1980s / 1990s / Alfa Romeo / Endangered species / Italian

Endangered species: Alfa Romeo 33 SportWagon

alfa-romeo-33-sport-wagon-1Half station wagon and half shooting brake, Alfa’s three-door Alfasud Giardinetta had few direct competitors during most of its career. When the ‘Sud was replaced by the 33 in 1983, the new car market had evolved considerably and the Milan-based automaker had to make its entry-level wagon more mainstream in order to take on new competitors.

Still, the 33 Giardinetta (later dubbed SportWagon) stood out in Europe’s crowded wagon segment. Relatively roomy in spite of its short wheelbase, it offered wagon buyers the brio typically associated with boxer-engined Alfas and certain models were even available with permanent four-wheel drive. It carried a base price of 95,500 francs in 1989, making it more affordable than many wagons that offered a similar level of performance yet sportier to drive than most family haulers in the same price bracket. These attributes earned the Pininfarina-designed Giardinetta a small but loyal following throughout the 1980s but it was considerably less popular than other wagons.

The 33 was replaced in 1994 by a four-door sedan called 146 and a three-door hatchback called 145. The SportWagon’s less-than-stellar sales figures mixed with Alfa’s financial woes spelled the end of the station wagon body style from the Alfa lineup for the rest of the 1990s. Alfa eventually went back to building wagons with the launch of the highly-successful 156, but it hasn’t offered an entry-level estate since the 33 SportWagon was phased out.


A look at howmanyleft.co.uk reveals that four first-generation SportWagons and two second-gen models like the one pictured below are left on U.K. roads. France only classifies cars by nameplates, not by body style or generation, but government statistics show that 673 33s are registered today and it is safe to assume that a small percentage of those are wagons.

The post-1989 model pictured here is not wearing its original registration number so it is hard to tell precisely what year it was built in. What took it off the road is not known but we were reassured to notice that it is surrounded by no less than five other 33s, an unmistakable sign that it is owned by an enthusiast.

6 thoughts on “Endangered species: Alfa Romeo 33 SportWagon

    • What issues did you run into, out of curiosity?

      Nice website, bytheway. Did you see our feature last month about Italy’s National Automobile Museum? Plenty of Alfas in there.

      • Some car parts just wear out, like shock absorbers and exhausts. That happened on my car, it’s normal, not a problem but I also had to deal with a malfunctioning ECU, making a smooth ride at 2000-2500 revs impossible, leaks in the vacuum circuit, the loss of the little clip on the linkage of the gear lever underneath the car (half of the owners of an older 33 has dealt with this), a gear lever that just broke off (funny, but not while driving), blown head gasket (OK, my own fault, continuing to drive with low coolant level is quite dumb) and a body that displayed 13 shades of red.

        Thanks for the compliment. I just responded to the Turin Museum post. My page for this museum is here: http://alfaromeomuseums.wordpress.com/museums/italy/museo-dellautomobile-torino/

  1. Pingback: Endangered species: Alfa Romeo 164 | Ran When Parked

  2. Had one of these about 20 years ago, brilliant car with character and despite quirks never actually let me down. Just looking at 2 year old Giulietta that seems to have got a bit of the old fun to drive character back into it after the bland driving Alfa offerings of more recent years.

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