What will be found under the hood of the Alfa Sei? Indeed, a six-cylinder engine. A V6 to be precise.
In the 2600s, the Alfa Romeo brand had sales success with models such as the Giulia in various versions, a convertible with the name Spider and a coupe that became known as 'letterbox' and later as GTV. Alfa also wanted to sell cars at the top of the segment, which is why the 2600 and XNUMX coupe were introduced. But there were no successors for that. The Giulia found its successor in the Alfetta, although both models were produced side by side for a number of years. A new factory was built in the south of Italy with government support and the Alfa Sud rolled off the production line. The name says it all, Sud is South. From that moment on, the models built in the other factories are called Alfa Nord.
New top model
Above the Alfettas they wanted a new top model with a six-cylinder engine and more luxury. It had to be a car that could compete with a BMW 525 or a Mercedes. But the oil crisis threw a spanner in the works. There would be too little potential for a thirsty six-cylinder. Therefore, the introduction was postponed. Ultimately, the car was ready for sale. It was early 1979 when the Alfa Sei entered the Dutch market. The price was high, from thirty-eight thousand guilders. And that was even without the accessories that one could order such as air conditioning, metallic paint and an automatic gearbox, alloy wheels and leather upholstery.
The November 1980 ANWB / Bovag price list listed prices as. Purchase Alfa Sei ƒ 42.990 and accessories: automatic ƒ 2.200, metallic paint ƒ 1.150, air conditioning fl 2.650, alloy wheels fl 1.150, and leather trim fl 2.100. But then you also had an extremely exclusive very luxurious sedan from the Alfa Romeo brand. With a two and a half liter V6 under the hood, which was powered by six downdraft carburettors and had 160 DIN horsepower. The optional automatic gearbox had three gears forward. You would expect that a car like this could not improve anymore. It was and is an extremely rare car with a total production of only 12.070 units over the years.
Nothing to be desired, or right?
If you read it like this, you should be a happy person if you own an original Alfa Sei. It seems as if there is nothing to be desired, but that is completely different for some. In practice, fuel consumption turns out to be much higher than the manufacturer's specifications and over time the carburettors are of course partially or completely worn out. This makes the car extremely difficult to start and with an average consumption of a liter at five kilometers, a ride is no fun. First, the piggy bank must be approached to see how much fuel can be purchased and that significantly reduces the range. And then there was the engine speed. At a speed of 120 kilometers per hour, the engine was running at around 3.950 revolutions per minute. And that had to be done differently.
Vincent's car had to be a super Sei. A superlative of the, in the eyes of the manufacturer of the Alfa Romeo Sei, already excellent car. It needed a different faster engine and a modern automatic gearbox. The central door lock had to be changed. There had to be seat belts in the back seat and other shock absorbers under the car to adjust the handling. Of course there were modern tires on the wish list, just like a modern radio and some futilities such as a completely new leather interior. The fuel consumption had to drop drastically, just like the speed and in fact it had to be a car that would drive like a modern limousine with the looks of a forty year old car. That was quite a challenge and Marco van Doorn of Alfaspecials was allowed to go live.
What was changed?
The engine of the Alfa Sei would be replaced by the engine from an Alfa Romeo 164. It had twenty four horsepower more, while the torque was also higher: 259 Newton meters instead of 219,6 Newton meters. That seems easy but some adjustments had to be made. Of course, the six downdraft carburettors would be replaced by a modern injection system. Then the car would be easier to start and more economical and could run on unleaded petrol with an octane rating of 95.
The automatic three-speed gearbox had to be replaced by a modern four-speed version. That was not a straightforward job either. The Alfa Sei's central door lock was to be changed and seat belts for rear passengers were to be fitted. The only easy thing about the wish list was to replace the interior. Pick a large cow, paint it nice red and you have a beautiful skin to cover all chairs and door panels. By the way, that work was outsourced because Marco only deals with technical matters. Even the installation of a modern radio was not easy, because the center console had to be completely adapted for it.
