Taking A Look Back At 110 Years Of Alfa Romeo’s Automotive Artistry

Taking A Look Back At 110 Years Of Alfa Romeo’s Automotive Artistry

One hundred and ten years ago today, A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili) was founded and began operations in the Portello district on the outskirts of Milan, beginning of one of the most compelling stories in the world of racing and road cars. It is one that mixes entrepreneurial drive and ingenious innovation, state-owned perseverance in the face of economic and militaristic adversity, beauty that transcends hyperbole, and motorsport triumph that spans every discipline of sports and formula racing and genuinely brought that knowledge to the street.

The company evolved out of the Italian arm of the French automaker Darracq, and was officially formed in 1910 by a group of investors headed by Darracq’s Italian manager, Cavaliere Ugo Stella. The very next year, they went racing at the Targa Florio with the first vehicle produced with the A.L.F.A. name on its nose, the 24 HP.

In 1915, a Neapolitan engineer and businessman, Nicola Romeo, joined the company and subsequently shifted its efforts from automobile production to military hardware for the Allies during the First World War. Soon after the war, and with more capital because of it, the company expanded its facilities and slowly began to build cars again under a new name, Alfa Romeo.

Thanks to achievements in motorsport, namely the company’s first overall win at the Targa Florio (in 1923 with a race-prepared Alfa Romeo RL TF driven by Ugo Sivocci, an example of which is pictured above), and aided by nascent talents like those of Enzo Ferrari behind the wheel and Giuseppe Merosi at the drafting table, Alfa Romeo became a strong draw for mechanical minds like that of Vittorio Jano, who would become instrumental in Alfa Romeo’s grand prix racing program during the inter-war years.

A year after that first victory at the Targa Florio, the Jano-designed, supercharged straight-eight Alfa Romeo P2 (shown above) would win its first race in 1924, and would go on to bring the brand an overall victory in the Automobile World Championship in 1925, the very first time a championship title was awarded in the series that is a distant relative to today’s Formula 1.

In the 1930s, Alfa Romeo came under new state-appointed management and turned its racing team management over to Ferrari, who fielded such efforts as the advanced Bimotore (a dual-motor grand prix car with over 500hp, with each motor driving its own pair of fore and aft wheels on one side of the car, shown above). But it was the 8C models which earned the most acclaim for Alfa Romeo in the run-up to the Second World War, a line of grand prix and sports racers that dominated the Mille Miglia and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and inspired some of the most technologically advanced and downright gorgeous road cars of the period, like the Touring-bodied 8C 2900B Berlinetta shown below.

During the war, Alfa Romeo endured the fate of just about every car company in Europe, with production being entirely in service of the state while also sustaining the damage of aerial bombing. To add to the gruesomeness, the head of company, Ugo Gobbato, was assassinated in the spring of 1945.

When Grand Prix racing began in earnest again after the Second World War—racing resumed in 1946, and the first drivers’ championship title was awarded in 1950—Alfa Romeo would again mark its name at the top, with Giuseppe Farina winning the 1950 season handily with an updated version of the pre-war-designed 158, called the Alfetta, or “Little Alfa.” The following year, Juan Fangio would win the first of his five titles driving the evolution of the 158, the aptly-named 159, securing the 158/159’s legacy as one of the most potent racing machines of the budding post-war era; between the two models and the variants therein, the 158/159 won 47 out of the 54 grands prix it contested.

Though it seemed an unbeatable marque at the outset of the new decade, the Alfa Romeo factory team backed out of the Grand Prix circuit after 1951, and Ferrari—now on his own—took over podium duty at the Mille Miglia in the 1950s until the race’s end, while Lancia and Porsche defined the Targa Florio winner’s circle, but despite the lapse in top-tier motorsport participation and acclaim in the 1950s—though the company still produced the utterly alien Disco Volante sports racing prototypes soon after pulling out of major racing championships (pictured below under the Giuliettas, in both spider and coupé bodywork), and did well in terms of production-based privateer racing—the Milanese automaker would release a car that is arguably its most important and defining to date, the road-going Giulietta.

