During World War II Alfa Romero was switched to manufacturing military materials and as a result their factory was bombed. Getting back to manufacturing cars after the war was over was a struggle. Italy's economy was in a mess and the market for luxury vehicles in the country had all but dried up. It was time to think of the car which the average Italian could afford to buy; but the company had built it's reputation on creating top-quality cars so it was important not to damage that. Strict quality control was going to be essential. However economies had to be made.
The first luxury to go was creating a rolling chassis only, with the customer free to pick a body from a coachbuilder, who would then finish the car off. Building economically meant adopting production line techniques, in which the whole car was completed before it left the factory. The 1900 was a very important car for the company; the first one to be produced by Alfa Romeo as just a rolling chassis, and the first to be assembled on a production line.
Two-door convertibles, two-door coupes and four-door saloons were made.
Creating the whole car rather than one which was finished off by another business was far more efficient; parts could be standardised which meant that they could be fitted more easily and sourced more cheaply because of the economies of scale. The end result had to be a good quality car, however, with decent performance.
The 1900 range was an undoubted success. For the sake of economy a relatively simple straight four-cylinder twin cam engine of 1.9 litre capacity (later increased to 2 litre) with twin overhead camshafst was chosen and the car was kept fairly simple, although perky with ample space. The engine of the entry-level car generated 80 brake horsepower giving a top speed of 93 mph with acceleration of nought to 60 within 15 seconds.
Coachbuilders were not completely abandoned however. Business for the surviving companies was not good and the management of Alfa Romeo were concerned that they may all go out of business and so to help them the 1900 was designed so that coachbuilders could alter the bodywork; this not only provided business for these companies but also gave the customers of Alfa Romeo who still had money to spend the choice of upgrading their cars or creating something unique. Some of these truly were unique indeed; there were still sufficient wealthy Italians around for 1900s to be converted into some very imaginative cars indeed, and a number were actually adapted for racing, which helped Alfa Romeo to justify their slogan of 'the family car that wins races'. To be fair however there is no record of a 1900 winning any major race at any time!
Production ran from 1950 until 1959, with more than 21,000 cars sold all together.