This is probably only known to those who know the brand inside out. Alfa Romeo has long built commercial vehicles. Between 1930 and 1967, heavy trucks rolled off the production lines, and in the 1950s the Matta off-road vehicle was also produced. From 1954 to 1983, we find the Alfa Romeo Romeo (that's not a typo!) and the future F11 to A12 series.

The successor to this series of vans is made up of two vehicles that spontaneously arouse the observer's astonishment: a Fiat Ducato and an Iveco Daily with an Alfa Scudetto in the grille. There must be Photoshop in the air! This has never existed! Yes, but only in Italy.

Let's take things in order. It all began in 1978 with a joint venture called 'Sevel'. This abbreviation stands for "Società Europea Veicoli Leggeri", or roughly "European Company for Light Commercial Vehicles". The Fiat and PSA groups each have a 50% stake in the company, which is a kind of preliminary to the current Stellantis association.

A large factory was set up in Atessa, Italy, which still exists today. The economic context is obvious, which is the joint development of commercial vehicles saves money and resources. Similar examples include the first Mercedes Sprinter, aka VW LT, Toyota in association with Stellantis and, more recently, the new VW T7 Transporter based on the Ford Transit/Tourneo Custom.

Alfa Romeo AR6 (1985-1989)

Alfa Romeo AR6 (1985-1989)

But let's go back to the early 1980s at Sevel. It was here that the Fiat Ducato I rolled off the production line from January 1982, along with the Citroën C25, Peugeot J5 and Talbot Express (type 280) as light commercial vehicles until August 1990.

The joint venture resulted in virtually identical vehicles between the five initial brands, and then the last three, of the two cooperation partners. The first generation Ducato is largely identical to the Peugeot J5, the Citroën C25 and the Talbot Express.

In Italy, the Ducato was also offered as the Alfa Romeo AR6 from April 1985 to December 1989. Why so late? Well, it was at this time that the takeover of Alfa by Fiat was being prepared. And after the abandonment of the A12, the brand from Arese apparently still saw a customer base for light commercial vehicles.

Gallery: Alfa Romeo AR8 (1978-1985)

Which is apparently big enough to add another layer in the form of the Alfa Romeo AR8. As far back as 1973, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Officine Meccaniche (OM) had been developing a large van under the name Fiat S series, which was finally presented in 1978 as the Fiat Daily. The series was later unified under the name Iveco Daily.

The Alfa Romeo AR8, like the future AR6, is available exclusively in Italy. The AR series initially comprises three basic models: "30 AR.8", "35 AR.8" and "40 AR.8", with payloads ranging from 1300 to 2000 kg.

All models are powered by the same "Fiat-Sofim 8140" diesel engine, a 4-cylinder engine with indirect injection and pre-chamber. The engine has a displacement of 2,445 cc and develops 72 PS DIN at 4,200 rpm. The gearbox has five forward gears and one reverse.

Alfa Romeo AR8 (1978-1985)

Alfa Romeo AR8 (1978-1981)

With its C-shaped side members, the chassis met the requirements of heavier commercial vehicles. It also had disc brakes on the front axle. The cab is a front semi-trailer, with the front axle in front of the doors.

In all, the range includes no fewer than 40 versions with different wheelbases and heights, suitable for transporting goods and people in the form of minibuses.

The first revision of the model series in 1979 increased the number of versions to 57.

Alfa Romeo AR8 (1978-1985)

Alfa Romeo AR8 (1978-1981)

On 1 January 1981, the Alfa Romeo "Apomi" plant in Pomigliano d'Arco, near Naples, where aircraft engines and all the brand's commercial vehicle models were produced, was transformed into a double subsidiary, one of which was renamed "ARAVIO" and integrated into Alfa Romeo Avio, while the other was renamed "ARVECO" and became part of the "Alfa Romeo Veicoli Commerciali" division.

At the 7th Turin Commercial Vehicles Show in May 1981, Alfa Romeo officially presented the second series of the AR8. This second series was characterised by a modified interior. In addition, driving performance improved thanks to a new turbo engine whose cubic capacity remained the same but whose power was increased to 95 PS.

Alfa Romeo AR8 (1978-1985)

Alfa Romeo AR8 (1981-1988)

The range was also redefined with new "minibus" and "Scuolabus" versions, a very special vehicle regulated in Italy, as well as a "combi" version. The range now included 44 variants.

The same year, 1981, saw the launch of the Fiat Ducato and its Alfa Romeo AR6 variant. Production of the AR8 series continued until the end of 1987. From 1 January 1988, Alfa Romeo no longer sold commercial vehicles, only cars. They were replaced by the Fiat Professional range.