Alfa Romeo 1900 TI, the sedan that wins races on the track in Monza and Bergamo

Alfa Romeo 1900 TI, the sedan that wins races on the track in Monza and Bergamo
Alfa Romeo 1900 TI, the sedan that wins races on the track in Monza and Bergamo

The 1900 represented a turning point for Alfa Romeo in the 1950s. We tested, on the track and on the road, the car prepared by Scuderia del Portello to participate in the Carrera Panamericana

Eugenio Mosca

July 28
– Milano

The 1900 certainly represents a milestone in Alfa Romeo history, because at the beginning of the fifties it marked the turning point towards the new technology of building cars but also in the industrial reality of the Milanese house, necessary to face the so-called mass motorization, vital for the survival and development of every automotive company after the war.

Revolution at the Portello

At the end of the 1940s, believing the 6C 2500 to be outdated, the Alfa Romeo leaders started the project of a car in step with the new construction technologies, which on the chassis front marked the transition to the supporting body rather than applied to the subframe. The new car, designed under the supervision of Orazio Satta Puliga, also boasted other mechanical refinements. Among these the “heart” of the 1900: a four-cylinder, instead of the previous six and eight-cylinder splitters, which maintained the refined tradition of the light alloy cylinder head, double overhead camshafts and hemispherical combustion chambers. The first version of this engine, 1,884 cc with aluminum crankcase and single carburettor, began touring the counter in mid-January 1950, delivering around 90 hp. For the front suspensions Giuseppe Busso, designer of the mechanical groups, chose the transverse quadrilateral scheme, telescopic shock absorbers with separate coil springs and anti-roll bar, while the new rear suspension had a rigid bridge, with telescopic shock absorbers and coaxial springs, connected longitudinally to the frame by means of two struts that stabilized the whole. The study, of the lines but also of the dimensions and characteristics of the sheet metal up to the production equipment, was carried out in the industrial center of Portello. The road baptism of the new car took place at the beginning of March 1950, while a running prototype was presented in May outside the Turin Motor Show. Then, with slightly revised lines, the definitive car was presented to the press, in Milan, and officially at the Paris Motor Show in October of the same year. In 1951 the sports coupé version called “Sprint” was launched, made by the Touring bodywork and powered by an enhanced engine that delivered just under 100 hp.

The “sedan that wins races”

The following year, with the assembly lines fully operational, the “normal” sedan was joined by the TI (Turismo Internazionale) version, developed for sporty customers who wanted to try their hand at racing, which thanks to a more thrust timing of the engine derived from the Sprint and twin-barrel carburetor boasted a maximum power of 100 hp at 5,500 rpm, as well as being fitted with larger diameter drum brakes to compensate for the increased performance. To obtain more power without compromising reliability, in 1954 the displacement was increased to 1,975 cc, increasing the bore by 2 mm and keeping the stroke unchanged. Thus all versions earned the “Super” designation, with the TI and coupé versions adopting two double-barrel carburetors reaching a maximum power of 115 hp, albeit at the expense of delivery. Of the more than 17,000 examples of 1900 sedans produced until 1959, when production ceased, only 1,050 were made in the “Ti” and “Ti Super” sports trim. And thanks to the numerous successes in the sports field, the well-known advertising slogan “the family sedan that wins races” was coined.

Dedicated to the Panamerican Race

The test car, dated 1954, was restored and prepared by Scuderia del Portello, about twenty years ago, to take part in competitions on the track but above all on the road. His ideal terrain of conquest in the 1950s, as confirmed by the rich palmarès also in the Mille Miglia of that period. The 1900 TI Super of the Milanese Club was prepared with the aim of participating in the 2002 Carrera Panamericana, a race that takes place in Mexico on a very fast road course, where the Milanese “berlinona” was able to assert its excellent reach. of its four-cylinder. To better test the 1900, thanks to the availability of Scuderia del Portello, we took it to the track in Monza (in an edition of the Intereuropa Cup) and then on the streets of the Bergamo Alta city circuit. By mounting the racing seat, which moves the seat down to the advantage of the center of gravity, you find yourself with the “flywheel”, Nardi with a wooden crown of generous diameter, in a slightly raised position, almost clinging, but necessary to “distribute” best effort given the lack of power assistance. In this position, however, the right spoke partially covers the view of the rev counter in the “critical” area, given the recommendation not to exceed 6.00o.

On the track

On the long straights of the “Temple of Speed” the four-cylinder of the Biscione was able to give its best by performing in decisive and constant stretches, especially above 5,000 rpm when the engine relaxes reaching perfect musicality. At first, however, the braking created some worries, not exactly aggressive. Then with the passing of the laps you get used to sliding the big car to “throw” it into the curve by turning the rear with the braking effect. Positive effect, which allows you to slow down the car in any case by limiting oversteer, triggered by pulling the braking right into the curve with the rear becoming “light”, or understeering due to the front end being too loaded. Technique to be adopted for the most violent braking, to the variants, while in the faster curves, such as Lesmo, Ascari and Parabolica variant, the 1900 must be made to “slide” avoiding jamming that would cause the lifting of the inner rear wheel which, in the absence of the self-locking turn out to be deleterious for the loss of traction. A fairly simple balance to put into practice, given the unsuspected docility of the “berlinona” and relative steering precision. The other delicate phase, for which it is necessary to refine the technique, concerns the gear shifting: since it is a road gearbox, moreover with a lever on the steering column and consequent leverages, therefore with a certain excursion, it is certainly not possible to think of making changes. lightning fast, especially in the transition between second and third gear both uphill, where if you do not go along with the transition movement of the ad scheme (H you can accuse a certain jamming), and in the climb, under penalty of the inevitable “scratch”, having to be careful not to overspeed putting at risk the valves, which are a sensitive part of the 1900 four-cylinder.

Physical guide

From the track to the streets of the upper town of Bergamo on the “Circuito delle Mura”, during the last edition of the re-enactment of the Bergamo Historic Gran Prix. A track with almost complete characteristics, also praised by Tazio Nuvolari who, at the wheel of the Alfa Romeo P3, won the only edition of the Bergamo Gran Prix here in 1935, because it alternates tortuous sections with others with fast corners up to two stretches where you can accelerate. On the Bergamo track, the set-up softened, the 1900 proved to absorb the roughness of the terrain well, as well as the fearful compression at the Sant Agostino curve, without creating imbalances. Moreover, in the challenging downhill section that precedes this curve, aWe had to find the feeling with limited braking. As at the entrance to the hairpin of the Lantro, very slow to travel in second gear, we had to maneuver the gearbox with velvet gloves, while in the stretches of Viale Cento Piante and Baluardo S. Grata we were again able to enjoy the musicality of the double shaft. del Biscione. The 1900 did well even in the points that we considered most critical for its size, such as the hairpin of the Lantro, in fact, and the beautiful series of curves of San Giacomo where we had to work a lot of arms by turning the beautiful flyer. In fact, at the end of the half hour heat, some fatigue was felt, exacerbated by the heat in the cockpit, but the fun was great!

July 28 – 7:31 pm

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