A brief review.
Up to 1983.
The 1.3 Sprint.
The 1.5 Sprint.
The 1.7 ultimate Sprint.
A brief review
First there were the Alfasuds. But something was missing. The Italian finesse and wild spirit should be renewed with something more powerful and more attractive. The market was filled with coupes, so the answer was easy. A new coupe must be born. And before anyone realises it, the new Alfasud Sprint came.
The new front-wheel drive Sprint Coupe could easily remind its little (elder) sister, the Alfasud, especially in the inside. The floorpan was directly taken from the Alfasud Saloon and the 1,300cc engine (0-60mph (0-100kph) in 12,6 sec) was specially developed for the new model, although it appeared in the Alfasud Ti Saloon as well as the coupe.
Nobody expected how roomy the Sprint was for a three-door sporty hatchback, capable of seating four adults in comfort and if necessary a fifth. Not to mention the steering wheel which you can adjust at your height. Well the problem was that nobody thought about the poor tall drivers who must cut their head if they wanted to drive this car. It has a short top, but you can find the ideal position in the typical Italian long-arm style.
And nobody expected anything less but the perfect driving sense this car can give you. The Alfasud Sprint stuck to the road very well and cornered as though on rails (personal experience), a feel that makes you fly in heaven. With the five-speed gearbox (something not so common for that era, at least not to the other car manufacturers) and the same gearing as the Ti Saloon, the new coupe started production with 165/70-13 tires.
The first Sprints (1,286cc engine) wasn't of course the fast car that someone could expect, but it sure showed a potential for development. So after the first bugs, Alfasud Sprint re-entered the market an in the form of the 1,490cc engined version.
Introduced into Britain in March 1978, it improved on the top speed by only 2mph (3kph) but its 0-60mph (0-100kph) time was improved by more than a full second, to 11.2 seconds. Something very respectable in its days. General performance was not perfect but the roadholding made up for a great deal, as this was well the equal of more expensive vehicles round Europe.
Inside the Alfasud Sprint, the standard of trim was everything the Alfa Romeo enthusiast had come to expect. Instrumentation was all in a single binnacle, with a matching speedometer and revolution counter on either side of it and the water thermometer and oil pressure gauge placed between the larger two instruments (take a look at the pics). The deeply dished three-spoke steering wheel had a rather slender rim against modern standards and presented the usual long-arm/ short-leg driving position. Perhaps the most irritating feature which the Sprint inherited from its saloon sibling was the closely positioned pedals with nowhere to rest the left foot in comfort away from the clutch pedal. The bad thing is that the brake and gas pedals aren't close enough, but with a good pair of pedals Ö you do miracles.
Ventilation of this Alfasud coupe left a little to be desired on a cool damp day, as the windscreen would mist up without the power assistance of the fan and the side windows were little better when there were four in the car. However, it was possible to open the door windows very slightly, and the rear quarter lights could also be opened by rotating a screw-down knob.
Luggage space was excellent for the young family or the couple who occasionally carried additional passengers. The rather heavy tailgate was supported by two gas struts and the luggage compartment was covered by a soft roll-up panel which was located on to the wide valances of the compartment by means of Velcro strips. The luggage space in the Sprint is somewhat larger than many family cars.
Then, the Series 2 Sprint Veloce was introduced. It came with an improved performance over its predecessor. The better 1,5 engine, was capable of reaching 175kph (109mph) top speed and a 0-100kph (0-60mph) time of 10.2 seconds. This was a full second off the 0-100kph (0-60mph) time of the earlier Sprint 1,5, as well as a 10kph (6mph) improvement on top speed.
THE SPRINT GOES ON
The time for the Series 3 range had come. It came in 1984 to take over the Sprint's market position and continue in production until 1989.
Series 3 began with the introduction of the Sprint Veloce Plus in 1981, which was a 1,5 version, with the same performance figures and a slightly improved interior. The exterior changed little in this period and continued, with the odd example of sidestriping and minor changes with the 1982 models of Sprint Veloce and Sprint Trofeo.
For 1983 came the Sprint Speciale, a 1,5 model with improved interior trim and modified dashboard and venting. A leather-rimmed steering wheel came into the specification and by the end of that year, the name of the Sprint Series was changed to remove the Alfasud. Now the Sprint were called Alfa Romeo Sprint models. By now, all traces of chrome exterior metal trim had disappeared, to be replaced with black trims. The bumpers and radiator grille were now made from black plastic material and the familiar Alfa Romeo radiator grille shape was in silver colour or green for the "Quadrifoglio Verde" or Green Cloverleaf model.
As the Alfa 33 took over the role of the Alfasud and Arna Saloons (I donít want anybody to mention anything about these Arna things), so thoughts turned to standardisation of design features and components. As a consequence of this, the Sprint assumed the braking system of the 33, with disc front brakes and drums at the rear, the diagonally split system being designed to ensure continued braking if one line failed. In the engine, the camshaft design had already changed, switching from the dual-lobe cams with an adjuster setscrew between them to a more orthodox single-lobe design which was now adjusted by means of shims of predetermined thicknesses being placed between the bucket tappets and the camshaft.
By 1986, the Alfa Sprint was beginning to gasp for breath whilst trying to keep up with many of its less illustrious competitors. As a consequence, Alfa Romeo engineers decided that another enlargement of engine was justified and in the following year, they introduced the largest flat-four version yet: the 1.7l2cc 1.7 engine, which produced 118bhp at 5,800rpm or translated into road speed 200kph (125mph) and a 0-100kph (0-60mph) in something near 8 secs.
This final phase in the development of the Sprint series featured only detail changes to the exterior in the basic model, which was the Sprint 1.7 Coupe. These details included a rear spoiler across the back of the hatch, colour-matched door mirrors and re-designed easier to clean road wheels (I personally prefer the older ones). Inside, the car was much as before, with the dashboard being the same as its immediate predecessor. Upholstery was now finished in a fine dogtooth check woven cloth, with reinforcing vinyl panels in the high-wear areas, whilst the centres of the head restraints were filled in with a cloth-faced padding to match the seat covering.
The other model was the Alfa Romeo Sprint Veloce, which was now equipped with a body streamlining kit and five-spoke wheels. The body kit consisted of the spoiler common to both versions, a pair of side-skirts fitted to the door sills and a deep front air dam. Inevitably, however, the Veloce was set at a higher price, appealing no doubt to the "boy racer" fraternity.
END OF THE LINE
The year 1988 saw the last series of appearances for the Alfa Romeo Sprint on the international motor show circuit. The Sprint continued in production as it was into 1989.
Before ending, we should say that the Sprint itself is characterised as a "classic" piece. So guys be careful with you Sprints. Don't neglect them and in few years time they will pay you back.
Up to 1983
The 1.3 Sprint
The 1.5 Sprint
The 1.7 ultimate Sprint.