In 1983, Alfa Romeo introduced a new small model and named it after perhaps its most beautiful type ever, although of course this modern variant designed by Ermann Cressoni was not so pretty. Yes, today we will talk about the Alfa Romeo 33, the Italian trentatre, the successor to the Alfasud model. This was also the task for the concurrently produced cheaper Arna model, but it was not successful.
The Alfa Romeo 33 existed as a smaller five-door liftback with a short stepped rear or a five-door station wagon (originally named Giardinetta, later Sportwagon), the rear of which was designed by the Pininfarina studio. A three-door variant was also flirted with, but its production never took place. In 1986 came a minor facelift, in 1989 (sales did not start until January of the following year) followed by this distinctive one with a more aerodynamic front end and a painted mask instead of black. The car was supposed to be more reminiscent of the new design direction started by the flagship 164. The higher rear gives the car a nice wedge-shaped profile and hides a spacious trunk. So the Alpha is more practical than it might seem. The specific car is decorated with non-original, but period Ronal Turbo wheels.
The interior was completely redesigned and received higher quality materials, in some versions even real wood (of interest to connoisseurs, the Alfa shared the heating vents with the Ferrari F40). The sports version of the QV had a specific upholstery pattern on the anatomical Recaro seats. Nevertheless, plastics are harder and can resonate in combination with a stiffer chassis. Alfa Romeo also offered quite decent equipment in this class. A novelty that was not standard in the class at the time was the height adjustment of the steering wheel, in this case replaced by the one from the Permanent variant. However, drivers may find the pedals slightly offset. And there’s also electric windows. Otherwise, the interior is cozy and very comfortable for both front seat passengers. The car is a bit more cramped at the back.
Technically, the Alfa Romeo 33 is based on the Alfasud predecessor, from which it inherited the floor platform and drivetrain. Under the front hood, the engine is located longitudinally and it drives the front wheels, although there were also four-wheelers. In addition to the three-cylinder turbodiesel, only gasoline four-cylinder boxers from 1.2 to 1.7 liters and always manual five-speed gearboxes were available. Back then, boxers were unique in their class and we all like originality.
The QV version is the highlight
The QV version, of course, has the biggest possible engine, a 17-stroke boxer with Bosch Motronic ML4 injection, four valves per cylinder (as the name QV implies, i.e. Quattrovalvole) tuned factory exhausts and a wonderful sound at higher revs. In the most powerful sixteen-valve version, this is tuned to a power of 137 hp (101 kW) at 6,500 rpm and a torque of 161 Nm at 4,600 rpm. This car can easily beat a Volkswagen Golf GTI or a Peugeot 205 GTI, and it’s an incredibly fun toy on the roads. Kicks a bit when accelerating. But it may surprise you that there are drum brakes at the back. But after a sharp ride, you still smell more like burnt rubber.
The engine fills the entire space under the forward-opening hood, so access to some components is somewhat complicated. Behind the engine, there is a fixed partition that replaces the additionally mounted shock absorber spacers that car manufacturers sometimes use on sports models. Of course, the car is already equipped with a catalytic converter and it is actually surprising how quiet it is when driving calmly. Then you can also reach a consumption of 7 liters, but rather count on the fact that it won’t give you that and you’ll be pushing it pretty hard. And that’s more like ten liters.
Sporty ride thanks to low weight
The Alfa 33 weighs only around a ton, which is a great value, but at the same time it is also evidence of insufficient torsional rigidity. The chassis is lowered and sportier, so the Alfa sits beautifully in corners. The rack-and-pinion steering is wonderfully precise and clean, it doesn’t even need a limited-slip differential, and yet it circles any bend beautifully. This is simply a sporty model that will capture your heart. But this is also reflected in the price, and you simply won’t find a QV variant for less than a hundred thousand. After all, you won’t find any ordinary variant in good condition for less than a hundred thousand.
1995 saw the end of production and replacement with the 145 and 146 models, which inherited the same engines but were based on the Fiat Tipo platform. In those 11 years, more than a million pieces of the Model 33 were produced, so it was a very successful model. But certainly not flawless in typically Italian style.
It is troubled by capricious electronics, defective seals (practically all), bulging hoses, outgoing synchros on the gear stages (mainly on the two) and weak anti-corrosion protection. But both apply more to the older model, the newer one already had a galvanized frame and galvanized sheets, so it corrodes less, but due to its age, you cannot avoid rust. Look mainly at the edges of the fenders, sills, floor and around the tank cap, that is a very weak spot. Finding parts is also a problem.
The Alfa Romeo 33 also started in rallies and station wagons also participated in the famous Dakar, and interesting prototypes were created, such as the compact MPV Z33 Free Time, convertible or hybrid versions. All in all, it’s a great car for me, which deserves a bigger fan base and which I’d like to see more often on the road. You don’t meet them that often in Italy either. After all, the German or Japanese competition looks so settled next to it. But you have to have the character for it or be a life-long alfist.