The Alfa Romeo Alfetta’s Fugly Dashboard Was Strangely Prophetic


Ever get the feeling that some old cars get way too much exposure, while others are unfairly overlooked? I do, and I reckon Alfa Romeo’s Alfetta deserves some serious spotlight time. Not only because it’s great value and handles beautifully as it shares a drivetrain layout with a Ferrari, but because its strangely mutated dashboard design was years ahead of its time.

A quick history lesson: the 1972 Alfetta sedan and 1974 coupe replaced the classic 105/115-series Giulia sedan and coupe of the 1960s and early 1970s, and took their name from the successful 1950s Tipo 159 Alfetta grand prix race cars. Like the racers, the Alfettas (yes, even the sedan) had their engines mounted at the front and their transmissions located at the back for improved weight distribution, a layout Ferrari had adopted on the 275 GTB of 1964, and still employs on its current front-engined cars.

Ask 100 people and 99 will tell you the older Giulia, the one Alfaholics’ GTA-R is based on, is the prettier car, but I think the Alfetta GT coupe looks equally handsome, but in a different way, much like you can dig both a Lamborghini Miura and the radically different Countach that replaced it. And here’s something that might make the newer car look suddenly more appealing: Hagerty Insurance says you’ll pay $46,800 for the older-style 2.0-liter GTV in good condition, but only $9,400 for the newer model.

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Later Alfetta coupes (which actually dropped the Alfetta name in favor of Sprint Veloce and then GTV) got the option of Alfa’s lovely Busso V6, but they also got ugly plastic bumpers. I prefer the look of the early European market cars with their twin-cam four-cylinder engines, slim, chrome bumpers, and truly weird dashboards.

There is some logic to the weirdness. This being an old Alfa, and so a true driver’s car, the only gauge directly ahead of the driver is a rev counter. That’s it. All the other superfluous stuff like the speedo and fuel gauge is way over in the center of the dashboard in a separate, much larger binnacle.

For practical, legal road driving it’s an ergonomic disaster, and for years I thought it was pretty hideous. But looking at the shape and layout of those gauge packs it’s impossible not to see similarities with a modern car like the Volkswagen ID.4 SUV, or any number of cars built in the last 10 years fitted with tablet-style touchscreens, such as the Citroën C4 Cactus. Even the sliding heater controls underneath the Alfa’s center pod look like the ones on the Volkswagen.

If you fancy a slice of bizarrely prophetic and under-appreciated Alfa Romeo dashboard design for yourself with just 39,854 miles (64,136 km) on those oddball clocks, the fabulously original Italian-market 1975 Alfetta GT 1800 seen here is up for auction with Car & Classic.

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