The Alfa Romeo 33 (Type 905 and 907) is a small family car produced by the Italian automaker Alfa Romeo between 1983 and 1995. From a mechanical standpoint it was essentially an evolution of its predecessor, the Alfasud, whose floorpan, chassis and drivetrain were carried over—albeit with modifications to the suspension and braking system. The Nissan-based Alfa Romeo Arna was launched shortly after, offering a similarly sized but lower priced car.
The 33 has a unique place in the Alfa Romeo history, as nearly 1 million of these cars were produced. During its 11-year lifespan the 33 saw a light facelift in 1986 and a significant restyle in 1989. The 33 was discontinued in 1994 and replaced by the Alfa Romeo 145 and 146, which used the same boxer engines but built around an entirely new platform based on the Fiat Tipo.
nitially known as the Alfa 33 (Type 905), the 5-door hatchback was launched in 1983 and a station wagon version (initially badged Giardinetta, later badged Sportwagon) was introduced the following year at the same time as a four-wheel drive version of the hatchback. The hatchback was styled by Ermanno Cressoni at the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo, while the station wagon was designed by Pininfarina.
The 33 became renowned for its nimble handling and powerful boxer engines, but also became equally well known for its unreliable electronics and tendencies to rust (a frequent complaint on Italian cars in general at the time). Another issue was its braking and increased unsprung weight—the Alfasud’s inboard front disc brakes (mounted on the gearbox) had been moved to the more common outboard discs (mounted on the wheel hubs). The rear discs of the Sud’s four-wheel disc arrangement had also been replaced with drums.
The car featured numerous innovations for the company, including an instrument binnacle that moved up and down with the adjustable steering wheel, and a plastic bonnet. The UK launch promoted the sleek design, and the Daily Mail noted its low drag coefficient of 0.36, and very impressive in 1983 with only bigger cars such as the Ford Sierra and Audi 100 able to better it.
At launch two models were available, 33 1.3 and 33 1.5 Quadrifoglio Oro. Both engines were SOHC boxers fed by a twin-choke carburettor, carried over from the Alfasud along with its 5-speed gearbox: a 1,350 cc developing 76 PS (56 kW; 75 hp) at 6,000 rpm, and a 1,490 cc developing 85 PS (63 kW; 84 hp) at 5,800 rpm. Unlike on the Alfasud, fifth gear acted like an overdrive gear and top speed was reached in fourth. The luxurious 1.5 Quadrifoglio Oro (Gold Cloverleaf in the UK) was distinguished by a silver grille, two-tone paintwork (metallic paint upper body separated by a brown tape from the dark brown lower body and bumpers) and clear front turn indicator lenses outside; by beige Texalfa leatherette/cloth interior, a woodtone steering wheel and shifter knob inside. Standard equipment included bronze tinted glass, headlight wipers, passenger side wing mirror and a trip computer .
1984 33 1.5 Giardinetta 4x4
A four-wheel-drive variant, the 33 1.5 4x4, was introduced in at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show and put on sale in December. It was assembled by Pininfarina in Grugliasco, Turin. Normally front-wheel drive, the four-wheel drive system could be engaged manually by the driver at any speed, via a handle in front of the gear lever. Like the Quadrifoglio Oro the 4x4 was characterised by two-tone paint, either metallic red or silver separated from a black lower body by a double white pinstripe; the grille matched the body colour. Equipment level was also the same as on the richer Quadrifoglio Oro; ride height was raised in comparison to standard 33s. The 33 1.5 Giardinetta (Estate in the UK), a 5-door estate designed and—like the 4x4 hatchback—assembled by Pininfarina, made its début at the March 1984 Geneva Motor Show. The Giardinetta went on sale in 4x4 guise in June and was joined later in the year by a front-wheel drive model, shown at the Turin Motor Show in November.
33 1.5 Quadrifoglio Verd
Another Quadrifoglio top of the range model, this time the sporting 1.5 Quadrifoglio Verde (Green Cloverleaf in the UK), was put on sale in June 1984. It was powered by a 105 PS (77 kW; 104 hp) version of the 1,490 cc boxer, equipped with double twin-choke carburettors like on the Sprint 1.5 QV coupé; Alfa Romeo claimed a top speed of over 185 km/h (115 mph). The Quadrifoglio Verde could be recognized from its specific grille, additional plastic spoilers under both body-colour bumpers, side skirts, and grey 8-hole alloy wheels with low profile 185/60 HR14 tyres; it was only available in two paint colours—Alfa red or optional metallic silver—highlighted by a light grey stripe in the body side indent. In the cabin there were sport seats in black and grey cloth, a leather covered steering wheel and additional gauges for voltmeter and oil pressure.
October 1984 saw the introduction of the updated model year 1985 range, later displayed at the 60th Turin Motor Show. All models save for the base 1.3 were upgraded to one-choke-per-cylinder twin carburettor setups—as on the Quadrifoglio Verde. This gave birth to a sportier 1.3-litre model, the 33 1.3 S, which put out 86 PS (63 kW; 85 hp) at 5,500 rpm, or 10 PS more than the standard; the 1.5 on the estates and Quadrifoglio Oro now had 95 PS (70 kW; 94 hp). Minor changes were made to the equipment of most models but the recently introduced 1.5 QV, such as the adoption of side skirts and a black grille on the Quadrifoglio Oro. With the arrival of the 1.3 S and front-wheel-drive Giardinetta, for 1985 the lineup included seven models: 1.3, 1.3 S, 1.5 Quadrifoglio Oro, 1.5 Quadrifoglio Verde, 1.5 4x4, 1.5 Giardinetta and 1.5 Giardinetta 4x4.
Second series (1990–1995)
The 33 was given a more extensive facelift in the end of 1989, the Series II or ’Nuova’ 33 (Type 907), which went on sale in January 1990. This featured a revised interior, the introduction of fuel injection, the 1.7 litre engine upgraded to include a 137 PS (101 kW; 135 hp) 16 valve version, and a heavily restyled front and rear ends, in line with the new Alfa ”family look” established by the flagship 164. Also new four wheel drive version was introduced called the Permanent 4, which was renamed to Q4 starting from 1992. Late production 33s also do not suffer from the rust problems of their ancestors, as their frames are galvanized in the manner Alfa Romeo introduced with the 164