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Alfa Romeo Dauphine, just like a Renault

ER Classics Desktop 2022

Text and photography: Martin Philippo

When the Second World War is over, the French Renault and the Italian Alfa Romeo become state-owned companies. Both are instructed to make cars for the people. At Renault that is more than excellent, Alfa Romeo is struggling with the competition of that Italian giant: Fiat. That brand has a strong hold on the local market and leaves little room for other manufacturers. For the time being, Alfa Romeo will continue to produce beautiful models such as the 6C 2500. In 1950 the assembly line can then be put into operation for the production of the Alfa Romeo 1900 and a little later the Giulietta. Production steps are going up considerably thanks to these steps, but the required volumes can still not be achieved. There must be a new model that can change that.


Collaboration

The management decided not to invest in the development of a completely new model. Cooperation is much more obvious, and that cooperation is found in neighboring France. Renault has the old 4CV succeeded by the Dauphine and sells nice numbers. The governments of Italy and France agree and a license to produce the Dauphine for the Italian market is given to Alfa Romeo. All Alfas in France are also sold through the Renault dealer network through this agreement. 

All parts are sent directly from the French Renault to the Alfa factory in Portello where the cars are simply screwed together. To make production space for the new model, Alfa is building a new assembly line alongside that for the popular Giuletta. Pierre Dreyfuss himself, the big boss of Renault, came to cut the ribbon to open the expansion. Unlike the Giulietta and the other models, the Dauphine is not sold abroad, but remains in Italy. It is a requirement of Renault that even the parts provision is kept exclusively for itself. 

The alpha label

The Alfa Romeo Dauphine differs from the French version in very few respects. It is actually a Renault with an Alfa label screwed on. Subtle differences: the 12 Volt ignition is from Magneti-Marelli and the other headlights are from Carello. There are also small direction indicators in the front fenders. It is no more, but it is enough. 

The small compact sedan has a rear mounted 850 CC engine that, depending on the model, 25 or 29 hp is strong. It is a lightweight, the whole carriage just brings 650 kilograms on the scale so that the performance is not even disappointing. For those who want it a bit more luxurious, the Ondine also has four forward speeds. 

Successes

In France, considerable sporting successes are achieved with the Dauphine. That way the class in the Mille Miglia is won and also the Monte Carlo Rally. There is even an extra sporty Gordini version with a fifth gear and a modified cylinder head that adds ten horsepower. Thanks to a further modified cylinder head, a fast camshaft and special pistons, Gordini can even squeeze 49 hp out of the block at a later stage so that a top speed of 145 km per hour can be achieved. It is special that the Italians, who are looking for speed, have never been tempted by similar antics. What could Carlo Abarth not have done with the rather boring car? 

Bad reputation

In the first year of production, slightly more than 20.000 cars roll off the tire. Sales fell in the following years due to poor construction quality. The contract with Renault prohibits Alfa Romeo from making improvements and the Dauphine has in the meantime gained the reputation that the cars already start rusting in the factory. Alfa Romeo stops the production in 1964 and with that comes the collaboration for this model to an end. 

One Comment

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  1. Good story. The last paragraph suggests that it was a poorly designed car, that is not the case. The French Renault Dauphine is known as a very reliable car. Renault built more than one million of the 4CV, had not yet been seen by a French manufacturer; of the Dauphine, more than two million have been built. Alfa Romeo also built the Renault 4L under license (with that large tailgate, the successor to the 4CV), recognizable by the fact that it has the rear lights of the Fiat Giardinetta. By the way, you still regularly see R4s in Italy. Even the Pope has one.

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