Going Abroad – 1984 Alfa Romeo Arna

To broaden the scope a little, and to take full advantage of your faithful scribe’s language abilities, we’re going to start an occasional feature looking at listings abroad. We’ll try to restrain ourselves to cars that can legally be brought into any state or province, although you’ll have to ask yourself whether you’d honestly want to do so! And the first car that will incite us to pose that question is a rather unusual car, the product of Italians building foreign cars under license (which was, and kind of is, more common than you might have thought). Check out this 1984 Alfa Romeo Arna, for sale for €1200 (about $1655) in Cassano Magnago, Varese, Italy.

1984 Alfa Romeo Arna right front

Many people scoff at the Arna – what sensible person would combine Japanese styling with Italian mechanical reliability? But consider things from Alfa’s perspective – an aging Alfasud, and as was frequently the case, not much in the way of development funds. They would likely have carried over the powertrain into any new car anyway, and everything in the spares and service channels was already in place, and by using the Nissan Pulsar body they got an entirely refreshed design. And while rather bland, in the context of 1980s economy cars it was not particularly bad-looking. As a whole, was this any worse than the Alfasud did? After all, Alfa had built the Renault Dauphine after the war, and companies like NSU built Fiats under license, so this kind of sharing was not unusual.

1984 Alfa Romeo Arna front

The Arna was also supposed to return Italians to employment at the Naples factory. Unfortunately for the Arna, the press immediately recognized the car had inherited the shortcomings of both its parents – poor handling and bland styling from Japan, temperamental engines and poor quality from Italy, and a propensity to rust from both sides. Considering the price, either these cars still suffer from their legacy, or some serious rust has been well-disguised in these photos. Could be both, as the Arna was extremely rust prone. That said, this car appears to be in excellent condition, as you’d expect of a car with only 50,000km. Judging by the figure given for the engine’s output, it has a 1.2-liter version of the flat four, and it is fitted with a manual transmission. No other details are given, but the pictures give the impression of an immaculate car. So what’s in this for us? Well, it would be a great way to confuse the local Nissan dealer, you’d be a hit at both classic Japanese and Italian car shows, you’d get to experience Alfa’s brilliant flat four, and in terms of the handling, perhaps upgraded wheels and tires would get you started, moving along to some aftermarket shock absorbers or a coil-over system.

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