To think that the US was the only country during World War II to build a vehicle that could handle the challenges of the rough terrain offered in Europe would be naïve. As much as we admire our Jeep models that came from the originally Willy’s GP model, or General Purpose vehicles, there was a company that built a vehicle that was made to give the same qualities to the Italian Army. This company is one we know well and have admired for many years but haven’t thought of as a company to build an off-road machine.
While we might think of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio as the first SUV built by this company but it’s not the first truck. The first trucks built by Alfa Romeo began in the 1930s and continued on through World War II. Eventually, by 1952, Alfa had created a truck that was called the AR 51 which is an Italian-built general purpose vehicle that looked like the Jeep models which could also make its way across nearly every type of terrain. One of these all go and no stop impressive SUVs is about to make its way to auction as a rare and interesting vehicle.
The 1952 AR 51 was the military version, but the civilian counterpart from Alfa Romeo was the AR 52 and both received the nickname “Matta” which is the Italian word for “crazy.” This wasn’t a name that actually referred to the workings of the vehicles themselves, but rather a descriptive means to admire the impressive off-road capabilities of these vehicles. The power for one of these AR models came from a 1900cc twin-cam four-cylinder engine that was also used in the 1900 sedan of the time. This small engine made only 65 horsepower and was dry sumped. Because of this aspect, the engine was an advanced one for the time.
The rest of the workings of this originally military vehicle included a four-speed manual transmission with a low-range gearbox that’s able to provide power to all four wheels. In addition to this powertrain, you will also find an independent front suspension in the Matta, which was a rarity in a vehicle that was built to be an off-road brute on the trails and rough terrain in postwar Europe that had been torn up by bombs and attacks that left many countries in near ruins.
Heading to Auction
The model that will head to the auction in Pebble Beach held by Gooding & Company is a restored model that was first privately registered in 1978 and has been fully restored to its original military specifications. The odometers show 69,000 miles and the price expected for this vehicle is somewhere in the range of $55,000. This is a fascinating model that can be perfect for someone with an affinity for early off-road machines. The AR 51 might not look like your typical Pebble Beach find at one of these auctions, but it certainly is an interesting and impressive model that you can enjoy.