Alfa Romeo 1900C Super Sprint Coupe by Ghia-Aigle

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Alfa Romeo


1900C Super Sprint Coupe by Ghia-Aigle





In May 1950, a new Alfa Romeo model was shown to a privileged few at Turin, but its public debut was made at Paris in October of that year. This was an 1884cc, four-cylinder saloon with combined body and chassis. In many ways, this car, designed under the direction of Orazio Satta, was a substantial breakaway from Alfa Romeo tradition. It was the first Alfa Romeo to be put into series production on a new assembly line, and from this time high standard mass production really started at Portello. Other breaks with tradition were the use of a chain-driven twin overhead camshaft engine with only four cylinders, the suspension of the car and the adoption of left-hand steering, though right-hand steering was made available. The cylinder dimensions were 82.55 x 88mm (1,884cc), and the chain-driven camshafts operated valves whose clearances were adjusted by the traditional method used on all previous OHC Alfa Romeos.

With a single Solex carburettor the engine output was 90 bhp at 4,800rpm, but for an extra £57 it was possible to have a Weber double-choke carburettor with a special manifold, and this gave 93bhp at 5,400rpm with a 7.5:1 compression ratio. Both front and rear suspensions systems were new for a production Alfa Romeo. At the front, double wishbones and flexible coil springs were employed with firmly set Girling telescopic dampers. At the rear, swing axles were abandoned and a light solid axle was suspended on coil springs with telescopic dampers. Originally this axle was located by light alloy radius arms with a transverse Panhard rod, but it was found there was a certain amount of wheel patter when cornering fast. A new layout was then introduced comprising location by two tubular steel radius arms and two short diagonal arms meeting at a central pivot above the differential housing to give a parallelogram effect. This improved the road holding considerably.

For family saloons these cars, which weighed 22.6cwt, had a remarkable performance in the early Fifties. The 90 bhp version was capable of over 90mph, whilst the 93bhp car did over 105mph with a maximum of 75mph in third and 50mph in second gear.

The higher-performance version of the 1900, known as the 1900 TI — 'Turismo Internazionale' —appeared in 1951. With the compression ratio increased from 7.5 to 7.75 to 1, inlet valves increased in size from 38mm to 41 mm and exhaust from 34mm to 36.5 mm plus a double choke Weber 40 DCA 3 downdraught carburettor the output went up to l00 bhp at 5,500rpm and maximum speed from 93mph to 105mph. Similar figures were achieved with two Solex 40 PII carburettors.

It was this engine in cars with a shorter wheelbase, 8ft-2ins (2.50 metres), which produced the 1900C Sprint, and gave much scope to the specialist coachbuilders. The 1900 was, in fact, the last Alfa Romeo chassis to be available to these specialists, who welded their bodies onto the platforms supplied. Later design studies on Type 33 and special Giulia chassis were not intended for sale. The best-known coachbuilders were Touring, who built the well-known Superleggera coupes, and Zagato, whose efforts were more spartan and light and thus more suitable for sports car races such as the Inter-Europa series, where the 1900's principal rivals were the 2-litre V8 Fiats, including 5-speed SIATA versions of same.

Other coachbuilders who made open and closed coupes were Stabilamente Farina (whose 'Victoria' was presumably named after the light, low, four-wheeled horse drawn carriage for two), Pinin Farina, Boano (who made the 'Primavera' monocoque saloon), Boneschi, with the 'Astral', a futuristic drop head, Castagna, Ghia and Ghia-Aigle. Many of these designs were enhanced by Borrani wire wheels. Some of the coupes were capable of 112mph.

The final flowering of the 1900 was the Super series, of which the Berlina, or saloon, and the 1900C Super Sprint were produced from 1953 to 1958, and the TI Super saloon from 1953 to 1955. The Super series were mainly distinguished by the fact that the engine bore was increased from 82.55mm to 84.5mm, which had the effect of increasing the capacity from 1884cc to 1975cc.

From the spring of 1955 when two silent chains drove the camshafts instead of a single chain, the direction of rotation of the camshafts being changed. This also changed the firing order from 1,3,4,2 to 1,2,4,3.

In 1958, a stretched glass-partition limousine version of the 1900 Super was made, and there was also a four-seater, open military staff car with much the same lines as the standard saloon.

The chassis was designed specifically to allow coachbuilders to rebody it, the most notable of which was the Zagato designed, 1900 Super Sprint Coupe, with an improved engine and custom body design. The Alfa Romeo 1900M AR51 (or "Matta") is a four-wheel drive off-road vehicle based on the 1900-series.

Iginio Alessio, then general manager of Alfa Romeo, was concerned for the viability of the independent Italian Coach building industry–the avant of the unibody chassis design was threatening to put the Carrozzeria out of business. Alessio was also a personal friend of Gaetano Ponzoni co-owner of Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera, thus from 1951-1958 Alfa Romeo built five different variations of the 1900 unibody chassis specifically for independent coachbuilders.

Alfa Romeo gave official contracts to Touring to build the sporty 1900 Sprint coupe and to Pinin Farina to build an elegant four seat Cabriolet and Coupe. The availability of a suitable chassis led to many other coachbuilders to build versions of the 1900.

In 1951 Giovanni Michelotti became chief designer for Ghia Aigle. Under Michelotti the company`s commercial success also improved, with the result that it moved to a new base in Lugano at the start of 1955. By 1957 the coupes and convertibles based on the 1900 had also been created in the new building. When Boano returned to the companys first premises in Aigle in 1958, Pietro Frua became the new designer, succeeding his friend Giovanni Michelotti. Subsquently no more cars left workshop on an Alfa Romeo chassis. All in all should have been produced fourteen cars, based on the Alfa Romeo 1900C floorplan. The technical basis is the 1900C Super Sprint, 1975cc 115HP with a 5-speed floot shift.

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