THE ITALIAN IDEA
A SECOND HAND 1750 C.C. ALFA-ROMEO TESTED.
IT is a well-known fact that the supercharged cars of the Alfa Romeo range, especially the so-called TwoLitre and the 2.3′ , have characteristics widely differing from that of the usual English sports car. The difference may be compared to that between a highspirited and mettlesome hunter and an ordinary riding hack, and those drivers who are fortunate enough to be able to own one of these specialized cars return with reluctance to the less highlydeveloped ones which are turned out by British manufacturers.
Before taking over the car to be tested, we were warned that the steering was very light, that in fact this was a characteristic of the whole car. Some time was therefore spent in getting the correct tyre pressures and shock-absorber settings, but the trouble was amply repaid by the confidence and ease of control which followed. The 1750 c.c. Alfa is one of those few cars one can point like a pistol at the desired spot, and on a corner there always seems plenty of time to choose a path for the front wheels, with the certainty that they will follow it. On a winding road free from blind corners we derived the utmost entertainment by seeing just exactly how fast the car could be got round the bends, while the controlability was further demonstrated in taking at a certain speed the extreme outside of an adversely cambered corner in order to avoid an outsize in motor-charabancs. The lightness of the steering therefore in no way detracts from the ease of control, while lessening_ the manual effort required in fast driving. It is high-geared, with just enough caster to centre the wheels after a corner.
Traffic was particularly heavy on the day the car was tested, and there would have been every excuse for an oiled plug. There was, however, no suggestion of this, and the car ran steadily down to 10 m.p.h. on top gear without any flat-spots or spitting back. The engine revved up so quickly that we generally dropped down two gears at once, or pushed the lever straight across at low speeds.
In the open country speed mounted up in the most surprising way, and a cruising speed of 75 m.p.h. became quite normal. The acceleration, of course, was outstanding, and by using the gears freely an astounding average could be set up. With the screen up we reached 90 m.p.h. on several occasions, but when trying to discover the maximum speed, the plugs, which had seen . considerable service, showed signs of pre-ignition. We are informed by the owners of the car that 100 m.p.h. can definitely be obtained on a suitable level road, but an easily reached 90 is of more practical importance on English roads.
The brakes we found reliable but not particularly powerful. From 40 m.p.h. they brought the car to rest in 65 feet, but as the back ones definitely came on harder than the fronts, proper adjustment would have materially improved this figure. When the urge for all-out speed and acceleration, which cannot fail to be felt on such a spirited and powerful machine, had to some extent passed, we found we could still maintain the 75 m.p.h. cruising speed without much use of the gears, thanks to the excellent power-weight
ratio, and main road hills such as Dashwood are taken without slackening oi pace. At high speeds, of course, the rush of the wind carries away the sound of the exhaust, and the car seems to be gliding along like a fast aeroplane. The flexibility at low speeds conferred by the supercharger has already been commented on, and we soon tired of the experiment of remaining on top for the corners and accelerated away from 30. It seemed a waste of a day’s sport, and what objection can there be to going fast when the car obeys one’s every thought ?
The acceleration in the gears, especially second, is astonishing. The normal maximum engine speed is 4,500 r.p.m., which allows speeds of 50 in second and 70 in third. 5,000 is quite safe, and second spins up so quickly that it is easy to exceed “4.5.” 90 on top is about 4,000 r.p.m., so the engine is having an easy time at fast cruising speeds. Clutch and gear-lever are light in operation, and the gears are easy to change when One gets used to the closeness of third and top. Straight pinions are used for second and third gears, and make a fair amount of noise at the top end of the speed range, but show no signs of wear. The exhause note is the typical Alfa low-pitched boom, exhilerating to the driver and not likely to annoy the police, except perhaps if the revs. are used in ” built-up” areas. The blower, which is driven direct off the front end of the camshaft, is heard principally as a whistle on the overrun.
The driving position is a typically upright one, and looking down on the -mudguards and the long bonnet, the driver feels capable of dealing with any situation. The controls are so positioned as to be operated without conscious effort. For a tall driver the windscreen was a little low, so in most cases we kept it tilted back with the top edge below the line of vision. The car is fitted with a handsome and comfortable two-seater Zagato body. In spite of hard tyres and shock absorbers well tightened, the car rode easily at all speeds, though with a single passenger
in front a centre armrest would have been an advantage, as the division in the front squab is not sufficient to hold one steady on corners without holding firmly to the steering wheel. The coachwork and upholstery were both in good condition. A large luggage compartment capable of holding four suitcases is fitted into the
tail of the car, and the hood folds neatly into a recess behind the driving seat. It was a little complicated to raise, but afforded good protection.
The car tested is a 1932 model, and is offered at £850, or about half the original price in this country. It was purchased direct from the Alfa
Romeo factory at Milan after a thorough overhaul, and the oil level still remains at ” full ” after the 700-mile road journey from Italy. Our thanks are due to the owners, Messrs. Street & Duller, of 47, West End Lane, London, W. 6, for the opportunity of testing this interesting model.
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