When the photos for this item were taken, owner Vincent owned the car for about a year and a half. The total conversion was carried out in 2008. No changes have been made at the latest. The only external difference from the original version is the beautiful badge on the tailgate. It was also made by Marco and very subtly the foreground and background of that badge are mirrored compared to the original badge.
Engine and box off the shelf
It is indeed very simple. An engine from the Alfa 164 was used. Only that car was no longer equipped with rear-wheel drive, but Alfa Romeo, after all those years of rear-wheel drive cars, had switched to the production of front-wheel drive cars. A horror for the purists, who also say that from that moment on no real Alfas have been built. In the 164, the engine is mounted transversely while the Sei is longitudinally mounted under the hood. Therefore, the crankshaft had to be adjusted to accommodate the other flywheel. Furthermore, another oil pump had to be mounted and of course a different sump. The 164's crankshaft pulley only has room for two strings while the Alfa Sei uses three V strings. That is why Marco himself made a new one with the help of the original pulley.
The Sei's old engine had six carburettors and an electronic ignition. The engine of the 164 uses a Motronic injection system and therefore the wiring harness of the 164 has been adapted and placed in the Sei. Just like the computer or the Electronic Control Unit. The computer is placed inside the car.
Another fuel pump was also needed and it has been replaced by a second series pump from the Sei. They were in fact equipped with injection, unlike the cars of the first series. The throttle and air intake of that type were also used.
The original gearbox was a ZF 3 HP 22. Now a ZF 4 HP 22 gearbox was used. That seems a piece of cake. Replace one ZF container with the other. But it does not work like that. The bellhouse had to be shortened and it had to be reinforced at the bolt holes. A vending machine is equipped with a pump that pressurizes the vending machine liquid. The bellhouse was adapted to the four-speed pump and the input shaft was also adjusted.
There is also a switch in the housing of the box to recognize the position of the operating handle. How else do you know if you are in P, R, N or D mode? On the output shaft, an adjustment has been made to build in the kilometer sensor. After all, you want to have a properly working speedometer with such a perfect job and that is why the giver in the box was also adjusted.
Of course, another gearbox support was needed, and Marco made it himself. After shortening the drive shaft it also fit and the engine and the box could be hung in the car. Now the car could be finished further. All around red Koni's were mounted, rear load adjusters were added and the torsion suspension was lowered for better road holding. The camber was also slightly changed and Vincent was finally able to drive the car.
How's that going?
On the highway, the cars were still almost stopped and the road to Katwijk was closed. But to feel the differences, no Mille Miglia has to be taken.
First, Marco's Sei was taken in its basic version. The motor came to life with a few pumps with the right foot. He sounded a bit raw and smoothly picked up the automatic gearbox when accelerating. At the roundabout there was someone who did not know that you have to follow the arrows and after dodging this ghost driver we could get on the gas. Nice, very nice. We kept it short and drove back to test Vincent's car.
Starting was indeed much easier. Just turn the key and keep the foot off the accelerator. What was also striking was the fact that the windows were not fogged at all. Smoothly switched on the automatic four-speed and we drove over some speed bumps. That was weird. Nothing rattled and rattled, not even windows loose in their guides.
At the roundabout, another wrong-way driver came up from the wrong side, but the brakes were perfect to stop the heavy car. What a wonderful car this was. Too bad the road was so short and we were back soon. Is it an Alfa Romeo? As far as comfort is concerned, because it is much more luxurious and quieter than anything I have ever driven as an Alfa. But as far as performance is concerned. It is a wolf in beautiful clothes, a beautiful car that you can also drive very fast. A car with which you are guaranteed to commit the necessary speeding violations because you do not notice it. A car that allows you to drive to the Mille Miglia in style while the air conditioning keeps the interior nice and cool. It is an extremely seductive car.
Text partly taken from Auto Motor Klassiek number 2 of 2010. Text and photography: Jacques van den Bergh
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