ALFA ROMEO GAZELLES
Carabinieri’s “Nuclei Radiomobile” coat of arms, with the classic image
of the running gazelle.
The Milan car maker and the Italian Carabinieri, a collaboration which has lasted since the end of World War II, when all the “Gazelles” bore the Alfa Romeo badge. Starting with the Giulietta and its direct successor, the Giulia.
Alfa Romeo and the Carabinieri met for the first time in the Fifties, when the police force adopted in its fleet the 1900 M or “Matta” [mad], so-called for its considerable off-road capabilities.
It was a vehicle suitable for the needs of the time. Patrolling the national territory, still wrecked by the terrible war years, required suitable and reliable vehicles like the new off-road by Alfa Romeo, which adopted the duly modified powertrain of the 1900.
The first “Gazelle” was also born in the Fifties: the Giulietta TI, on which, like on the “Matta”, the first radio system was installed, forerunner of the oncoming “Servizio Radiomobile”. This service had the task of fighting crime, which, from the late 50s to the early 60s had become a very serious problem. By then, outlaws had fast vehicles whichhad to be countered by others which were as fast and reliable.
The opportunity came with the 1962 Giulia TI, a new-generation car which combined high performance and great reliability, essential features for the heavy duties of the newly forming "Nuclei Radiomobile" (radio squad cars).
Since then, there have been many Alfa Romeo “Gazelles” chosen by the “Nuclei Radiomobile”. Just to mention the most famous ones, after the Giulia, in both the TI and Super versions, in the Seventies came the Alfetta model, followed in the Eighties by the Alfa 90 and 75, always sporting a 1.8 engine. In the Nineties it was the turn of the 155 and 156, the latter gradually being replaced by the superb 159.Apart from these “operational” vehicles, the Carabinieri also adopted other Alfa Romeo vehicles, deploying them in lighter tasks. Just to mention a couple, the Romeo and F12 vans. But this is another story…
In the picture the 1900 M (also called A.R. 51 or A.R. 52, according to the version).
Produced from 1952 to 1954, it was designed to government specifications, to replace
the American Jeeps given to our army and police forces in the postwar period.
The engine is that of the 1900: 1884cc four-cylinder twin cam (A.R. 52: 1975 cc), 65 HP (CUNA) fed by a single-barrel carburettor. Permanent rear wheel drive, motion to the front wheels could be transmitted by means of a mechanical control.
Torpedo type body, with tarpaulin. Technical features: top speed: 105 km/h; maximum surmountable gradient 120% (50°); average fuel consumption: 15 litres/100 km; weight in running order: 1250 kg.(Photo courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo)
In the picture the Giulia TI of the Carabinieri not yet in its final version.
The big wing-mounted siren will be replaced by two powerful sirens housed behind the
round grilles replacing the inner headlamps, a distinctive element of the Carabinieri
Giulias (foto Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo). The Giulia TI in the picture above, belongs to the first series, manufactured between
1962 and 1965. It is powered by a 1570 cc twin cam four-cylinder, fed by a single
dual-barrel carburettor, developing 90 HP (IGM). Rear wheel drive. The car was at the
top of its category for its modern features: truncated tail, aerodynamic body, spacious
interior, large boot compartment.
Thanks to its qualities, the Giulia TI permitted long distance journeys at high speed and in maximum comfort. Technical features: top speed: 169 km/h; average fuel consumption: 10.4 litres/100 km; weight in running order: 1060 kg.
1963: the first driving courses organized for Carabinieri at the Portello Alfa Romeo plant.
(Photo courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo).
The final version of the Giulia TI-Carabinieri .(Photo courtesy of Centro Documentazione
1969: an impressive array of “Gazelles” photographed on the forecourt of the
vehicle park at the Alfa Romeo plant in Arese (Milan),
(Photo courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo).
The Giulia Super “Biscione” of 1969 outside the Alfa Romeo plant in Arese: this “Gazelle”,
still without aerial and radio system, differs externally from the Giulia TI in
the searchlight on the roof .(Photo courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo). This version was produced from 1969 to 1972. Erroneously dubbed “Biscione”
(grass snake) for the characteristic Visconti coat of arms on the rear roof pillar.
It represents the maximum evolution of the Giulia TI, combining improved finish
standards with even greater performance. The interior was completely redesigned,
with separate rear seat backrests.
Externally, chrome trim is visible along the sills and at the centre of the bonnet. The air intakes at the base of the windshield are longitudinal instead of transversal. Also different is the dashboard, with round dials and wood veneers. The front clip, still with four headlamps, was modified with a black grille and five chromed bars. The engine is still the 1570cc twin cam four-cylinder which, fed by twin double-barrel carburettors, delivers 104 HP (IGM). It differs from the TI in the hydraulic clutch, rear anti-sway bar and 14” rims with wider tyres. Technical features: top speed: 175 km/h; average fuel consumption: 11.1 litres/100 km; weight in running order: 1020 kg.
Above there are two photographs of the Alfetta, the new “Gazzella” of the 1970s with the
characteristic twin flashing lights on the roof. (Photo courtesy of Centro Documentazione
Alfa Romeo). This Alfetta is of the first series, made between 1972 and 1975.
It has a more compact body than its predecessor, the 1750. The line, with a tapered
front and a voluminous rear, combines spors car line and loading capacity, offering
comfortable room for five people. Besides the innovative lines, the mechanical side of
the Alfetta is unconventional, not present in any other large production
sedan of the time: front engine and rear gearbox and clutch, for an ideal weight
distribution; in addition: front axle with torsion bars and elastic elements,
rack and pinion steering, with adjustable column. De Dion axle at the rear,
with in-board disc brakes, mounted on the differential housing for a significant
reduction in unsuspended masses. Powered by a 1779cc twin cam four-cylinder engine fed by twin dual-barrel carburettors
developing 122 HP (IGM). Technical features: top speed in excess of 180 km/h;
average fuel consumption: 11.5 litres/100 km; weight in running order: 1060 kg.
In 2006 the Carabinieri version of the 159 was presented to the press.
It takes up the baton from the glorious 156. The lines of the car skillfully
convey the dynamism of the Alfa Romeo which, in the Carabinieri colours appears
even more aggressive. It was chosen for its technical features: powerful engine
and cutting-edge suspensions.
Like the production line models ordinary ones, the 159 “Carabinieri”, comes fully equipped for safety and comfort. The standard model is integrated by specific options: the “midnight blue” 159s are partly bullet-proof and with shatter-proof windows. The rear seats are totally separated from the front ones by a sturdy partition enabling safe transport of arrested persons. Externally, on the roof there are electroacoustic devices, emergency blue flashers, a revolving floodlight and a retractable data display, aerodynamically integrated in the car body. The 159 is provided with the typical communication, navigation and transmission equipment of Carabinieri and with data acquisition devices, like the automatic number plate scanner. Worth noting, the special fuel tank which contains special alluminium alloy balls [di maglia? Non capisco] to prevent any risk of explosion. This 159 is powered by the 200 HP 2.4 JTDM 20v. The powerful 5-cylinder, 20 valve Multijet turbodiesel, coupled with a six-speed gearbox, delivers top of the range performance. Technical features : top speed 228 km/h, 0-100 km/h in 8,4 seconds.
NOTE FOR THE ALFISTI
The Arese Section of the Arma dei Carabinieri National Association was founded thanks to the security supervisor of the local Alfa Romeo plant, a former warrant officer of the Carabinieri. The initiative enjoyed great success and was enthusiastically welcomed by all retired colleagues, most of whom were employed by Alfa Romeo as security guards at the Arese plant. To prove their “Alfistic fervour”, on their website this beautiful but impossible Carabinieri version of the Alfa Brera can be admired. We would like to thank Dr. Marco Fazio of Automobilismo Storico Alfa Romeo for his precious collaboration.