Produced in almost every body variant sans cargo truck—with spider, coupe, sedan, extremely rare estates, and special models like the Sprint Zagatos and Sprint Speciales offered at some point along the course of the Giulietta’s 1954-to-1965 production run—the Giulietta brought forth a new era of Alfa Romeo, and defined the company’s modern image as a maker of sprightly, sporting, and gorgeous road cars that offered relatively affordable entry into the world of technologically advanced European twin-cam driving. While the preceding 1900 line of post-war cars marked the first in-house assembly line Alfa Romeo project, the Giulietta was an even more substantial piece of history that set the tone for the brand for decades afterwards. It was also the first Alfa Romeo to have a model name that wasn’t a number.

The Giulietta saw Alfa Romeo partnering with noted coachbuilders Pininfarina for Spiders, Zagato for lightweights, and Bertone for Sprints, and while all of these design teams—including the in-house one that penned the Berlina (sedan)—produced pulchritude in their own way, the contributions of Bertone’s Franco Scaglione are arguably the most significant in terms of stylistic impact. The extroverted and supremely talented artist was responsible for the debut Sprint model as well as the more extreme, swept-back form of the Sprint Speciale—which was informed by Franco Scaglione’s dramatic Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica (BAT) designs, which you can read more about here.

Heartbreakingly pretty sports cars don’t come to life without management, and Alfa Romeo’s president during the heady years of the Giulietta and its successor, the Giulia, was at least as instrumental in turning the pencil sketches into three-dimensional alloy. Giuseppe Luraghi was a fascinating individual in more regards than one, but the fact that he was a poet and novelist in addition to the president of Alfa Romeo should go some ways in explaining his sensibilities. By many accounts he was an expert delegator and a taker of no shit, and in the 1960s he was keen to bring Alfa Romeo back into the forefront of the racing fold. Enter the age of Autodelta and Carlo Chiti.

Alfa Romeo’s timeline is littered with talented engineers with a mind for high performance—Vittorio Jano, Wilfredo Ricart, Orazio Satta Puliga, Giuseppe Busso, and of course Chiti, to name just a handful of the countless individuals who created all this mechanical art—and in the 1960s Luraghi put them all to work, but the Autodelta arm was firmly focused on racing. The decade also birthed the Tubulare Zagatos and the Giulia Sprint-based, ultra-lightweight GTA models from the competition department, but the Alfa’s premiere motorsport effort during the 1960s and 1970s was the Autodelta-developed Tipo 33 line of race cars. What unofficially began as a promising hillclimb winner, the Tipo 33 “Fleron,” would rapidly evolve into world championship-commanding sports prototypes that ran away with the World Championship for Makes in 1975 and 1977, in the form of the flat-twelve-powered 33TT12 and the 33SC12, respectively.

You can read a bit more about the timeline and variations of the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 race cars here, and the history of Autodelta and its boss Carlo Chiti warrants a separate story, but the Tipo 33 was more than just a means to an expanded trophy collection. Luraghi enlisted the services of Franco Scaglione to design a sports car for the road based on the early Tipo 33 competition chassis, with the result being arguably the best looking automobile of all time, the 33 Stradale.

Built on a race-bred tube frame chassis design just mildly tweaked from the race cars’, the Stradale bodywork is a display of such faultless grace and elegance that you’d wonder why anyone tried to draw a good-looking car ever again. The definition of curvaceous comeliness, the Stradale is a compact amalgamation of the perfect radii wrapped around an insanely high-revving mid-mounted two-liter V8 and a chassis rife with magnesium alloy and competition pedigree. If you can’t tell, we like to dollop the praise onto this vehicle, but the 33 lineage had even more to give to the world.

