6 January 2022

More than an old car #184: Alfa Romeo Alfa 6

Happy 2022 to all my readers! It is my hope that on the 6th day of this year, life will be able to go back to some sense of normal and that you will be able to fulfill your New Year resolutions! This leads me on to a car which I have have been wanting to write about for a while now (where its name may or may not be coincidental): this 1982 Alfa Romeo Alfa 6!

The Alfa 6, also known as the Alfa Sei (6 in Italian), was conceived back at the end of the 1960s and production was slated to begin in 1973. Alfa Romeo desired to return to the market segment of large 6-cylinder sedans, and wanted to position it as an Italian Rolls Royce so to speak. The new car (with internal code 119) was designed to share parts with the lower-end Alfetta: the overall design with its 4 round headlights and the C-pillar intake were clear indications. Interestingly, the Alfa 6 was designed earlier than the Alfetta, but due to the 1973 fuel crisis the car only debuted in 1979. 

It featured a 2.5 litre V6 engine designed by Giuseppe Busso with 6 single-body carburetors, power steering, central locking and braking circuits from BMW among other equipment. This made the 6 competitively priced compared to similar saloons of its time, where such equipment would have been costly to add on. It also featured new safety features such as a shock sensor in the boot that would cut off the fuel supply during a crash. 

Unfortunately, the 6 was doomed from the start: the rear light clusters were deemed too large, the bumpers too dated and the C-pillar air intake was judged to be inelegant. On top of that, there were many issues such as a non-working speedometer, loose spotlights and badly-mounted door panels. The potent V6 engine with its carburetors (though powerful on paper) was tricky to work on and maintain for the average user. Even when Alfa Romeo tried to promote the robustness of the car body, it was dispelled by a bad accident from actor Gino Bramieri in 1981.

At the end of 1983, the 6 underwent a redesign: the quad round headlights were replaced with squarish ones, bumpers were now fully in plastic, the grille was changed and aerodynamic spoilers were fitted in the bumpers. The carburetored 2.5 litre engine was downsized to 2 litres, while 2.5 litre turbodiesel and fuel-injection variants were introduced. However, the 2-litre engine was noted to have poor fuel consumption and the image of the 6 as a rather pointless car was further reinforced. This unit is powered by a 2492 cc V6 engine mated to a 3-speed automatic transmission, allowing it to reach a top speed of 185 km/h with an acceleration of 11.5 seconds. It was 4679 mm long and weighed 1390 kg, with a fuel consumption of 12.7 litres/100 km.

Production of the Alfa 6 ended in 1986 with just 12,070 units leaving the Arese plant: it was a far cry from Alfa Romeo's target of 30,000 per year. Among them, 5,748 were the pre-facelift version like this unit. It is estimated that only about 400 of them still exist today: while exact figures for RHD units are not known, it is likely that the numbers are even fewer. 6s were sold in Singapore by City Motors Pte Ltd, the former distributor for Alfa Romeo where they retailed for an eye-watering $105,000 back in 1980; one was even owned by the Italian embassy. None of them still exist today: this particular unit was imported a few years ago. 

Getting to know about this ordinary-looking unicorn was a big surprise: I had no idea that this even existed until I saw it and this line of thought appears to be prevalent even among Alfa Romeo enthusiasts. Its poor sales and generally forgettable performance does not evoke any kind of memories. Furthermore, spare parts for the 6s are almost non-existent since Fiat destroyed everything that was related to the 6, Arna and 90 when they took over the plant. The fact that one of them made its way here is a miracle in itself, though it would be interesting to know why this was brought in. Now that you know that this is more than an old car, perhaps you may get to admire this unique survivor some day!

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