alfa Romeo ALFASUD is a great example of what can go wrong when you inject too much government in what should be a simple proposition: building a car. Of course, we’ve had plenty of sad examples since then (think Government Motors), but this is a prime, early example.
By all measure, the Alfasud was a great car, one of the greatest of the decade. It was cheap, roomy, relatively peppy and handled superbly. It was designed by Rudolph Hruska of Porsche and VW fame, and featured a front-wheel drive chassis, something new for Alfa Romeo. It was powered by a boxer-style flat-four, 1.5 liter engine that cranked out 95 horsepower; the Alfasud could reach a top speed of 107 mph, and accelerate to 60 mph in 11.5 seconds. For sure, these aren’t groundbreaking numbers, but pretty damn respectable for a small family car in 1972!
Of course, these are the good parts. Now to the bad. The Italian government that the new Alfa Romeo car should be built near Naples, in an area oh high unemployment in the South of the Italian Peninsula, hence the terrible Alfasud name.
From day one, the car was plagued with quality issue relating not only to the build, which was by all accounts horrendous, but also by the awful quality of the raw materials: apparently, in a bid to support the Soviet Union’s economy, the left-wing Italian government had ordered the purchase of Soviet steel, which turned out to be recycled. The result: car that handled real well, and a joy to drive, and that turned to rust almost before you could cough out ‘Soviet Supreme’!
Thankfully, we have all learned the lessons of the past! No more soviet steel (check), no more government building cars (check) … oh wait. We’re idiots.