Alfa Romeo will soon launch its first crossover, following the lead of the Maserati Levante with the new Stelvio. But it won’t be the first SUV to come from the storied Italian marque. That honor will forever belong to the Matta Alfa.
Italian for “Mad Alfa,” the AR51 was a prototype built to meet a tender issued by the Italian Ministry of Defense. Alfa followed the example set by the Jeep and Land Rover and built a reconnaissance vehicle capable of covering any type of terrain with an open design. It featured a 1.9-liter inline-four good for 65 horsepower, a four-speed manual transmission, an independent front suspension and a solid rear axle.
The Defense Ministry ordered an initial run of 2,000 examples which were distributed to the army, police and Carabinieri. Ultimately the larger contract went to the Fiat Campagnola, but Alfa got the last laugh at the 1952 Mille Miglia, when its vehicles beat the Fiats in the Military Vehicle class by 42 minutes.
Far rarer than the Willys Jeep, Land Rover Series I or Toyota FJ40, the Mad Alfa is sure to be a hit on any off-road expedition. It’s set to cross the auction block tomorrow in London, where RM Sotheby’s estimates it will fetch between £28,000 – £32,000 (about $40k).