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Prime Find of the Week: Alfa Romeo Arna

After hunting through both Techno Classica in Essen and Retro Classics in Stuttgart for four days, we are quite sure to have found the ultimate Prime Find of the Week: A unicorn of an Alfa Romeo – the Arna.

Maybe you are familiar with the story of the Arna? In short: Alfa Romeo was (once again) in financial trouble in the Eigthies, and a cooperation with Nissan to produce a compact car targeted below the usual price range of Alfa was intended to win some market shares. The new car was technically based upon the drivetrain of the almost universally acclaimed Alfasud while the body was that of the Nissan Cherry.

Someone apparently believed that this would solve the infamous quality issues of the Alfasud, as well as infuse the Cherry with some much needed pizazz. It should have been the best of both worlds and in theory it should work. As it debuted in the real world in 1983 the Arna turned out to be the exact opposite: The worst of both worlds. Which was in fact pretty dire.

As a result the Arna sold only 53.000 cars and can only be described as a huge flop. As Fiat took over Alfa Romeo in 1986 the plug was pulled, and the Arna was ready to take its place in history.

Which place that would be is debatable, but a reasonable comparison would be with the equally infamous Austin Allegro, thereby seeing the Arna as the absolute nadir of Alfa Romeo.

But has that place in history changed with time? The Arna could nowadays be viewed as one of the rarest Alfa Romeos of modern times. As the Arna immediately became unloved, it has never enjoyed the life of a classic car and as a result has suffered a death rate much higher than your average car. Personally I can’t recall having ever seen one in real life.

But there it was, in the midst of a small get-together of family cars, at an Italian dealer at Retro Classics in Stuttgart: And amazingly it was rather good.

The car for sale was an 1985 base model called Arna L. Alledgedly it had only covered 71.500 kilometers from new, which seems almost unbelievable. However it might not be that important, as rust was a bigger enemy of these cars than anything else – and this car had clearly been restored. Even more amazingly, this seemed to have been done to a good standard with the Verde Acqua Metalizato paint presenting very nicely and the interior incredibly well preserved.

Yes, someone has clearly decided to finally give the Arna some much needed love and there it was: A really good Arna – and it could be yours for 9,500 Euro. Granted, it’s not for the fainthearted, but what a Prime Unicorn of the week!


With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to

6 Responses

  1. Anders Bilidt

    Whooooar… the most spectacularly horrible Alfa Romeo in history!
    I’m emotionally confused though. Not sure whether I love to hate the Arna, or hate to love the Arna…?? Either way, there’s some love in there somewhere. If nothing else just because it’s such a curiosity. Just can’t see myself ever paying Euro 9,500 for one – not even in Verde Acqua Metalizato.

  2. Tony Wawryk

    Going back to a previous discussion, for me, this is a prime example of a car that is simply old, and rather than a classic. There’s a reason why there are so few left – it was a terrible car. I can see why it may have some historical curiosity value, but no more than that.

  3. Claus Ebberfeld

    I absolutely understand all of you, gentlemen – in that it is not a car I would really want in my personal garage as such.

    However in a veritable sea of Porsche 911 and Mercedes SL of virtually every possible variant this little bastard (don’t take it personally as here it is just an objective way of describing a bloodline) really, really stood out.

    Not for the good, of course. And therein lies its importance: Alfa Romeo should never be allowed to forget this car and neither should the majority of manufacturers sharing platforms and more.

    The best things were the colour and the upholstery, really. And it’s rarity, of course – I can’t imagine how few of these there must be left in the world.

  4. Tony Wawryk

    @ce your comment about how few Arnas there must be left prompted me to look up their UK numbers, at least, on – as it turns out, there are none on the road, and 3 registered as off the road. So if this is reflected in other markets, then rarity is indeed the best thing about the Arna. And there is certainly an argument for keeping at least a couple around for historical purposes.

  5. Dave Leadbetter

    A brave attempt at platform sharing and it should have been brilliant – Italian flair and Japanese reliability. It’s a shame those characteristics were transposed and nobody wanted Japanese styling with Italian build quality… I’ve tried (for 30 seconds) to think of similar Japanese/European joint ventures from the time and retrieved memories of the more successful Austin Rover and Honda partnership, starting with the Triumph Acclaim and the Honda Ballade/Rover 200, but can’t think of any mainland European manufacturers who gave it another go. There may be some I’ve forgotten?

    Fiat Group have just tried again of course with the Mazda MX-5 and Fiat 124 Spider platform share.


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