Alfa Romeo's first SUV was "Angry"
It was officially called 1900M, but the world remembered it under the nickname "Matta" (Angry).
When Alfa Romeo introduced the Stelvio model at the end of 2016, many media reported this news, saying that it was the company's first SUV in its long history. Hand on heart, the Stelvio is actually a crossover as it shares the identical Giorgio architecture with the Giulia sedan, but even in that case it’s not really the first such model for an Italian company.
During 1913, Alfa debuted with its first minivan called Aerodynamics, but we will focus on the company's first real SUV. It was officially called 1900M, but the world remembered it under the nickname "Matta" (Angry).
Its history begins in the period after the Second World War, when Italy was still in ruins, and when American soldiers drove military Jeeps en masse. It didn't take long before the rest of the world became acquainted with its military capabilities, so Italian politicians opened a competition for the production of a similar military product.
Requests were sent to the addresses of all major car manufacturers, and as the renewal of the state was still in the foreground, development was quite slow. It was not until the end of the 1940s that the first prototype specimens were delivered, and after mass testing, the Alfa model 1900M won the selection.
The official military code was AR51, but these two letters were not abbreviations for "Alfa Romeo" but for "Autovettura da Ricognizione" (Reconnaissance Vehicle). In addition to the military version, the company planned to produce a civilian model codenamed AR52.
With a length of 3,520 millimeters, a width of 1,575 mm and a height of 1,820 mm, the Matt actually looked very much like its American cousin, while the stylistic difference between the two vehicles was obvious at first glance. The Italians diligently and cleverly bypassed all those design details that the Americans protected with a patent, such as a vertical radiator grille, so Alfa's stylists decided to provide horizontal lines.
Although it looks a lot like a Jeep, Alfa will say that during testing, the legendary Land Rover was most often used as a model that the Matt must surpass. Some early prototypes actually even shared the chassis and mechanics with the British SUV, and politicians will return the model to the manufacturer several times, with the explanation that the off-road is not as capable as the Jeep or Land Rover.
It took three years before Matta met all the requirements and before serial production began. It will take place from 1952 to 1954, and in that period, 2,007 units for military purposes will leave the factory, or another 154 for civilian purposes.
Only one engine was among the options, a 1.9-liter gasoline engine, which developed 65 "horsepower" and a maximum of 123 Nm of torque. Power was transmitted to all four wheels via a four-speed manual transmission, and top speed was limited to 105 km / h.
But when the first copies started coming off the production lines, Fiat introduced its legendary Campagnola model and the soldiers liked it much more. The main reason is the simplicity of the mechanics and the larger selection of spare parts that a company the size of Fiat had, over a significantly smaller manufacturer such as Alfa.
It is interesting that Matta and Campagnola competed in the Mille Miglia race in 1952 in the category of military vehicles, and that Alfa's representative triumphed with an advantage of as much as 42 minutes.
The Italian army will continue to use the mentioned 2,007 units until the early seventies, and then it sold them for civilian use. Matta will remain popular among all those for whom amateur off-road driving is a hobby, and today they can often be found in excellent condition as used cars.
It would be easy to characterize him as a failure and a failed model, but the Italians should still be acknowledged for this, and it should be said that he helped the army to some extent in the not so great post-war situation for Italy. If nothing else, the way in which Italians have found a way to copy the famous Jeep without being sued or to pay compensation for the illegal use of license rights is certainly impressive.