Alfa Romeo is not only a 110-year history of seductively beautiful Italian automobiles with sonorous names such as Giulietta, Alfetta and Duetto or the history of victory-spoiled engines for Mille Miglia, Le Mans and Formula 1.Alfa Romeo is also a dramatic story of alpha males.
Who makes the Alfa Romeo?
Above all that of the French automobile pioneer Alexandre Darracq, who laid the foundation stone for the Milan manufacturer, followed by the Italian Nicola Romeo, who made Alfa profitable in 1915 with armaments products. Eight years later, it was the fascist leader Benito Mussolini who saved Alfa Romeo from a financial collapse, while Alfa factory driver Ugo Sivocci won the Targa Florio for the first time with a four-leaf clover.
But Alfa factory racing driver Enzo Ferrari and brilliant designers like Pininfarina, Bertone and Giorgetto Giugiaro have also shaped Alfa Romeo’s face. A brand that was still on par with BMW or Audi in the 1970s before it crashed after strikes and quality defects and was integrated into the Fiat empire by Giovanni Agnelli in 1986. Today it is Carlos Tavares who considers Alfa perhaps the most beautiful dowry in the merger between PSA Peugeot Citroen and FCA Fiat Chrysler. Alfa Romeo celebrates the anniversary year 2020 as all Alfisti expect: with the hopefuls Alfa Tonale and festivities for the classics.
Germany and France, in these countries in the 1880s was the cradle of the automobile, which quickly took the world under its wheels. Fiat models have been coming from Italy since 1899, but other manufacturers such as the French automobile pioneer Alexandre Darracg also wanted to win the wealthy Lombard clientele with their models. For this purpose, Darracq built a modern plant in Portello in the north-west of Milan in 1906 – the nucleus of Alfa Romeo. However, what Darracq had achieved in England and Germany (there with Opel) did not catch south of the Alps: the nationally conscious Italians preferred to buy Fiat than French Darracq. In 1910 a group of Lombardy businessmen founded the Società “Anonima Lombarda Fabrica Automobili” (ALFA), which produced top-class touring and sports cars in the Darracq factory. Already the first ALFA Type 24 HP with a 4.1-liter four-cylinder outclassed almost all competitors, because even as a seven-seater it was a sensational 100 km / h. And in 1914 the first ALFA Grand Prix car with a double camshaft engine followed.
Nevertheless, the shooting star among the sports brands crashed five years later. The First World War caused the passenger car market to collapse and Darracq sold his remaining shares in the Portello plant to a bank, which ALFA then went bankrupt in 1915. The arms owner Nicola Romeo became the new owner, who gave the fleet cars their sonorous name. However, this did not happen until the year of peace in 1920, because armaments orders filled his company’s coffers beforehand. Passion, emotion and fascination, Alfa Romeo’s automobile range of the 1920s was able to offer all of this. Romeo recognized the sales-promoting effect of motorsport success, from 1924 on with painted Quadrifoglio Verde as a lucky charm.
Incidentally, Enzo Ferrari was there early, and as an Alfa driver, organizer and race director, he revealed all-rounders. From 1933, his Scuderia Ferrari even temporarily took over Alfa Romeo’s racing team before Ferrari founded its own car company in 1946 and shortly thereafter became Alfa’s toughest Formula 1 competitor. The first two World Championships in 1950 and 1951 nevertheless secured Alfetta of the Milan brand.
Nicola Romeo had long since left the company because Alfa, like many engineering-driven automobile manufacturers, slipped from one financial crisis to the next. In 1923, the Banca Nazionale saved the Sconto Alfa Romeo and at the request of the fascist leader Benito Mussolini, who used the fast and beautiful athletes as representative vehicles and placed them on the executive chair with his confidante, the journalist Ugo Ojetti.
Even some of the most successful racers of their time, such as the Bugatti rivals Alfa 6c 1500 Sport and P3, could not prevent the next financial debacle: Alfa Romeo was a state-owned company from 1933 until 1986, when Giovanni Agnelli saved the once again malade company from being accessed by Ford and integrated into the Fiat empire. In between there were decades of grandiose Alfa series models and exciting studies by Bertone, Pininfarina or Zagato, which Alfa Romeo charged with an almost unprecedented myth. Even years of strikes by the workforce and all of the rust and quality problems of the 1970s and failed alliances, such as with Nissan in the early 1980s, could not scratch the brand’s glamor.
