1953 Alfa Romeo Matta ($58,000)
Photography by Afshin Behnia
Written by Shayan Bokaie
1953 Alfa Romeo 1900M “Matta”
- Location: Los Angeles, CA
- Seller: Manuel Minassian | @manuelalfaholic
- Chassis: AR5101394
- Engine: 1900 Twin Cam 4-cylinder
- Mileage: 64,568 KM
- Transmission: Original 4-speed manual
- Color: Alfa Red
- Production Run: ~2,200
- Military example converted to civilian color
- Won best in class at Concorso Italiano 2014
The Mad Alfa
Off-road and Alfa Romeo are not terms commonly used in the same sentence. Yet, here we are looking at what seems to be an Alfa Romeo equivalent of a Willys Jeep. Well, say hello (buongiorno) to the Alfa Romeo Matta or ‘Mad Alfa’, a limited production 4×4 produced by Alfa for the Italian Ministry of Defense.
Manufactured from 1952-1954, the Matta came in a military spec AR51, like the one listed, and a civilian AR52 – AR standing for Autovettura da Ricognizione or ‘Reconnaissance Vehicle’. Officially named the 1900M, its limited production meant its time spent ‘reconnoitering’ was also limited. However, this was Italy in the 50’s, meaning ideas were bold meaning the ‘Mad Alfa’ did find itself on some truly spectacular adventures.
Matta Goes Global
Enter our protagonist, Maner Lualdi – a daring pilot, journalist, producer, opera director, socialite and ladies man; a man of many talents to say the least. His writing and film production were largely tied to his passion for aviation, where he became famous for record breaking long distance flights or ‘raids’ across the globe.
Most importantly, though – he was an Alfa guy. Bravo, Maner.
Arctic Raid of the North Pole
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the tragic crash of the Norge, a failed Italian polar air expedition in 1926, Lualdi embarked on “Raid Artico delle Polo Nordi”, charting the same path as his predecessors in their honor with an Ambrosini Girfalco aircraft.
Aircraft Engine? Alfa Romeo 110A.
Support Vehicle? Alfa Romeo Matta.
It was rumored that Lualdi’s involvement with Alfa Romeo was apart of a larger marketing ploy to preserve their contract with Italian Defense Ministry to build more Mattas, which was in contention by the Fiat Campagnolo.
Raid of Brotherhood and Peace
This was not the Lualdi’s last trek involving the Matta either. Some 15 years later, Lualdi was the key man behind a charitable endeavor, “Raid della Fratellanza e della Pace Roma-Pechino” or Raid of Brotherhood and Peace Rome-Beijing.
The journey took 2 Alfa Romeo Mattas and 4 Guilia Supers through 24 countries and across 27,000KM, where the Mattas served as mobile workshops. Due to some political issues the convoy was turned back by Chinese officials before they could reach Beijing. While the trip wasn’t a success for Lualdi’s awareness campaign, it did become quite the testament for Alfa Romeo.
Keep in mind the were at least 13 years old at this point and this journey was another notch in its belt proving its durability in extreme terrains.
Alfa Romeo was well aware that Fiat was hungry for their contract with the Defense Ministry. Like any true Italian car manufacturer would, they dueled on the gentleman (racers) battleground – the Mille. In the category of ‘Military Vehicles’ the Matta, at the hands of Antonio Costa and Francesco Verga, outclassed the Fiat Campagnola by over 40 minutes.
Tour De France
North Pole, check. China and back, check. Mille Miglia, check. Tour de France? Walk in the park.
Even though the Matta bravely played to win, it was inevitably replaced by the more practical and cost efficient Fiat Campagnolo leaving us behind less than 2500 examples.
Moving to brass tacks – if you’re intrigued, let’s talk about if this is the right Matta for you.
The Matta came standard with 1.9L DOHC engine putting out 65 HP amounting to a top speed of 65 MPH. Its off-road elements include a wider-ratio four-speed dual range gearbox, independent front suspension and live rear axel.
This Matta, Chassis AR5101394, is one of very few fully restored examples in the US. The car has had a full cosmetic and mechanical restoration, and runs very strong. All this led this Matta to a best in show victory at Concorso Italiano in 2014.
We’ve broken the cars pros and cons down in the following sections.
- Respray was extremely well done and paint is in great condition
- Missing canvas canopy
- Seats are fresh and have been reupholstered
- All instrumentation and gauges work
- Missing passenger side trunk seat
- Strong motor, compression
- Suspension still very durable
- Rear oil pan has a small leak
- Front valve cover has a small leak
Color: An original AR51 would have likely come in green, and this example was painted red during its restoration.
Signal light: From our research this turn signal seems to be a modification to make the car street legal. While not original, this does make the car more usable.
This car only comes with documentation from its latest owner.
- 1953 – ? | Italy/Europe
- ? – 2012 – Owner X | Florida
- 2012 – present – Manuel Minassian | Los Angeles, CA (purchased on eBay)
It’s an Alfa: It’s well-known our HQ is furnished with Alfas so we think the Matta is one of THE coolest cars ever. If you’re an Alfisti and you now know this car exists, how could you buy a Land Rover or Willys Jeep? Also, suicide doors.
Use It: This is a real 4×4 and you can do real 4×4 things with it. YouTube has plenty of inspiration for this!
Rare and Unique: Alfa Romeo didn’t export these cars to the US and they made less than 2200 of them at that. That said, this does have the same 1900 motor in the more popular Berlina sedans meaning parts and components are not impossible to find.
The Front Window Folds Forward: How cool is that?
Meet the Seller
This car is for sale by Manuel Minassian, an Alfaholic collector and previous Petrolicious subject. Check out his episode below to learn more about him.