Hot hatch 'Ti' performance and handling with the practical benefits of five doors, was the Gold Cloverleaf the ultimate Alfasud?

© John Waterman/ January 2020

The original Alfa Romeo Alfasud of 1972 was a brand new front wheel drive, practical four door family car produced in a new factory at Pomigliano d'Arco in the South of Italy.

It used a new horizontally opposed four cylinder engine mated to a four speed gearbox behind it.

It was joined shortly afterwards by the sporty and more powerful two door and five speed Ti models, distinguished by their quad circular headlights.

By the early 1980s the Alfasud had evolved into a true hatchback, as opposed to a fixed rear window saloon with a boot, and remained contemporary with new plastic bumpers and body mouldings. Buyers could choose three or five door variants in various specifications, but the performance model was still the Ti, and that only came with three doors. This changed in 1982 when the Alfasud Quadrifoglio Oro, or Gold Cloverleaf was launched.

The Gold Cloverleaf was a five door luxury offering complete with a wooden steering wheel and gear knob, wood effect door pull and window winder inserts, Pioneer radio cassette player and headlight wipers (similar to those adorning the top line Alfetta and Giulietta saloons of the day) as standard.

The most notable feature however, was that the Gold Cloverleaf was equipped with the exact same 1490cc 95bhp 'Veloce' engine, complete with two twin-choke downdraught carburettors, as fitted to the then current Ti and TiX (which came with sunroof and alloy wheels).

Either Dellorto or Weber carburettors were fitted to these models which gave a wonderful spread of power and acceleration over the entire rev range, and they also had a superb spread of gear ratios making them a joy to drive in all conditions, including autostrada or motorway cruising in fifth gear.

The 1490cc engine's output would later be increased to 105bhp, with camshaft changes, and this motor would power the final Alfasud Ti, the Green Cloverleaf, complete with stylish new Speedline 'telephone dial' wheels. Many people, myself included, that have been fortunate to experience both versions, argue that the 95bhp unit is 'sweeter', giving a nicer drive over the later version, adding some weight to the argument that the Gold Cloverleaf was fitted with the 'best' 'sud engine.

The Gold Cloverleaf could reach 60mph from rest in a whisker over 10 seconds and then power on to a top speed of 108mph, figures almost identical to both the 95bhp and 105bhp Ti models.

Like all Alfasuds, the Gold Cloverleaf was blessed with disc brakes all 'round, with the front being inboard to help improve handling further, sharp steering and a charming raspy exhaust note delivered through a long 4-2-1 tubular steel manifold and exhaust system.

The Gold Cloverleaf was produced in four metallic colours: silver, gold, light green and burnt copper, and also traditional glossy Alfa Rosso. Cars sold in the UK tended to be in the silver, green metallic or red. All colours came with the same tan interior (including carpet), with headrests and seatbelts for the front occupants.

The dashboard and door cappings were black vinyl and plastic and the cabin was also equipped with front and rear ashtrays and a dashboard mounted cigar lighter.

The rear luggage compartment was a generous size with a parcel shelf that lifted with the tailgate. The rear seat back could be folded down and the parcel shelf removed to carry larger loads.

UK cars were treated to Tuff Kote Dinol cavity wax protection and proudly sported a rear window sticker to advertise the fact. There were also black plastic sill covers giving some protection from rain water and gravel thrown up by the front wheels.

Features unique to the Gold Cloverleaf were:

Wooden steering wheel and gear knob
Headlight wipers
Clear front indicator lenses with orange inner lenses
Silver coloured plastic radiator grille
Grey bumper inserts
Satin black painted steel wheel inners (fitted with standard black plastic hubcaps)
Black vinyl stripe above the sill, with additional silver pinstripe

It was also fitted with the Pioneer auto-stop radio cassette player as previously mentioned wired to square front door speakers, rear wash wipe, a single drivers Vitaloni door mirror (with blue tinted lens) and a red LED digital clock.

Optional extras were electric front windows (operated by neat rocker switches mounted in the centre console), Campagnolo (TiX style) alloy wheels and a passenger side door mirror.

Almost 10,000 Gold Cloverleafs were produced in 1982, actually over 400 more than the combined figure for 95bhp 1500cc Ti / TiX and 105bhp Ti Green Cloverleafs in that same year. 1983 saw the production of 5 door 'suds reduced and phased out shortly before the 3 door models and so only 2,006 Gold Cloverleafs were produced that year, as opposed to over 6,000 Green Cloverleaf Tis.

Although produced in relatively high numbers, the Gold Coverleaf was always a pretty rare sight on UK roads, and few survive today, with collectors and restorers tending to favour the Quadfoglio Verde over the last quarter century.

Was the Gold Clover' the ultimate Alfasud? I really do think so.

It truly did deliver the Alfasud experience, with Ti performance, not only for the driver and front seat passenger, but for the whole family. Two or three rear seat passengers could enter and exit without having to clamber through a tight gap between the front seats and B-pillar and could travel in comfort with adequate leg room and their own fully opening rear side windows.

My father bought one new as his first Alfa Romeo in November 1982. It was from Waters garage in Hatfield, was red and came with the optional electric windows that my Father didn't want, as he thought that they would "go wrong". Not only did it take us across Europe to Italy and back in the summer of 1984, but it also faithfully served five members of our family as daily transport into the late 1990s.

And what of those potentially troublesome electric windows? They never gave a hint of bother.

The family Alfasud Gold Cloverleaf

In period 1980s

11 years old in 1993

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