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The Alfa Romeo 75 (Type 161, 162B), sold in North America as the Milano, is a compact executive car produced by the Italian automaker Alfa Romeo between 1985 and 1992. The 75 was commercially quite successful: in only three years, 236,907 cars were produced, and by the end of production in 1992, around 386,767 had been built.

The Alfa Romeo 75 was the last model released before Alfa Romeo was acquired by Fiat. (The Alfa Romeo 164 was the last model developed independently.)

Overview

The 75 was introduced in May 1985 to replace the Giulietta (with which it shared many components), and was named to celebrate Alfa's 75th year of production. The body, designed by head of Alfa Romeo Centro Stile Ermanno Cressoni, was styled in a striking wedge shape, tapering at the front with square headlights and a matching grille (similar features were applied to the Cressoni-designed 33).

At the 1986 Turin Auto Salon, a prototype 75 estate was to be seen, an attractive forerunner of the later 156 Sportwagon. This version was, however, never listed for sale, being cancelled after Fiat took control of Alfa Romeo. The car, dubbed the 75 Turbo Wagon, was made by Italian coachbuilder Rayton Fissore using a 75 Turbo as the basis. Two estate versions were to be found at the later 1987 Geneva Motor Show; one was this Turbo Wagon and the other was a 2.0 litre version named the Sportwagon.

Technical features

The 75 featured some unusual technical features, most notably the fact that it was almost perfectly balanced from front to rear. This was achieved by using transaxle schema — mounting the standard five-speed gearbox in the rear connected to the rear differential (rear-wheel drive). The front suspension was a torsion bar and shock absorber combination and the rear an expensive de Dion tube assembled with shock absorbers; these designs were intended to optimize the car's handling; moreover the rear brake discs were fitted at the centre of the rear axle, near the gearbox-differential group. The engine crankshaft was bolted directly to the two-segment driveshaft which ran the length of the underside from the engine block to the gearbox, and rotated at the speed of the engine. The shaft segments were joined with elastomeric 'doughnuts' to prevent vibration and engine/gearbox damage. The 2.0 L Twin Spark and the 3.0 Litre V6 were equipped with limited slip differential.

The 75 featured a then advanced dashboard-mounted diagnostic computer, called Alfa Romeo Control, capable of monitoring the engine systems and alerting the drivers of potential faults.

The 75 engine range at launch featured four-cylinder 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 litre petrol carbureted engines, a 2.0 litre intercooled turbodiesel made by VM Motori, and a 2.5 litre fuel injected V6. In 1986, the 75 Turbo was introduced, which featured a fuel-injected 1779 cc twin-cam engine using Garrett T3 turbocharger, intercooler and oil cooler.

In 1987, a 3.0 litre V6 was added to the range and the 2.0 L Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine was redesigned to have now two spark plugs per cylinder, the engine was named as Twin Spark. With fuel injection and variable valve timing this engine produced 148 PS (109 kW; 146 hp). This was the first production engine to use variable valve timing. In North America, where the car was known as the Milano, only the 2.5 and 3.0 V6s were available, from 1987 to 1989.

The North American 2.5-litres were fundamentally different from their European counterparts. Due to federal regulations, some modifications were required. Most noticeable from the outside were the 'America' bumpers, with the typical rubber accordions in them. Furthermore, these bumpers had thick (and heavy) shock-absorbing material inside them and in addition, they were mounted to the vehicle on shock absorbers. To accommodate these shock absorbers, the 'America'-bodies were slightly different from the European ones. Other changes relative to the European model were:

  • A 67-litre fuel tank which was located behind the rear seats, reducing the boot capacity from 500 L (18 cu ft) to 300 L (11 cu ft).
  • Side-markers in the bumpers
  • Exhaust silencer sticking out from under the bumper at the r/h side of the vehicle instead of the centre
  • Reinforcements in the doors and boot lid
  • Hooks underneath the bonnet, to keep the bonnet in position in a crash

The North American cars also had different equipment levels (depending on the version: Milano Silver, Milano Gold or Milano Platinum). L/h and r/h electrically adjustable outside mirrors, electrically reclining seats and cruise control were usually optional in Europe. The car was also available with a 3-speed ZF automatic gearbox option for the 2.5 V6. Other, more common options such as electrically operated rear windows and an A/C system were standard in the USA. The USA-cars also had different upholstery styles and of course different dashboard panels also indicating speed in mph, oil pressure in psi and coolant temperature in degrees F, and as a final touch the AR control was different, including a seat belt warning light.

The European-spec 2.5 V6 (2.5 6V Iniezione or 2.5QV) was officially sold only between 1985 and 1987, although some of them were not registered until 1989. Relatively few of them were sold (about 2800 units), especially when the 155 PS (114 kW; 153 hp) 1.8 Turbo got launched, which in some countries was cheaper in taxes because of its lower displacement. To create a bigger space between the V6 and the inline fours, the 2.5 was bored out to 2959 cc's to deliver 188 PS (138 kW; 185 hp) and this new engine was introduced as the 3.0 America in 1987. As its type designation suggests, the 3.0 only came in the US-specification, with the impact-bumpers and in-boot fuel tank. However, the European 'America's' were not equipped with side-markers or the door, bonnet and boot lid fortifications. Depending on the country of delivery, the 3.0 America could be equipped with a catalytic converter.

In 1988 engines were updated again, the 1.8 L carburettor version was replaced with fuel injected 1.8 i.e. and new bigger diesel engine was added to the range. In the end of 1989 the 1.6 L carburetor version was updated to have fuel injection and 1990 the 1.8 L turbo and 3.0i V6 got some more power and updated suspension. The 3.0 V6 was now equipped with a Motronic system instead of an L-Jetronic. The 1.8L turbo was now also available in 'America'-spec, but strangely enough not available for the USA market. The 3.0 V6 did make it to the United States, and was sold as Milano Verde.

Motorsports

Alfa Romeo and its racing department Alfa Corse raced the 75 Turbo Group A in the World Touring Car Championship in 1987 season. Team drivers included such names as Nicola Larini, Gabriele Tarquini, Sandro Nannini, Jacques Laffite and Mario Andretti. With no success and the whole season being a farce, Alfa Romeo left the series before the overseas races.

Former 1975 Australian Touring Car Champion and 1969 Bathurst 500 winner Colin Bond ran a Caltex sponsored Alfa Romeo 75 in the 1987 Australian Touring Car Championship to replace the GTV6 he ran from 1984 to 1986. Bond finished a distant 9th place in the championship. He also drove the end of season endurance races which included the Bathurst round of the WTCC. After qualifying 21st co-driver Lucio Cesario destroyed the front of the 75 in a crash at the top of the mountain on lap 34 of the race which forced the cars withdrawal from the Calder Park and Wellington rounds of the WTCC. The car was repaired in time for the Australian Grand Prix support races in Adelaide where Bond qualified a fine second and finished 5th in the race in the cars 'down under' swansong as Bond, the only driver to embrace the 75 in Australia, switched to race the all-conquering Ford Sierra RS500 from 1988 in a bid to return to the winners circle.

Gianfranco Brancatelli won the 1988 ITC serie with Alfa 75 Turbo and Giorgio Francia placed second in the 1991 ITC. The 9th Giro d'Italia in 1988 was won by the team of Miki Biasion, Tiziano Siviero and Riccardo Patrese with a 75 Turbo Evoluzione IMSA.