17.10.2005 The exciting new Alfa 159 has been grabbing the headlines all year, but 2005 also marks the 20th anniversary of the arrival on the market of the Alfa 75

The exciting new Alfa 159 has been grabbing the headlines all year, but 2005 also marks the 20th anniversary of the arrival on the market of the Alfa 75, regarded by many as the last true Alfa Romeo sedan, and one which - in engineering terms at least - marked the end of a fabulous era in the Milanese marque's long history.

Earlier this month a 20th anniversary celebration was held at the Arese facility in Milan, where a large gathering of Alfa 75s rubbed shoulders with the many famous historic Alfa Romeos that are housed in the official Museo (not to forget the Museo's own Alfa 75 representation which includes the fearsome Alfa 75 IMSA race car) and present day cars such as the new Alfa 159 itself and the simply gorgeous 8C Competizione concept sportscar.

Introduced in May 1985, the Alfa 75 (or 'Milano' as is was known in the USA), named to celebrate 75 years of Alfa Romeo's existence, was developed as the successor to the Giulietta and Alfetta models, and in fact  the entire mechanical basis was taken from these cars. A mid size saloon the Alfa 75 continued the unusual Alfa Romeo design of having the engine situated at the front and the gearbox at the rear to provide for an excellent distribution of the weight. Only ever produced in one bodystyle, a four door saloon (with a drag coefficient 0.34), the Alfa 75 was the last car to use the Alfetta mechanicals.

At its launch, the engines were as follows: 1600 (1570cc, 110bhp), 1800 (1779cc, 120bhp) and 2000 (1962cc, 128bhp) all four cylinder units with carburettors, a 2500 fuel injection V6 in the Green Cloverleaf version (2492cc, 156bhp), and a 2.0 turbo diesel (1995cc, 95bhp). During the following year, 1986, the Alfa 75 turbo was introduced. This saw the 1779cc twin cam engine fitted with a Garrett T3 turbocharger, fuel injection, intercooler and oil-cooler, all adding up to produce 155bhp.

Alfa Romeo 75
Alfa Romeo 75
Alfa Romeo 75

Earlier this month a event was held at Arese in Milan to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the Alfa Romeo 75 sedan, it was attended by many present owners of a model that is now firmly a part of  the  marque's  history

Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo Evoluzione
Alfa Romeo 75 IMSA

The Alfa 75 Turbo Evoluzione and the racing version appeared during the Alfa 75's 20th  anniversary  celebrations

Alfa Romeo 75

Introduced in May 1985, the Alfa 75 sedan, named to celebrate 75 years of Alfa Romeo's existence, was developed  as  the  successor  to  the  Giulietta   and   Alfetta

Alfa Romeo 75 IMSA

Alfa Corse - the factory's in house competitions' arm - raced the Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo in top-flight touring car racing, its array of drivers including then rising Italian single-seater stars Nicola Larini and Gabriele Tarquini, former F1 pilots Sandro Nannini and Jacques Laffite, as well as the Indycar legend and former FIA  F1  World  Champion,  Mario  Andretti

This engine was also developed for motorsport and it gained some successes in a very short lived career (including a third place overall in the 1987 Tourist Trophy, held at Silverstone). The competition cars were heavily developed and included such changes as coilover front suspension (replacing the torsion bars), outboard rear brakes and adjustable de Dion rear suspension. Aimed at both cashing in on the competition success of the Alfa 75 turbo, and for its FIA homologation, was the 'Evoluzione', which was fitted with extra bodywork and a luxurious interior, but only sold in small numbers.

In 1987 the venerable twin-cam engine was redesigned to incorporate two spark plugs per cylinder (as Alfa had also done in the past with various race engines) and so the twin-spark was born. The Alfa 75 received the 2.0-litre version of this engine, which pumped out a healthy 148bhp, thanks also to variable valve timing and fuel injection. At the same time, Alfa released the 3.0i V6 America. Visually recognisable due to the black side stripes being body coloured, it introduced the 186bhp 3-litre version of the V6 into the Alfa 75 and was aimed at the US market, incorporating as it did, new front and rear bumpers which were designed to meet that country's stringent safety legislation.

In 1988 the Alfa 75's engine line up was again changed, as the carburettor fed 1800 was replaced by the 1.8IE, and a new 2.4-litre turbo diesel joined the range. The 1.8IE produced the same power as the earlier version, but the Bosch Motronic fuel injection and variable valve timing enabled a better torque curve  to be produced. The 2.4 TD unit, a VM engine, came complete with a KKK turbocharger and intercooler. Aesthetically only very minor changes were made to these models, and various parts, such as the 'herringbone' pattern seats, were adopted from the Twin Spark model.

Late 1989 saw a 1.6IE joining the range (the carburettor 1.6 soldiered on for a while longer too) with 105bhp, whilst catalysed versions of 2.0 Twin Spark and 3.0 V6 also emerged, both suffering minor decreases in overall power output. Slightly later, in 1990, the 1.8 Turbo America was relaunched as the 1.8 Turbo Quadrifoglio, gaining 10bhp (now up to 165bhp). The 3.0i V6 also gained 12bhp (up from a catalysed 180bhp to 192bhp) thanks to a new injection system, new camshafts and a new exhaust system. Both cars received revised suspension settings to handle the extra power.

The Alfa 75 became well known for its quirky looks from the outside, and some unusual design features inside, such as the U-shaped handbrake lever, and the electric window switches, which were mounted in the roof lining.

Alfa Romeo never actually built a coupe version of the Alfa 75, but the SZ/RZ line - closely based on its chassis, engine and drivetrain and nicknamed 'Il Monstro' - can comfortably laid claim to that brief. Meanwhile an interesting Alfa 75 based concept appeared in 1986 when Rayton Fissore showed their interpretation of a Alfa 75 estate, called the 'Turbowagon' (being based on the 1.8 turbo car), a pretty design, which unfortunately though never made it to actual production.

The Alfa 75 heralded the end of an era of evolutionary 'pure' rear wheel drive, rear mounted gearbox and differential, Alfa Romeo 'family' sedans. It's rakish looks gave it a distinct, individual appearance which gained it a strong, dedicated following. The flagship model of the range - the Alfa 75 3.0 V6 - was a particularly powerful, able-handling 'sports' saloon that embodied the values that Alfa Romeo hold so dear.

It was eventually replaced in 1992 by the all-new, front-wheel-drive Alfa 155, which was based on the Fiat Tipo's floorpan. The Alfa 155 was in turn followed by the highly regarded Alfa 156, which this autumn has now given way to the new Alfa 159.

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With 150,000 visitors streaming into the dealers, Alfa Romeo have successfully concluded an 'Open Week' for the new Alfa 159 in Italy

Alfa 75 history: www.carsfromitaly.com /  Photos (75th anniversary): www.hellfire.it / 2005 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed