Is This Alfa Romeo The World’s Most Tasteful Van?
Photos courtesy of Bonhams
As a new father, I’ve quickly realized that my dream classics—especially the 2-doors—may not engender themselves to family-friendly motoring. If you’ve been to a large tour or caught a classic car event, you’ll often notice groups of people touring in older classics, even Pre-War cars. They’re perfect for a relaxed pace, lots of luggage, and sunny days—but they’re not often what I’d call stylish.
Thankfully, Alfa Romeo built one of the most stylish vans I’ve seen, the Autotutto.
First launched at the 1954 Turin Auto Show, the Autotutto, meaning “all purpose”, was originally offered by the company in panel van and minibus variants.
Don’t think this is some crude oxcart on wheels, however: the Autotutto would be front-wheel drive, with independent suspension at all corners—a layout that would fortuitously grant the Autotutto with a large, flat and low load area, making the vehicle versatile for a wide variety of commercial applications, as well as easier for Alfa Romeo to extend the chassis to accommodate differing bodywork for the other variants that would later follow. These would come to include a school bus, ambulance, and a choice of three trucks.
Italian coachbuilders also worked on the Autotutto, producing specialist bodies such as a mobile shops and clinics. The vans initially utilized the 1.3-liter twin cam straight-four engine as used in the Giulietta, but with only one carburetor and detuned to 35 horsepower. An optional two–cylinder supercharged (!) diesel engine offered 30 horsepower. Both versions had a top speed of about 60 mph. A tailwind and downward grade are probably recommended.
This particular Romeo 2 is the rare nine-seater minibus version with windows all round, as well as on the roof. While at first glance it may evoke the far more plentiful and common Volkswagen Type-2 “Transporter” which predates this Alfa Romeo by a few years, there are several stylish differences and details worth uncovering, apart from the Italian van’s interesting drivetrain. This Autotutto has rear-hinged “suicide” front doors, and a curved, one-piece windscreen, while Bonhams also notes other niceties, such as its sunroof, tow-bar, and even a ladder stowed beneath the bench seat.
The Autotutto was renamed the Romeo 2 after 1957, yet little evidence of any significant changes can be found. Regardless, it’s a neat little van, and one you’re unlikely to see outside of Europe.
This 1961 example was originally used by the Protezione Civile, the Italian organization that deals with natural disasters and catastrophes, and it was restored a few years ago to this specification—making it perfect for a family outing given its apparent better-than-driver-quality condition. Bonhams suggests it might also be a stylish way of towing another vintage Alfa Romeo, but again, with only 30-odd horsepower at your disposal, you’re unlikely to that with great urgency. You will, however, do it with brio.
Rare Alfa Romeo commercial vehicle
Originally used by the Protezione Civile, the Italian agency for natural disasters
Restored approximately two years ago
~35 horsepower, 1,290-cc twin cam straight-four with single Solex carburetor, 4-speed manual ZF transmission, Suspension independent all round, front by a transverse leaf spring, rear by trailing arms and transverse torsion bars, Girling shock absorbers and brakes. Drum brakes at all wheels. Wheelbase 90.5 in.
Chassis no. AR 186154
Motor no. AR 4004 03177
Auction house: Bonhams
Estimate: US$ 65,000 – 98,000 USD
Price realized: TBD; Auction on February 4th, 2016