Starter clas­sic: Alfa Romeo Al­fa­sud Sprint (1977-’85)

A car univer­sally praised for its dy­nam­ics and de­sign

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY: Peter Palm

t HE Sprint was based on the won­der­fully de­signed but poorly built Al­fa­sud. Due to stip­u­la­tions of a loan from the Ital­ian Gov­ern­ment, the car had to be con­structed at Alfa’s lit­tleused Avio fa­cil­ity near Naples in­stead of at its main plant in Mi­lan, which goes some way to ex­plain­ing the re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues. Nev­er­the­less, find a good one to­day, keep it in ex­cel­lent nick and you’ll own one of the most beau­ti­ful Al­fas there is.

Our first test of the Sprint was in Jan­uary 1978 and the next in March 1981. The orig­i­nal name of “Al­fa­sud Sprint, by Alfa Romeo” was later swapped for “Alfa Romeo Sprint”.


The styling was beau­ti­fully penned by Gi­u­giaro at Italde­sign and fol­lowed the lines of the big­brother GT and GTV. Slop­ing front and rear screens along with two doors gave it a sporty ap­peal and the boot was ac­cessed by lift­ing a large tail­gate. It of­fered 280 litres be­neath the shelf, or 355 litres when stacked to win­dow height; good for a com­pact sports coupé. Seat­ing was two-plus-two style, with no fold­ing rear seat.

The Sprint had disc brakes all round, with the front ones mounted in­board; Macpher­son struts ahead; a beam rear axle with Watt’s link­age pro­vided sus­pen­sion; plus rack-and-pin­ion steer­ing aid­ing the sharp cor­ner­ing abil­ity.


Start­ing life as a 1,3-litre with 56 kw, the en­gine grew to a 1,5-litre in 1978 that was good for 63 kw. In 1980, the 1,5 Sprint Ve­loce was in­tro­duced with dual twin-choke, down­draught We­ber carbs and al­loy wheels, re­plac­ing the sin­gle carb and steel wheels. This unit pro­duced 70 kw and 130 N.m. The 1300 re­turned ex­cel­lent fuel-con­sump­tion fig­ures of 9,94 L/100 km (our in­dex mea­sure­ment), in­creas­ing to 11,04 L/100 km for the 1500.

The flat-four en­gine lay­out is great for a low cen­tre of grav­ity but is rather dif­fi­cult to work on. With the heads rel­a­tively far apart – and they were heads that fea­tured over­head camshafts – a long chain or belt was needed to drive the valves (Alfa chose dual belts). In true Alfa fash­ion, the trans­mis­sion was a five-speeder, one of few cars to of­fer one in those days.


Any Sprint is col­lectable but, thanks to its su­pe­rior per­for­mance, the Ve­loce is more de­sir­able. Al­ways buy the lat­est model you can find, as the prob­lems which sur­faced on early mod­els

clock­wise from right The cabin’s de­sign couldn’t match the ex­te­rior’s air, but Alfa cer­tainly tried with some colour­ful up­hol­stery choices; Kamm tail styling aids aero­dy­nam­ics; en­gine ac­ces­si­bil­ity is a prob­lem; Vanessa Wan­nen­burg, Miss South Africa in 1977, along­side a Sprint model from the same year. were gen­er­ally sorted out in the later pro­duc­tion runs.


Al­ways look for rust. Even if fully garaged, these cars had to over­come poor-qual­ity steel from the start. Get into every nook and cranny with a rust-re­sis­tant coat­ing, start­ing with the doors, hatch and bon­net. Around the wind­screen is a ma­jor rust area and more dif cult to ac­cess than the doors, so drill small holes where nec­es­sary to gain ac­cess, then ll the holes with a plug or ller/sealer. Do your best to pur­chase a car that has spent its life in­land, away from the coast’s cor­ro­sive air.

Ser­vic­ing can be done with the en­gine in place. Note that, with those two cam­belts men­tioned ear­lier and the dis­tance be­tween cylin­der heads, each belt has a spring-loaded ten­sioner. The ten­sion should be checked every 18 000 km, with a ten­sioner-arm torque be­tween 3,8 and 4,7 kg.m, with no load on the valves of the par­tic­u­lar cylin­der head. Re­place the belts every 50 000 km, as belt break­age can dam­age the valves and pis­tons. Should ma­jor me­chan­i­cal work be needed, re­move the en­gine and gear­box as a unit from un­der­neath the car.


Just fewer than 2 500 Sprints were sold com­pared with the many thou­sands of four-door Al­fa­suds. Pric­ing for the for­mer was about 50% higher. Few are still in good con­di­tion, as there are more col­lectable oth­er­model Al­fas around, but hang on to an Al­fa­sud Sprint and the value should rise. Prices range wildly, from R10 000 for poor ex­am­ples to 10 times that for one in great shape.

The Sprint of­fered great driv­ing dy­nam­ics and sprightly per­for­mance in 1,5-litre guise (the one to get).

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