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Italian Riddle: What Alfa Romeo Has Eight Cylinders but No V-8?

Fancy an eight-cylinder Alfasud? This one has a surprise in the back.

Alfa Romeo, eight-cylinders—that's a rather evocative cluster of letters. If you're any sort of Alfisti like us, the very mention of an eight-cylinder Alfa has you slack-jawed and glaze-eyed with thoughts of Alfa's pre-war straight-eight monsters that claimed world championships and terrorized Italian farmroads, and then onto dreams of Alfa's high-revving racing V-8s from the 1950s and 1960s that begat the outrageously stylish Tipo 33 Stradale and the later Montreal. Eventually, you'll settle on the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione from the late 2000s, shredding tires and breaking hearts with its Ferrari/Maserati V-8.

This 1974 Alfa Romeo Alfasud is none of those.

The tinny and rust-prone Alfasud was likely the last Alfa to enter your mind during that daydream sequence, yet this liveried Alfasud hatch headed for RM Sotheby's upcoming Paris sale qualifies for that exclusive roped-off eight-cylinder section of the Alfa club. Take note on how we're framing all this—we said eight cylinders, and gave no indication of any specific configuration.

In the case of this handsome little hatchback, there's no V-8 to be found anywhere. In fact, prop up the front hood and you'll only find the Alfasud Ti's standard 1.2-liter flat-four. So, aside from some neat white graphics and strange black boxes on the rear three-quarter panels, this appears to be a bog-standard entry-level Alfa from the 1970s.

Well, that's only if you don't speak any Italian, as those white graphics may have ruined the surprise. Living up to that "Bimotore" script running down the side of the car, this nondescript little hatch hides another 1.2-liter flat-four right where the back seats used to be, making this one of the wildest roadworthy Alfa prototypes we've ever seen.

According to RM Sotheby's, this twin-engined ripper is the mechanical progeny of Gianfranco Mantovani, and was created as a case-study into the viability of a dual-engine setup for rallying. Fundamentally, engineering the Bimotore wasn't as complex as you might believe; each flat-four operates independently of the other, meaning this goofy Alfasud carries two transmissions and two differentials. Each engine supplies power to the wheel set corresponding with its location—e.g. the rear engine spins the rear wheels, and the front engine carries on powering the front. Two separate starter buttons are used, meaning the car can be operated in front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive depending on the driver's mood or driving conditions.

Aside from dual starter buttons and doubled instrumentation, there's nothing in the cockpit that immediately signifies this as a dual-motor car. There's one clutch pedal, throttle, and shifter that operates both engines simultaneously, though the presence of that extra 1.2-liter behind your head is likely difficult to ignore. Double the engines means double the thirst, so a 21-gallon fuel tank fills up the entirety of the rear storage area.

Like most of the other twin-engined experiments over the years—the Citroen 2CV 4x4 Sahara comes to mind—the end result is not always as hair-on-fire as you might expect. Individually, the Alfasud's 1.2-liter flat-fours are capable of only 79 hp, so the Bimotore packs a combined 158 hp at full chat. Not too shabby by contemporary standards, but only enough to scuttle the twin-engined Alfa from 0-62 mph in 8.2 seconds and onto a top speed of 133 mph.

Despite solid engineering, nothing ever came of this prototype, and it was presumably soon consigned to storage and the occasional joyride. It's presented in remarkable condition for an Alfasud, and owing to its non-OEM status, can likely be picked up for relatively low-cost. Just remember—this Alfa eats for two, so add your local mechanic to your emergency contact list.