Picture the scene. It’s the late 1980s and early 1990s, and you are a thrusting young executive or sales rep. You want a smart small saloon to power you up and down Britain’s motorway network.
You may appear to have two basic choices: the now all-conquering E30 BMW 3 Series (more on that all-important car in our E30 3 Series tribute and buyers guide), or its German rival, the smart, handsome and fine-driving Mercedes 190.
However, those who cared to pursue the market a little more closely could find at least three alternatives in the so-called ‘compact executive’ sector at the time.
One of these came, like the BMW and Mercedes, from within Germany. The Audi 80, now in its third (B3) generation, was slowly and steadily building a reputation as an interesting alternative to its Teutonic rivals.
Then there were two other choices, both from other nations with their own proud motoring heritage.
From Sweden, the Saab 900 brought interesting looks and a very distinctive driving experience. Italy, meanwhile, gave us the Alfa Romeo 75 – a handsome, wedge-shaped saloon with some potent engine options for those who wanted a little fun from their repmobile.
Quirkily good-looking, powerful and – with its rear-wheel drive – great fun to chuck about, the 75 had plenty going for it. It was also nicely different from the usual German crowd.
Small wonder, then, that it performed reasonably well during its seven-year run. Let’s take a deeper look at this fondly remembered Italian stallion.
History and overview
The 75 was produced between 1985 and 1992 and sold in decent numbers across that seven-year production run. In fact, around 386,767 75s were made, with the strongest sales in the first three years of the car’s run.
The 75 was the final model released by Alfa Romeo before the acquisition by Fiat. This has earned it the nickname of ‘the last real Alfa’ among certain purists (or Alfisti, as they are known in the car’s native Italy).
Is there anything in this? And why are Alfa Romeos so special?
In truth, yes, there is something in the notion of this being the ‘last real Alfa’. After the takeover, Fiat insisted on using standard platforms and parts across both its own marque and Alfa.
That means two things, of course: on the one hand, the 75 probably is the last of an older breed of Alfas that had the company’s distinctive DNA – wonderful engines, brilliant handling, adventurous looks, and a few eccentric design choices. We love Alfa Romeos of any age, as we explained in greater detail in our piece on 10 breathtaking Alfas.
On the other hand, it will mean that parts for the 75 will be harder to source than those for, say, its successor, the 155.
That latter car is, to our eyes, a less exciting and characterful proposition than the 75, in almost every way. However, sharing its platform and many of its parts with the Fiat Tempra and Lancia Dedra, it’s probably an easier ownership proposition when it comes to sourcing replacement parts.
The 75 itself entered the market in May 1985, as a replacement for the Giulietta saloon. A quick word on Alfa naming: we’re talking, here, about the Alfa Romeo Giulietta saloon of 1977 to 1985, rather than the much-loved family of cars produced 1954 to 1965 – or indeed the sporty Golf/Astra rival of 2010 to 2020.
Is Alfa 75 a rear wheel drive car?
The 75 was, mechanically, fairly similar to its Giulietta predecessor, with the same combination of front engine and rear-wheel drive, in a transaxle configuration. The latter meant that the five-speed gearbox and clutch were mounted in the rear.
The main difference between the 75 and its predecessor was in those boxy, 1980s looks. The rear end was quite high, while the lines tapered at the front with square headlights and a matching grille.
That boxy body was designed by Ermanno Cressoni, head of Centro Stile Alfa Romeo. Cressoni went on, after the Fiat takeover, to lead the team that designed a number of distinctive ‘90s Fiats, including the Cinquecento, Barchetta, Bravo – and the striking Fiat Coupe.
In general, the 75 was a nicely eccentric car in the best Alfa tradition. The Alfa Romeo 75 interior had a few oddities of its own, including a U-shaped handbrake and roof-mounted switches for the electric front windows. The radio, tucked down low behind the gearbox, was also somewhat inaccessible.
The name, by the way, was not a nod to the engine’s horsepower. Rather, it was to mark Alfa's 75th year of production.
The 75 was available as a saloon only: estate versions of compact executive cars, now such a common sight on our roads, were not yet fashionable in the late 1980s. There was no estate Mercedes 190, while the BMW E30 only got an estate version midway through its production run, in 1987.
That said, a prototype version of an estate 75 did actually put in an appearance at the 1986 Turin Auto Show. Sadly, though, plans to produce the wagon were put to a stop after the Fiat takeover that same year.
Models and when each model went into production
The 75 was produced in just one generation. However, there were some subtle changes during that time. For example, for the 1989 model year (from autumn 1988 onwards), the car got a facelift with new lights and a refreshed radiator grille.
