While December is a time for frantic shopping, making space in the freezer for a turkey and singing about Rudolf the red nosed reindeer, to me there is a day when I think about another Rudolf who just so happened to be one of the greatest engineer and car designers in the world. To me, he is anyway.
Rudolf Hruska (2 July 1915 – 4 December 1995) was an Austrian engineer and responsible for the design and production of one the greatest cars to come from Italy. The Alfasud.
The Alfasud was not only a departure for Alfa Romeo, it also helped kick start employment in the southern region of Italy. An area in need of something major due to high levels of unemployment. This, however, would be one of the many Achilles heels that the Alfasud would suffer in its 18-year production run.
Rudolf Hruska was entrusted in the development of the factory in Pomigliano d’Arco. No mean feat really, the brief was quite simple. Starting from scratch, build a factory, design and develop a car and see to it that 20’000 people employed could build it. There were problems along the way with typical strike action here and there. Not to be perturbed by this, Rudolf carried on and the factory was up and running some 2-3 months later than set out.
He single handedly changed the Alfa Romeo tradition of front engine, rear wheel drive. He didn’t even have to use an Alfa Romeo engine that was available at the time. Having been involved with Porsche and VW (then KDF) and knowing his way around the layout, he designed a compact flat 4 cylinder engine for the new car. Different in many ways to the German flat four but still with the added benefits of compactness and this time water cooled.
His body concept for a light compact car weighing in total no more that 800 to 900kg was clothed in a design by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Ital design studio who also designed the pretty Sprint coupe.
He was not only responsible for the Alfasud. There were many other cars he was involved in too. To have a man responsible for the development of another 2 favourites of mine. Working alongside fellow Austrian, Ferdinand Porsche, he blessed us with skills on the Volkswagen Beetle before the second world war and was also involved in the Fiat 128. That, in turn, gave us mechanical components for the Fiat X1/9. Hruska also developed good links with Nuccio Bertone who was the father of the X1/9. He was a connected man.
It seemed there was nothing Rudolf couldn’t do. Develop a tank? Yes, he did. The Tiger 1 of 1943. Developed racing cars for Cisitalia, other projects for Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Simca
In 1980 at the age of 65, Hruska retired. He carried on working through his retirement for I.DE.A (Institute of Development in Automotive Engineering) I.DE.A were also responsible for the 1990 Fiat Tempra. Another car close to my heart and in my fleet.
On December 4th, 1995 Rudolf Hruska passed away.
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