1952 ALFA ROMEO AR-51 ‘’MATTA’’
The Alfa Romeo Matta AR51 was Italy’s response to both the American Jeep and the British Land Rover.
The letters AR stood for ‘’Autovettura da Ricognizione’’ and the number 51 corresponded to the date of commissioning.
Truth be told, it proved to be more advanced than both, thanks to its DOHC inline-four engine, which delivered Mille Miglia class-winning performance.
Alfa Romeo embarked on the development of the Matta (Italian for “mad”) with the aim of securing a contract with Italy’s Ministry of Defense, who sought a domestic military vehicle to rival the Jeep, many of which had remained in the country after WWII.
While the British Land Rover was designed in the late 1940s and released in 1948, Alfa Romeo’s head of design, Giuseppe Busso, considered the Land Rover to be superior to the Jeep.
As a result, the company acquired a Land Rover and created a prototype that incorporated both Land Rover and Alfa Romeo components, including the twin-cam Alfa Romeo 1900cc inline four-cylinder engine.
Although this prototype validated the concept, it was considered somewhat rudimentary. Consequently, the Alfa Romeo design team developed a new chassis with independent front suspension featuring torsion bars and double unequal-length wishbones, along with a live axle on leaf springs at the rear.
This live axle was equipped with a limited-slip differential, and there was also provision for manual axle locking via a lever positioned beside the driver.
The utilitarian steel body of the Matta bore a resemblance to the Jeep, but the Italians refined its lines and added a subtle Alfa Romeo emblem in the grille between the headlights.
In stark contrast to the straightforward engines used in vehicles like the Jeep, Land Rover, and the Italian Fiat Campagnola, the Alfa Romeo Matta employed an advanced double overhead cam engine with an alloy head, a dry sump, and hemispherical combustion chambers.
This was a significant departure from the solid iron flathead engine used in the Jeep and the pushrod overhead valve designs of the Land Rover and Campagnola.
Following approval for production, Alfa Romeo manufactured approximately 2,000 units of the Alfa Romeo Matta AR51 for military and police use, as well as just over 150 units of the Alfa Romeo Matta AR52 for civilian applications.
Despite its impressive off-road capabilities, the Matta faced direct competition from the more affordable and mechanically simpler Campagnola.
In the end, the Campagnola would prevail over its competitor, and production of the Alfa Romeo Matta ceased by 1954.
ABOUT THIS SPECIFIC EXAMPLE
When you immediately lay your eyes on the AR-51, you see almost immediately that it is a very likeable car.
A fun appearance thanks to its army-green colour and attributes such as the shovel and chisel on the back of the car.
Alfa Romeo has a rich history when it comes to race, rally and street cars. But that makes it all the more fun to see that Alfa Romeo also made a military vehicle like the AR-51.
And with only 1,500 built, it is a rare sight on the road.
This AR-51 is a very nice example and has a lot of extra tools. The car can be used for all sorts of trips and even for the Mille Miglia!
Rusting is a problem with these cars and many are in very bad shape. This example, however, is in a very nice and clean condition.
The car was as strong as possible built which can easily be seen if the car is inspected. Everything is rather basic resulting in an easy to reach nice condition.
The car is standing on nice rims but we would advise to change the tires before using the car on a regular base as the tires are too old.
All lights on the car are in working condition and the lights all around are in good condition.
Simplicity was important during the construction of the AR-51. The car had to be easy to manoeuvre and therefore had to be light. Therefore, the interior was built as simple as possible.
However, everything is in nice condition. The covers of the seats still looks nice and all the dials and gauges are in a good working condition.
Driving an AR-51 is quite an experience in itself.
Due to the smooth 1900 engine the Alfa handles very easily.
The high seat position gives a very clear and comfortable view.
A nice extra on this Alfa is the fact that the car is eligible for the Mille Miglia.
Picture it; driving a very sympathetic car like this one through the busy villages and mountain roads during the Mille Miglia. Among all the other wonderful traffic, this Alfa jeep will get an enormous amount of attention. It is guaranteed to win the hearts of the Italian people.