Five of the Stradale chassis were given to Italy’s preeminent coachbuilding houses, whose work turned out six (one chassis was used twice) influential concept cars. Italdesign penned the Iguana (shown below in heavily flaked metallic silver), Pininfarina turned out the P33 Roadster which was later turned into the visually similar Cuneo (shown below in white and orange) as well as the Ferrari P3/4-esque 33/2 Coupé Speciale (shown below in pale yellow), while Bertone begat the Carabo (shown below in green), and later the spacefaring doorstop called the Navajo (we’ll let you figure out which one that is). All of these concepts were impactful—and a few of the designs are easily identifiable in production sports and super cars built by other marques—but the Carabo was a true paradigm shift.

Drawn by Marcelo Gandini at Bertone during the same decade that he created the swooping forms of the Lamborghini Miura, the 1968 Carabo’s geometric wedge aesthetic brought forth the 1970s’ and early 1980s’ infatuation with straight lines, hard angles, and flatly raked windshields. The Countach (also a Gandini car, no coincidence) is often credited with doing that, but the Carabo predates it, and, in our humble opinion, does it better.

As these 33-based concepts were being conceived and unveiled in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Alfa Romeo was also playing to the less-exotic end of the automotive spectrum with the Alfasud economy car. “Economy” is misleading though, for while it was positioned firmly at the entry-level end of the Alfa Romeo product range and was the first front-wheel drive car from the marque, the Alfasud still carried the tradition of past Alfa Romeos in its design and technological package. Giugiaro—who would go on to design the Volkswagen Golf—handled the looks of the compact Alfasud, while Alfa Romeo’s engineers led by Rudolf Hruska saw to it that the car would include four-wheel disc brakes, a MacPherson strut design, rack-and-pinion steering, and an overhead-cam boxer four-cylinder that seemingly everyone who’s driven one simply describes as, “sweet.”

Nearly a million units of the Alfasud were sold over its lifespan, supporting the car’s reputation as the Alfa for the everyman. In contrast to the iconic Spiders and the svelte Miura-esque Montreal, the Alfasud provided the joys of Alfa Romeo engineering and styling without the need to shell out for a two-seater.

Despite the Alfasud’s high sales volume, the 1980s saw hard economic times for Alfa Romeo—and though they had some success supplying engines for the Brabham team’s F1 cars in the late 1970s, the racing efforts of Alfa Romeo and Autodelta didn’t carry the success into the 1980s—and when the ailing company was bought by FIAT right smack in the middle of the decade, Luraghi and Chiti both left, and Autodelta was disbanded before the 1986 racing season. But still, FIAT realized the motorsport provenance of the brand could be added to in order to market the company, and so Alfa Romeo attempted to return to motorsport on the basis of its sports sedans and an outright sports prototype program was even considered, but besides the quickly aborted Alfa Romeo 164 ProCar project with Brabham—which you can read more about here—not much came of this during the second half of the 1980s.

In the early 1990s however, Alfa Romeo took the touring car world to school with its 155-based race cars. The GTA name returned for the FIA Class 2, Supertouring 155s, which claimed championships from Spain to Great Britain (and of course on the home field in Italy), but the real monster was the Class 1 155 V6 TI built to take on the might of the Germans on their home turf in everyone’s favorite 1980s/1990s touring car championship, the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM).

Conversations about prolific DTM cars generally swirl down into the BMW E30 M3 versus the Mercedes-Benz 190E Evolutions, with a mention of the Audi V8 Quattros and Ford RS500s if you’re lucky, but none of these cars were as successful as the 155 V6 TI, which to this day holds the record for most wins in a single DTM season (11), and most overall wins in the DTM (an astounding 38).

Alfa Romeo has since returned to Formula 1 racing with Sauber, and between the 8C Competizione and 4C, it has produced some of the most unique modern sports and GT cars on the market. In another example of continued Alfa Romeo tradition, the current range of offerings is crowned by a beautiful sports sedan, the Giulia, which in its Quadrifoglio, GTA, and GTAm trims, carries forth the reputation of what is arguably the world’s first true sports sedan, the original Giulia TI Super.