Where there was some choice, however, was in the engine and power outputs. Across the 75’s seven-year run, drivers could choose from a range of petrol and diesel engines, from a 1.6-litre petrol putting out around 107 horsepower to a three-litre V6 with fuel injection that was good for around 188 horsepower.
From launch, buyers could have their 75 with a choice of four-cylinder 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 litre petrol engines, plus a 2.0 litre turbodiesel and a 2.5-litre, fuel-injected V6. In 1986, the 75 Turbo was introduced, which featured a fuel-injected 1.8 litre twin-cam engine complete with Garrett T3 turbocharger, intercooler and oil cooler.
Still to come, though, were two more potent engines. These both arrived in 1987 and were, respectively, a 3.0 litre V6 and a redesign of the two-litre Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine, now complete with two spark plugs on each cylinder. The latter got the name ‘Twin Spark’, and, with the help of fuel injection and variable valve timing, could put out around 150 horsepower.
Of the two – and, in fact, of all the engines available across the 75’s lifespan – we might take the Alfa Romeo 75 Twin Spark, if we could find one. The Alfa Romeo 75 V6 will be quicker, and will have a throatier roar: however, the Twin Spark handles beautifully.
The 75 was a successful car in motorsports, too. To meet Group A regulations, the potent 75 Turbo Evoluzione was produced in 500 examples in 1987. In 1988, a 75 Turbo, piloted by Gianfranco Brancatelli, won the 1988 Italia Superturismo Championship: the following year, a 75 Turbo Evoluzione triumphed in the 10th Giro d'Italia automobilistico.
Common problems with the Alfa Romeo 75
Like other Italian cars from its era, the Alfa Romeo 75 won’t be immune from problems.
One potentially major issue is corrosion. Alfa cars from the 70s, such as the Alfasud and Alfetta, had an unenviable reputation for rust.
In particular, the Alfasud was a notorious ruster. This was down to a combination of factors.
For one thing, the assembly process used inferior, recycled steel. Worse, Alfasuds were built at Alfa’s Pomigliano d'Arco facility, with a lot of sea salt in the air.
Alfa didn’t get to grips with the problem for a while. The first solution was to fill the Alfasud’s interior cavities with synthetic foam – but this was soon discovered to hold moisture, thus only aggravating the problem.
All this meant that Alfa needed to show a marked improvement with corrosion with the 75. And, to some extent, they did do things better. The new car used an electrical coating method known as electrophoresis. This involved coating the bodyshell with a rustproof layer.
Even so, there are numerous reports of the 75 succumbing to corrosion, so you should be on your guard against this. Carry out a very thorough inspection of any 75 you are thinking of buying, and ask to see documentation of any repair work.
Rust hotspots include the front footwells – corrosion in these areas is caused by the front jack points rusting and, with time, eroding the floor panel. A solution here will be to re-fabricate jack points in 14-gauge steel, seal with epoxy primer, and then undercoat.
Among other problems, the power steering rack can develop leaks, leading to the failure of the power steering pump.
This is usually caused by wear and tear, with the original seals not having the required durability. It’s not usually a big issue, as you can get the rack rebuilt with fresh seals.
The 75’s anti-lock braking system, or ABS, is also prone to failure. This is because the mechanism is quite complex, with many separate parts.
Some parts are becoming hard to find now, some 30 years after the 75 went out of production. However, a browse of the AlfaShop website may turn up the missing parts you need.
The car can suffer from electrical failures, too. Lights can grow dimmer or simply not function at all. You can generally fix this problem by rewiring the electronics and cleaning them with a dedicated lubricant such as INOX MX-3.
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Owners club members may enjoy discounts of up to 25% off their insurance premium (the level of discount offered by each insurer differs and is subject to underwriting criteria).
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We will listen to your requirements for cover, and discuss the best options with our panel of expert underwriters, to see if we can cover your cherished vehicle.
In May 2018 the Department for Transport announced that cars that were built more than 40 years ago exempt from MOT testing, with the option for owners to voluntarily have their car tested if they feel it needs checking.
How to find help: owners’ clubs and online forums
So, as we have seen, the Alfa Romeo 75 can bring some problems and issues in its wake. But where can you go for some expert advice?
Thankfully, there are several online communities for Alfa Romeo owners, such as Alfa Owner or Alfa Romeo Owners Club UK. Joining an owners’ club for your classic is always a good idea, and for various reasons.
For one thing, you gain instant access to a large, friendly community of fellow owners. This means that whenever you have a tricky question related to your classic – how to fix a certain problem, for example, or where to source an elusive part – you have a ready-made circle of fellow owners, willing and able to help.
