03.01.2005 fnm - alfa romeo's Brazilian connection 1950-1986

In the meantime there were hundreds of unsold petrol-powered 2300s stocking up in Brazil. It was a huge problem, and it was clear to all that they would not sell over a short period of time.

Under normal circumstances Alfa Romeo importers were able to decide for themselves what they imported, but now came an assignment from top Alfa Romeo management, who were trying to find a solution to the cumulating 2300 problem, to offer the Brazilian-built cars for sale in Holland and Germany as the Alfa Romeo 2300 RIO.

Both European importers took Alfa Romeo’s decision with a pinch of salt. It was simply an unpleasant vehicle to sell, mainly seeing that transport costs from Brazil had to be considered in the price, which as a result would be uncompetitive.

About 600 cars were shipped over to Holland, and only a handful of 2300 RIO’s were ever sold. The remaining stock of unsold examples stayed with the importer for three years. Parked next to the coast, the constant salt and wind buffeting did not aide the 2300 RIO’s already lacking allure.

For the cars that did sell, there were no spare parts, which was maybe a good thing. This gave the importers the opportunity to strip some of their stock for spare parts backup. This at least resolved some of the problem, but there were still hundreds of examples left.

Had the Dutch and German importers decided to lower the consumer cost of the cars to get rid of them, they’d have still been stuck with two year-long warranty issues. The warranty covered the body and paint for two years, and the engine for two years or 100.000 km.

For three-year-old ‘new’ cars that had been severely weathered this was a horrendous financial proposition. Therefore, in 1981, the Dutch importer decided to sell them on to the intermediate trade to get round the problem.

Indeed, the trim, electrics and body were of very poor quality and did cause horrendous warranty claims, so much so, that after about a year or so, Alfa Romeo offered to take back all the 2300 RIO’s from the owners and replace them with a 105 series 2000 Berlina at no cost to the customer.

The price which the Dutch importer sold the cars on for must have been generous to compensate for the expected warranty problems. It is possible that they even lost money on each sale, just to be rid of the problem they were dumped with.

Top: 1974 marked the launch of the Alfa Romeo 2300 Rio, the first and last unique car mass-produced by Alfa Romeo in Brazil. Below: Despite weighing 1.210 kg, the 2300 Rio was quite fast - in TI Álcool form it pumped out 149 bhp.

Top: The interior of the 2300 is pure 70s, with a curious mix of origami shapes, velours material and wood finish. Middle "The Germans are importing the Alfa Romeo 2300 TI. And it looks as if they have made some good competition for it." Maybe a little cheeky? Bottom: a front make-over for the last-of the line TI 4 in 1985. Production of the car stopped in 1986 after 29.947 examples had rolled off the line.

Then there was the image dilemma. When the cars presented by the intermediate trade were offered up for sale with fresh registration and 0 kilometres on the clock for just under 10.000 guilders (equivalent of €4.484), it smashed the residual value of any 2300 bought beforehand for the original catalogue price of 27.990 guilders (equivalent of €12.552). This original cost also included an ML-coating thrown in for free.

The 2300 RIO’s residual headache cruelly coincided with the Alfasud’s huge rust problem, and took years to resolve.

But the 2300 wasn’t such a bad car. It was only dated for its time in Europe. With a cast-iron block with mechanical components that dated back to Alfa Romeo’s first mass-production model, the 1940’s 1900, the 2300 must have been perfectly suited to a Brazil's hands-on mechanics. Stylistically it was actually quite handsome, in a large understated maffia kind of way.

It was also a spacious car with 132 bhp under the bonnet and was available in metallic grey, red, white and dark blue.

It could reach 175 km/h and accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 11.7 seconds. Not that bad for a car that weighed 1.210 kg.

The 2300 stayed on in production until 1986, and went through several versions, including the ‘sporting’ 2300 TI and TI 4, the ‘luxury’ 2300 SL, and an alcohol-burning version of the TI. The TI 4 had a power output of 149 bhp and its weight was increased to 1.280 kg.

After Fiat took control of Alfa Romeo in 1987, no further Alfa models were built at the Brazilian plant. In the meantime, the Alfa Romeo 2300 has become a true rarity. After a period of 23 years we may look back on the subject with a smile. It was certainly a worthwhile addition in Alfa Romeo’s long and fascinating history.

By James Granger

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