We at Petrolicious make no effort to hide our adoration for Alfa Romeo, and though this is just a condensed, product-focused celebration of 110 years of exciting history, we hope our fellow Alfisti will continue to dig into the legends and passed-down anecdotes that have made this marque’s car enthusiast gravity so great. We’ll also be spotlighting a few more specific Alfa Romeo stories in the coming weeks; we hope you enjoy them!

Article reference: https://petrolicious.com/articles/taking-a-look-back-at-110-years-of-alfa-romeos-automotive-artistry

This glorious Alfa Giulia touring car is ready for the Ring

This glorious Alfa Giulia touring car is ready for the Ring

Alfa Romeo saloons of old have bred some fantastic touring cars. Stick ‘DTM 155’ into your favourite search engine and prepare to lose the rest of your afternoon. But not before having a gander at its (sort of) modern-day equivalent.

A bunch of Italians – who we’ve immediately fallen head over heels for – have transformed the latest Alfa sports saloon, the superb Giulia Quadrifoglio, into a touring car primed and ready to take on perhaps our favourite race: the Nürburgring 24 Hours.

This year’s N24 was postponed from its original May date to September (if we need to tell you why, you’ve really not looked at the internet much recently). Thank the lord it wasn’t cancelled altogether, because it means we’ll be able to see and hear this Giulia in action, all while inhaling the intoxicating aroma of burnt bratwurst and low-cost German lager.

It’s been prepared by Lanza Motorsport, and will be run by the Scuderia del Portello team. Think things aren’t sounding quite Italian enough? Its drivers are Mauro Simoncini, Ugo Vicenzi, Alberto Carobbio and Bruno Barbaro.

Simoncini’s name is pivotal, too; he owns the car, and he raced an Alfa 155 V6 at the N24 twenty years ago, which you can see pictured at the end of the gallery up top.

Based on the Quadrifoglio, his Giulia produces a smidge more power – at 513bhp – and carries a lot less weight, its 1.4 tonnes representing a 200 kilo-saving in race trim to yield a 3.2sec 0-62mph time. There’s naturally more carbon and tougher suspension than standard, too.

Though, barring a wild first-corner pile up that takes out every GT3-spec racer, it won’t win the N24. And we can’t really describe what class it’ll compete in on account of being quite confused ourselves.

The N24’s a wondrous race with a large and vividly diverse grid, from top-level racers in professionally prepared 911s, R8s and AMGs, right down to a bunch of mates with a Mk3 Golf and a point to prove. Figure on this Giulia sitting somewhere in the middle of all of that when the grid forms on September 26. Excited?

Article Reference: https://www.topgear.com/car-news/motorsport/glorious-alfa-giulia-touring-car-ready-ring

Alfa Romeo Just Celebrated Its 110th Birthday

Alfa Romeo Just Celebrated Its 110th Birthday

Alfa Romeo just turned 110 years old. The birthday was officially marked June 24 with the reopening of the Alfa Romeo Museum in Italy after a Covid-19 shutdown.

The automaker was founded in 1910 in Milan. The name “Alfa” started out as an acronym for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, or Lombardy Automobile Factory. The firm’s badge combines the emblem of the city of Milan with the coat of arms of the Visconti family, which ruled the city in Medieval times. The “Romeo” in the name comes from Nicola Romeo, the person who bought a controlling stake in the company in 1915, and eventually took over completely.

In over a century of existence, Alfa has evolved to stay relevant in changing times. The Italian automaker started out making high-end performance and luxury cars, such as the 8C series, but switched to more affordable vehicles in the postwar era as Italy worked to regain its footing after the devastation of World War II and years of fascist rule. A result of that shift was the Giulia, which helped set the template for the modern sport sedan. The name lives on in the modern Giulia which, in limited-edition GTA form, packs a 532-horsepower 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6.