Another major benefit to many of these owners’ clubs is the discount that membership can secure on your classic car insurance.
Average price for an Alfa Romeo 75 – is Alfa Romeo expensive?
Prices for a used 75 can vary widely. A number of factors can influence an Alfa Romeo 75 price: for some collectors the car has achieved classic status, whereas others may not feel it has quite made that grade, or not yet anyway.
Then there’s the fact that the 75s you will see on the used market will vary quite widely in terms of spec and condition. Alfa Romeo is a sporty marque, after all, and some of these cars will have been driven quite hard.
Then, on the other hand, Alfa is also something of a prestige brand, and some owners will have looked after their 75 meticulously – and will now be able to charge a premium as a result.
For example, we found this very late 75 from 1992, the last year of production, selling at £21,995. That’s quite a decent sum for a 30-year-old car that’s by no means a universal classic.
At the other end of the scale, this two-litre from 1990 is just £6,000. And here is a high-miler with 191,000 kilometres (or 119,000 miles) with an estimate of 5,000 euros but at the time of writing was just about fetching 2,000 euros. You’ll have to go to Italy to collect this one – but where better to pick up a classic Alfa?
Last but not least, for those who want rarity and blistering pace, here is an Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo Evoluzione for sale at £48,000. If you’re wondering what is the rarest Alfa Romeo 75 variant, it’s probably this one – just 500 examples were made.
Where to buy classic cars
So, where can you find an Alfa Romeo 75 for sale? Whether you’re after an Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo or one of the more standard engines, you have a wide range of online used car marketplaces to choose from.
Good places to start include Car and Classic, whose search tool means you can search for certain models and years. So, if you’re looking for a late-run Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo for sale, you can specify start and end years of, say, 1990 and 1992 to narrow your results accordingly.
Other good selling sites include Classic Cars for Sale and the parking, which has a Europe-wide reach. This could be useful in the case of the 75, as many of the surviving used examples will be found in its native Italy.
Don’t forget to read our top tips for buying a car at auction.
Hidden extra costs when buying a classic car
Your most significant upfront costs will include the vehicle’s purchase price, plus the cost of ongoing restoration and maintenance, fuel and, of course, your classic car insurance policy.
That’s not quite all, however. You should also budget for a few other things.
- A professional inspection
- Specialist oil and other fluids. Older cars often have different requirements here. If you’re unsure, check with your owners’ club about your car’s particular requirements.
- Garaging. Classics are more sensitive to the elements than their modern counterparts. An indoor garage will be best of all for keeping away the rain, snow and wind that can cause so much damage to a beloved older vehicle. Failing that, a suitable car cover will do a good job – but make sure it’s a good fit.
- Buyers or sellers fees. If you’re buying or selling at auction, check the fees first.
Checks to carry out on the day of purchase
Before you sign on the dotted line and purchase your classic Alfa (or other), be sure to check these things:
The seller should be able to produce the vehicle’s V5C registration document, so that you can tax the car if it’s not exempt.
Verify that any repairs have been made to a high standard. Panels should fit cleanly, and any new paint jobs should be an exact match.
Start the engine from cold and listen for any unusual sounds. Also make sure that the oil warning light extinguishes when the engine starts, and that the clutch depresses smoothly and silently.
Check all controls are working properly. This includes door locks, electric windows, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, and the radio.
Are owners’ club discounts available?
Yes. By joining an owners’ club such as the Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club UK, you should be able to secure discounts on your classic car insurance.
Does the 75 classify as a classic car?
In terms of age alone, the 75 certainly qualifies as a classic car, as many insurers (and indeed the Government) class vehicles aged 15 or over as classics.
However, we think the 75 also qualifies as a classic for many other reasons: those distinctive looks, some great performance and that reputation as the ‘last true Alfa’.
Does it require an MOT?
Under current government legislation, when cars reach the age of 40 years old they can apply to become exempt from the annual MOT.
That means that, for now, all versions of the Alfa Romeo 75 do still require an annual MOT.
From 2026, however, the very first 75s (those registered before 1st January 1986) will be able to apply for exemption.
We explain the rules in more detail, and how to apply for exemption, in our article on classic cars that became MOT exempt in 2022.
Alfa Romeo 75 fast fact
Did you know that the 75 was one of the very first cars to feature an onboard computer? The dashboard-mounted Alfa Romeo Control monitored the engine systems and alerted the driver to any potential faults.
Classic Alfa Romeo insurance from Lancaster
Our wealth of experience with arranging classic car insurance means that we can provide a quote to insure your Alfa Romeo 75, whatever the age, engine or spec.
Benefits of insuring with us include:
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Why not contact us for a classic car insurance quote today?