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Homepage. This page: A rare Alfa Romeo 1900 saloon car spotted on the streets of London in 1954.

Alfa Romeo 1900 Berlina.

In the early 1950s the streets of London, and any other city in Britain at the time, would have hummed to the sound of British-built cars, vans and motorcycles, negotiating the Queen's highways. Cars of foreign manufacture could be spotted on occasion by the eagle-eyed motoring enthusiast, but they were far from common. Whoever took this photograph, as part of a traffic survey in 1954, managed to capture an Italian classic on film, in the shape of an Alfa Romeo 1900 Berlina - as identified by the good citizens of this site's forum.
From the rear, there is little to identify this car as an Alfa, especially as the three-box saloon styling is comparatively plain and ornamentation-free when compared to previous offerings from this Italian firm, and indeed the later coachbuilt automobiles that would use the 1900 as a basis. This example is lefthand drive, and probably Italian-registered, and is fitted with a roof rack. Ahead of the Alfa sits a slightly battle-scarred Ford E83W van. In front of the Ford, parked outside the Comedy Restaurant, is a much swisher machine, that hopefully someone will be able to identify - possibly a Hooper-bodied Rolls-Royce, or a Daimler? Further down the street, beyond a convertible, is a parked laundry van, while heading our way is an MG sportscar, followed by a taxi. The Comedy Theatre can also be found on this street.
To the right are examples of Singer SM1500, Morris Traveller, pre-war Morris 8, and a Triumph Renown.
(Please click the thumbnail to view full-size image.)
Alfa Romeo 1900 Berlina parked in London
Notes penned onto the reverse of this image confirm the location as Panton Street, looking up from Haymarket, at 4pm on 7th September 1954. The observer notes that "... two way traffic possible only with difficulty ..."

The 1900 of 1950-1959.

The 1900 saloon (Berlina) of 1950 was the first Alfa to utilise a monocoque bodyshell, built in a factory still recovering from considerable wartime damage. So bad was the factory that the first 1900s were, in the main, hand-built, until such time as stocks of machine tools could be built up again. The engine was a twin-cam unit of 1,884cc, producing 90bhp, sufficient to propel the four-door Berlina to a maximum speed of 106 mph. Gear selection was via a column-mounted shift lever, chosen along with the fitment of bench seats fore and aft, to maximise interior space.
Due to the aforementioned tooling problems at Alfa's Portello factory, just three cars per day were making it off the production line, resulting in the all-new 1900 being a rare sight, even in its home town. To help spread the word about the new car, prototypes had been displayed to journalists in Turin during May of 1950, while later in the year the public got their chance to view the 1900, firstly at the Paris Motor Show, then at its London equivalent a short while after.
A tuned-up version hit the autostradas in 1951, called the Ti (Turismo Internazionale), while coachbuilders were soon to be offered a version of the floorpan featuring a shortened wheelbase, on which they could weave their creative genius. Throughout the 1950s the model range would expand and incorporate further refinements over the earliest examples, the saloons especially were a little on the spartan side at their launch, especially inside the cabin. While never produced in the quantities envisaged at the 1900's launch (the company was aiming to turn out 12,000+ cars per year), the 1900 proved to be their best-selling car to date, surviving until 1959. In all, 21,304 cars were produced.
Find more early motoring photos on Page 16 of the vintage gallery.

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