However, the Alfa best known in the United States is likely the long lived (it was produced from 1962 to 1993) Spider, thanks to its role in “The Graduate.” Alfa has occasionally launched higher-end models like the Montreal and 8C Competizione, but higher-volume cars like the Spider and Giulia have become its bread and butter.

Alfa also has a long history in motorsports, too. Scuderia Ferrari started out as the de facto Alfa factory team before Enzo Ferrari got into the car business for himself. An Alfa won the first Formula One Grand Prix in 1950. The firm’s cars and engines continued to appear on the grid throughout the following decades, albeit with less success. Today’s Alfa F1 team is a rebranded version of the Swiss Sauber team, running with Ferrari engines as a satellite operation of the Scuderia.

Alfa’s current U.S. lineup includes the Giulia and Stelvio, as well as the 4C Spider sports car. A production version of the Tonale compact crossover concept is expected in 2021, and could be the first vehicle jointly developed by Alfa parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and merger partner PSA. That merger killed plans for a new 8C supercar, GTV coupe, and a mid-size Alfa SUV, however.

Article reference: https://www.motorauthority.com/news/1128654_alfa-romeo-just-celebrated-its-110th-birthday

Quadrifoglio proves to be lucky once again for Alfa Romeo at What Car? Car of the Year Awards 2019

Quadrifoglio proves to be lucky once again for Alfa Romeo at What Car? Car of the Year Awards 2019

The Quadrifoglio badge once again lives up to its name, amassing two more accolades for the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio at the annual What Car? Car of the Year Awards 2019.

Judged by the expert team at What Car?, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio took home the gong for ‘Performance Car of the Year’, following its ‘Sports Car’ category win in 2018, while the Stelvio Quadrifoglio fought off stiff competition to take the crown for ‘Best Sports SUV for more than £60,000’.

The Giulia Quadrifoglio came in for praise from Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?, saying “It’s often said that getting to the top is easier than staying there. So by that reckoning, the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s second Car of the Year category win is arguably a greater success than its first. But it should be no surprise – after all, we’re talking about a comfortable, spacious, well-equipped saloon that’s more fun to drive than rivals costing tens of thousands more”.

Steve Huntingford, What Car? Editor said of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio: “The hottest version of the Stelvio SUV is outrageously fast, but still feels light and responsive thanks to steering that’s super-quick without making the car feel nervous. Add in great body control and four-wheel drive traction and the Quadrifoglio continually encourages you to make the most of its performance”.

Both the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and the Stelvio Quadrifoglio are powered by a 510hp, 600Nm Bi-Turbo V6 petrol engine, which allows them to reach a top speed of 191mph and 176mph respectively, while reaching 62mph from zero in just 3.9 seconds in the Giulia and 3.8 seconds in the Stelvio.

Arnaud Leclerc, Managing Director, FCA UK, commented: “Alfa Romeo cars have always appealed to the heart with their Italian passion, flair and dynamics, but these awards show that the latest models also appeal to the head. To see the pinnacles of the new Alfa Romeo range lauded by the experts at What Car? makes these wins even more rewarding.”

To coincide with these wins, Alfa Romeo UK have secured further right-hand-drive allocation of the limited edition Giulia Quadrifoglio NRING and Stelvio Quadrifoglio NRING models, priced from £82,500 OTR and £89,500 OTR respectively. Just 108 editions of each model are available for the whole EMEA region, celebrating the records achieved by Alfa Romeo at the legendary Nurburgring.

