23 March 2020

More than an old car #137: Alfa Romeo 2000 Berlina

It always puts a smile on my face when I come across classics that are driven regularly on the road: the juxtaposition between it and the newer cars is interesting to look at, and I believe your eyes would be drawn to it as well. A fine example would be this 1972 Alfa Romeo 2000 Berlina which I had the pleasure of seeing quite a few times already!

The 105 series 1750 Berlina (sedan) was introduced in 1967 at the Turin Motor Show, in response to the problems that AR faced at that time: increased labour costs and difficulties in continuous technical development made the production of high-class cars uneconomical, and that more consumers were ditching AR cars for other domestic/foreign competitors due to their increased wealth. As such, then-president of AR Giuseppe Luraghi chose the commercial strategy of using the well-tested Giulia chassis to accommodate larger engines, and to make it compatible with the new production lines in its Arese plant.

While the 1750 Berlina was technically supposed to be designated as the '1800' (car manufacturers usually round up the engine displacement for their model names), the '1750' convention was thought to recall the past glories of its successful 6C back in the 1920s, and to accentuate the prestige of the new car. Designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone, it was based off the original Giulia sedan of 1962 although there were numerous subtle differences. For instance, the Berlina had a sloping nose, flared front wheel arches and a generally plain, boxy look. The windscreen was fairly vertical and wrapped around the side (although subtly). Uniquely, the car body was built all in one piece with the chassis and almost everything was welded together (other than the doors, car boot and bonnet).

Some time in 1971, the engine increased its size to a 1962 cc twin-cam i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 191 km/h with an acceleration of 8.75 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4390 mm long and weighed 1110 kg, with a fuel consumption of 9 litres/100 km. There was also a facelift done: the quad headlights were now smaller but of equal size and the grille designed was modified. Comfort was also emphasised to make it more attractive for the average buyer: amenities included front head restraints, extensive use of carpets and velvets, a larger instrument panel and even air-conditioning, which was unthinkable for an AR car a few years ago.

Throughout its lifetime, it experienced remarkable success in sales but not as well as expected, due to labour unrests and the 1973 oil crisis that discouraged buying of 'thirsty' cars. Production ended in 1977 with 191,723 units made, of which 89,840 were the 2000 Berlina version. This unit still sports its original registration in 1977 and it should be the only one left with regular plates, although there is another unit that was recently imported from Australia. It was sold in Singapore starting from 1973 by City Motors Sdn Bhd, with a retail price of S$16,810.10 [S$49,588 in today's money]. Although Singapore had already gained independence from Malaysia by then, it was still common to have these Malaysian-registered companies still operating here at that time.
I also found out that the 2000 Berlina could also be won just by entering a contest...imagine winning a car just by sending in the entry form and a Milo coupon! Although I was also equally impressed that the top prize was a Mercedes W115 and the 3rd prize, a highly prized Datsun 1600 SSS.

It is very impressive that such an old car can still be daily driven on the roads, based on my sightings and that of others too. This car must be really treasured in the family for them to constantly renew its COE and extend its lifespan here. Having said that, it still looks well-maintained and the weather-beaten look gives it an added layer of authenticity. I understand it resides around the Bras Basah area and I hope that you can see it too to understand what I mean!

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