I went for a wander to the supermarket on Sunday afternoon and spotted this well-preserved Alfa 75 at the side of the road. The K-plate indicates that this example was one of the last models registered in the UK.
The 75 is not just a roadside rarity, but it’s also something of a landmark production car for the brand. It was the last mainstream rear-drive Alfa Romeo and was developed while the company was still independent of Fiat.
The 75 had a transaxle layout – the gearbox is mounted on the rear axle – which gives a car tremendous inherent balance, something that was supercar-exotic back then. The 75 also had a de Dion rear axle, which gives most of the advantages of independent suspension, without the cost and complexity.
The 75’s rear brakes were mounted inboard – reducing the weight of the wheel and hub assembly – and the front suspension system was a decidedly unusual mix of torsion bars and conventional dampers.
In the embryonic ‘premium’ car market that existed in the mid-1980s, this made the 75 a much more sophisticated car than the competition.
First, there was the beautifully engineered but ageing rear-drive BMW E30 3-series, which rode on notoriously unpredictable semi-trailing arm suspension.Second, there was Audi’s 80 and 90 models. Sleekly modern and with superb build quality inside and out, they rode on a spectacularly nose-heavy and crude chassis. Finally, Mercedes’ 190E had both the sophisticated chassis and the engineering class and finish, but no pretence of sporting or enjoyable handling.