Mercedes G63 vs Alfa Stelvio QV vs Lamborghini Urus

Mercedes G63 vs Alfa Stelvio QV vs Lamborghini Urus

Spoiler alert: none of these SUVs is the winner of Speed Week. Despite their best efforts, no carmaker has yet managed to engineer its way around the laws of physics. A bigger, heavier car is almost always less capable than a smaller, lighter one, and so it will remain until someone figures out how to make a chassis out of antimatter. Or candyfloss. But that’s not to say these three are here merely to make up the numbers (or because we couldn’t fit all of our camera gear in the 488 Pista). While none are quite right for the ultimate award, each is tremendous in its own way, and thoroughly deserving of a place among our favourite performance cars of 2018.

Take the Urus. Ignore, for a moment, any philosophical objections you might have to a Lamborghini SUV – especially one that borrows so heavily from the VW Group parts bin. You should also ignore the way it looks – for it divides opinion like nothing else here – and what bystanders will inevitably think of you (and mutter to themselves) when you draw up outside your children’s school or the local supermarket.

What you absolutely must not and indeed cannot ignore, however, is the way it goes. Lambo has deployed every last bit of technology at its disposal to make the Urus drive unlike any other 2.2-tonne SUV. The result is perhaps as impressive a technical achievement as any other car here – Chiron excepted.

Rear-wheel steering gives it a virtual wheelbase shorter than a Huracán’s, so it swivels into Charade’s hairpins alarmingly purposefully, and the biggest carbon-ceramic brakes ever fitted to a production car (camouflaged behind massive alloys shod with the stickiest road-legal Pirellis available) give tremendous stopping power. Meanwhile something called ‘active roll stability control’ firms up the outside suspension in fast corners, all but eliminating body roll, while proper centre Torsen and active rear differentials combine to fling you out of corners without so much as a “Dio mio! Let us just think this one through” from the computers.

I defy anyone not to fall in love with the way the G-Class rears up as you accelerate

The G-Class cannot do this. It may be built on an all-new platform (this, don’t forget, is the first ‘all-new’ G in the nameplate’s 40-year history), so the driving experience is now closer to that of a modern SUV than Scorpus’s chariot, but alongside the Lambo it still feels like a bit of an anachronism.

Prehistoric traction control you can’t really turn off cuts power with little to no warning or, it seems, provocation, so you have to be super-smooth and incredibly hesitant with the throttle. It rolls, pitches on its springs under heavy acceleration and braking, and doesn’t much like quick direction changes. And yet… it is by far and away the most likeable SUV here. I defy anyone not to fall in love with the way it rears up as you accelerate (something I’m convinced Mercedes could have eliminated but chose not to), the machine-gun noises that emanate from its side pipes and its brutish, squared-off face. This is a car that is comfortable in its own skin, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. As lovable as the old G – which in AMG form was so wayward it verged on dangerous – but in another league dynamically.

It might not be in the same realm as the Lambo, but this is still a G you can enjoy driving quickly – more so on (or off…) the road, where you aren’t going fast enough to expose its failings – something we never thought we’d live to see.

We also didn’t think we’d ever live to see Alfa make an SUV, let alone one so good we’d want it on Speed Week. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is based on the same platform and uses the same drivetrain as the fast Giulia, and you can instantly tell. It doesn’t feel in the least bit toned down or sanitised. You get the same super-sharp, super-quick steering, the same energy from the 2.9-litre Ferrari-developed V6, and, as the weight penalty is only about 60kg, the same balance and delicacy.

What the Alfa brings to this party of three is a degree of engagement and interactivity. The Lambo, though devastatingly fast, is recognisably from the “big, fast VW Group car” mould, in that it’s very locked-down. All about the speed and the grip… and the ease with which you can access them. The Alfa is a much more involving thing – more conventionally fun. Few SUVs feel quite as carlike as the Stelvio, which has a measure of daftness, like the G, but also a hint of that same kind of focus and purpose as the Urus. It treads a happy middle ground in this little cavalcade – none of whose manufacturers have completely bent physics to their will, but are getting mighty, mighty close.

Source: https://www.topgear.com/car-news/speed-week-2018/mercedes-g63-vs-alfa-stelvio-qv-vs-lamborghini-urus