The Alfa Romeo Stelvio debuted in Los Angeles this week – marking the automaker’s first modern day attempt at breaking into the SUV/crossover segment. Some might be led to believe the Stelvio is Alfa’s first-ever SUV, but that distinction actually belongs to the Alfa Romeo 1900M ‘Matta’.
The 1900M was built at the request of the Italian Ministry of Defense after the Italian government had observed the success of America’s Willys MB Jeep. Alfa built both military and civilian versions of the light reconnaissance vehicle, however the military version was produced in much higher numbers. Just over 2,000 military units were built, while only 152 civilian versions left the production line.
Alfa’s used a 1.9-liter twin cam, 8-valve four-cylinder engine with dry sump lubrication in the 1900M, which produced 64 horsepower and 90 lb-ft of torque. The motor was linked to a dual-range four-speed manual transmission that sent power to all four wheels. An advanced suspension system with a live rear axle and a double wishbone setup out front gave it good off-road performance.
The 1900M’s service in the Italian military was short-lived. It entered production in 1951 and by 1954 was replaced with the much simpler Fiat Campagnola. For that reason it’s no surprise that many have forgotten or simply didn’t know about its existence and have been claiming the Stelvio is Alfa’s first SUV. The more you know.
Photo via RM Sotheby’s