1970s / Alfa Romeo / Italian

Alfa Romeo advertising: the 1970s.

Alfa entered the 1970s with a lineup largely carried over from the 1960s. They also entered the 1970s with an overall win in Trans-Am racing, confirming the “race bred” image they gave their cars in the 1960s.

Mechanical improvements were made to keep up with the competition, a notable one being SPICA fuel injection standard in all U.S.-market cars. Let’s look at what Alfa had up its sleeves during this decade and how they sold it.
“We feel families deserve the same special handling racing drivers demand.”
This 1970 Berlina ad describes the Berlina as a four door race car safe enough to carry a family. It can come to a complete stop in a straight line from 60mph in less than 150 feet, which is “faster than every car sold in the U.S. save one limited-production import at more than twice the price.” Which import they are referring to is not named.

At the time of print the Berlina cost $3,795 on the east coast and $3,855 on the west coast. Small price to pay for a car with “steering as fast as your reflexes.”

“You haven’t really driven yet. Until you drive an Alfa Romeo 1750.”

Alfa emphasizes their cars’ performance aspect in this ad. Their US lineup is powered by the famous 1750 engine (1779cc) and Weber carbs are a thing of the past in the 1970s, replaced by a “race-proven [SPICA] fuel injection system.”

“Horst took Lime Rock, Gus won Bryar and Bert captured Donnybrooke to keep Alfa Number 1 in the Championship standings.”

This isn’t an Alfa ad but an ad for Champion spark plugs. It is featured along with Alfa ads because it uses Alfa’s success in Trans-Am racing as a way to advertise their plugs: three of Alfa’s winning drivers had Champion plugs screwed into their car’s cylinder head.

“You should be impressed, but not surprised.”

This 1971 ad for the 1750 GTV uses the race-inspired handling as the main selling point. It draws a comparison between the 1970 Trans-Am winner and the car featured on the ad and ends by saying that “if this kind of handling is good enough for our racing cars, it’s good enough for you.” When this ad was printed the 1750 GTV cost $4,795 on the east coast and $4,855 on the west coast.

A small historical note: the ad mentions that the GTV will handle twist and turns in the road “without even breathing hard.” In the early 1970s Subaru used a variation of that line (“at 70mph it doesn’t even breath hard”) in their own ads in an effort to diffentiate themselves from other economy cars, most notably the Beetle.

“It all makes the Spider something very special.”

Much like the GTV ad above, this one’s main point is the Spider’s handling. It feels secure over any surface and through any corners one can throw at it. Not only does it handle splendidly, the ad claims, but the driver is “in command of the same double-overhead-cam engine, chassis and suspension that won the 1970 Trans-American Championship.” All this for a mere $4,595 on the east coast and $4,655 on the west coast.

“If the new 2000 isn’t perfect, we’re certainly getting better.”

The 1750s are out and the new 2000s are in. Autoweek sang the 1750’s praises, billing them as “nearly perfect.” Alfa thinks it has made considerable improvements with the 2000 series: more horsepower, more torque and an available limited slip differential. The 2000 GTV retails for $5,249 on the east coast and $5,299 on the west coast. Note the price difference between this 2000 GTV and the 1750 GTV above.

“You’d expect an Alfa Romeo to cost more than a BMW or a Porsche. Several years ago, it did. But then came the devalued lira.”
This 1977 ad brags that the Alfa GT has more standard features than a BMW 320i and a Porsche 924 but costs much less due to the economic woes Italy was experiencing in the late 1970s which lead to a devalued lira. The standard features the GT has over the competition include a 5-speed transmission, an all-aluminum engine and double overhead cams.

“Visit your Alfa Romeo dealer. There may never be a better time.”

The text in this 1977 ad is fairly similar to the text in the previous ad – some of the sentences are carried over word for word. It mentions the bit about the devalued lira but makes no comparison to BMW and Porsche. Instead, it lists what it calls “6 engineering achievements in Alfa Romeo, bred in 67 years of world class racing competition.” These are an all-aluminum engine, double overhead camshafts, mechanical fuel injection, DeDion independent rear suspension, four-wheel power disc brakes and a five-speed gearbox.

“The equal front/back weight distribution gives it a stable handling.”

This 1978 Alfetta ad comes from a French magazine. Not being able to take advantage of the lira/dollar exchange rate Alfa instead puts forth its racing heritage. The 1950 Alfetta 159 is featured more prominently than the GTV 2000 it is advertising. It lists specs of the car, such as its ability to reach 120km/h (75mph) in 14 seconds flat. This ad still lists “double carburetors” as standard equipment, marking a difference in emissions regulations between the European market and the U.S. market.

“Road Test magazine rates the Alfetta sedan overall better than the $16,000 German luxury car!”

This rather lengthy 1977 ad is meant to convince a car buyer that an Alfa is the right purchase to make. Ample space is given to the text which goes into great detail about the Alfetta’s handling (with the 50/50 weight balance) and as always the car’s standard equipment/price ratio.

Alfa mentions safety in this ad, something they have not always done in the past. They boast a “rigid passenger compartment guarded by front and rear impact-absorbing zones”, among other features. The ad also talks the Alfetta’s “0.42 coefficient of drag” and the orthopedically designed seats.

Photo credit: all ads were scanned for Ran When Parked out of period documents. Email us at ranwhenparked -at- hotmail -dot- com for high-resolution scans.

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