The Super Sprint is a sleeper in the sub- exotic category of vintage cars

Its factory devastated by wartime bombing, Alfa Romeo did not resume car production until 1947, and the firm's first all-new offering of the post-war period arrived in 1950. Designed by Dr. Orazio Satta Puliga, and intended for volume production, the 1900 was the first Alfa to employ unitary construction and, in keeping with the company's sporting heritage, was powered by a twin-overhead-camshaft engine. A four-cylinder unit, the latter displaced 1884cc and produced 90 hp, an output sufficient to propel the four-door sedan to 93 mph.

Although ostensibly a family conveyance, the 1900 was endowed with sporting credentials like wishbone and coil spring independent front suspension, and an exceptionally well-located live rear axle. It should have surprised nobody therefore, when the 1900's potential was realized in the form of two high-performance derivatives. Launched in 1951, the 1900 Sprint featured bodywork by Pinin Farina (cabriolet) and Touring (coupe), both models using the 100-hp engine of the 1900TI sports sedan. The model was upgraded for 1954, gaining a 1975-cc engine and five-speed gearbox.

This Series II Sprint features five-window Superleggera coachwork crafted in aluminum by Touring. The engine is a later 2-liter unit dating from 1957, mated to a five-speed gearbox with floor-mounted shifter. We are advised that approximately $70,000 was spent on restoration in the US, including mechanical work and a bare-metal repaint in burgundy. The brake system was overhauled, and a new wiring harness and new Michelin tires were fitted. The car features original Carello driving lights, Connolly leather upholstery, Alfin brake drums and Borrani wire wheels. After importation into the UK in 1998, further work was carried out, including attention to the brakes, electrics, fuel pumps and gearbox. The 1900 Super Sprint was purchased by the present owner at Brooks' Geneva sale in March 2000 and has not been used since. It is accompanied by a large history/restoration file and UK registration document.

{analysis} This 1954 1900 Super Sprint sold for $54,959, including buyer's premium, at the Bonhams Monte Carlo auction May 26, 2003. At the March 2000 sale, it sold for $62,121, so while this car may be a good value in terms of machinery for dollars spent, one would be hard-pressed to call the earlier purchase a good investment.

A ward of the Italian government, Alfa Romeo was struggling to get back on its feet after the factory was devastated by Allied B-17s in October, 1944. The 1900 series was a pivotal model, as it was developed at the end of the custom coach-built era and was the first series of mass-produced Alfa Romeo cars.

Although built primarily as a sedan by the manufacturer, virtually all major Italian carrozzerie offered coupe or cabriolet versions based on the 1900 chassis. During its 10-year production run, just over 20,000 units of the 1900 series were built; approximately 80% were sedans, 10% were Jeep-like vehicles called matta (Italian for crazy) that were built for the Italian Army, and the other 10% were corto or short versions for the coachbuilders.

On the short chassis, there were three series of Super Sprints, all with coachwork by Carrozzeria Touring. Production numbers were around 965, but an exact figure is not known. Touring built bodies for a number of manufacturers including Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Pegaso and, of course, Hudson. (You remember the Hudson Italia, don't you?) The first and second series Super Sprints, popularly referred to as "five-window" coupes, were quite similar to each other. The tipo III, the "three-window" coupe, resembled a large Giulietta Sprint, and shared few exterior trim parts and no sheet metal with the earlier bodies.

These Super Sprints were built one at a time as special-order vehicles, so paint and trim detail decisions were left to the stocking dealer or specific customer. There are numerous differences between specific cars of the same type and model year, which makes them more or less difficult to restore, depending on your point of view. The exteriors of these cars are relatively clean, with little trim other than bumpers, grilles and light bezels.

The 1900 Super Sprint pictured here is a type I Super Sprint equipped with a post-1958 2-liter, 1975-cc engine (or at least cylinder head) with side-draft carburetors. This is a problem with regards to authenticity but a plus for someone who wants a nice driver. Parts for these later engines are more plentiful, and the modern carburetors are much easier to service. Both the 1884-cc and 1975-cc engines were built with a cast-iron block and aluminum-alloy cylinder head and were quite sound powerplants that would happily rev past 6000 rpm. The five-speed transmission, however, was somewhat fragile.

There are a number of Alfa Romeo 1900s running European and North American vintage tours with great regularity and dependability. There are always a few in the Mille Miglia, being driven "con brio." The Super Sprint is a sleeper in the sub-exotic category of vintage cars that represents an expensive restoration but an easy ownership experience. Despite the fact that the previous owner took a $7,000 loss on this car, I still believe that there is room for these cars to appreciate. Without question, a properly set-up one offers a pleasurable, and surprisingly sophisticated driving experience.-Craig Morningstar{/analysis}

Comments are closed.