From 1954 mass
Manufacturer Alfa Romeo became the mass manufacturer under chief designer Orazio Satta Puglia, who introduced the compact sports sedan Giulietta as the first volume model in 1954. The “Sprint” Giulietta Sport Coupe was created in four different body styles.
The same was repeated for the Giulia, introduced in 1962, which became a mega-seller built until 1978 and made history as an achievable dream car, similar to the Bertone GT Coupés and the Duetto Spider dressed by Pininfarina in 1966. This Spider is still one of the most seductive sports cars ever built and is considered a symbol of the Italian Dolce Vita. With a construction period of almost 30 years, the open two-seater survived all its rivals – only to be sent into the 21st century under the aegis of Fiat with front-wheel drive and wedge shape.
Representative were the strong models of the 2600 series, which gave Alfa the image of a Maserati for the middle class in the 1960s. The 1750/2000 limousines and the subsequent Alfetta limousines were successful against the BMW 2000 and 5 Series, and even the Alfa 164 achieved respect from 1987 on, despite being technically related to the Fiat Croma.
Alfasud, launched in 1971, embodies a chapter in itself. Conceptually, he anticipated VW Golf and Golf GTI, perhaps because it was also designed by Giorgio Giugiaro. However, his bestselling career was damaged by massive quality deficits. Only the following types Alfa 33 and 145/146 let these unsightly processes forget.
The economic successes for Alfa Romeo also remained changeable as a sporty subsidiary of the Fiat group. While the Alfa 156, which was launched in 1997, renewed the radiance of earlier Giulia and Giuletta types, coupes from the 2000s such as Brera and GT could not build on the Nimbus of the former Alfa GTV. The new Giulia presented in 2016 only released emotions, but the real hopefuls today are the SUVs Alfa Stelvio and Tonale, which has so far only been shown as a study. Leading Alfa Romeo to its former size will be one of the biggest tasks for the PSA and FCA group leaders in 2020.
1906: The French automobile pioneer Alexandre Darracq opens an automobile plant in Via Portello in Milan, but cannot succeed with it. This is how the factory became the nucleus of Alfa Romeo, then still called ALFA, four years later. Nicola Romeo produces mining machines in Milan, in 1915 he needs additional production capacities and takes over Alfa Romeo
1909: In December, designer Giuseppe Merosi began developing his first vehicle, which went into production at the Portello plant a year later as the first ALFA (type 24 HP with 4.1-liter four-cylinder and sporty 100 km / h). With its following designs, Merosi is building ALFA’s reputation as a producer of sporty and luxurious high-tech automobiles
1910: Foundation of the Società “Anonima Lombarda Fabrica Automobili” (ALFA) by Lombardy business people who take over the Darracq factory. Entry in the Milan commercial register on June 24. The typical logo with cross and snake is introduced
1911: First motorsport missions with the ALFA Type 24 HP
1914: Giuseppe Merosi develops the first ALFA Grand Prix racer with four valves per cylinder and double camshaft. Count Ricotti’s streamlined car based on the ALFA 40/60 HP is sensational
1915: On December 2, ALFA is liquidated and transferred to the entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who needs the company capacities for his up-and-coming armaments business and produces grenades in Portello
1919: In times of peace there is a lack of armaments orders, which is one reason why Nicola Romeo is enthusiastic about the automotive industry, which revives in 1920. The cars are now being marketed as Alfa Romeo
1920: The first logo with the name Alfa Romeo is used. Alfa stands for the first car in post-war Italy, recognizable by the Greek letter Alfa
1923: Giuseppe Merosi designs the six-cylinder type RL, with which a lasting success story in motorsport begins for the Milan brand. The green four-leaf clover (Quadrifoglio Verde) debuts as a logo and brings luck to Ugo Sivocci in his victorious participation in the Targa Florio. The fascist leader and then Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini prevented Alfa Romeo’s bankruptcy through an intervention at the Banco Nazionale di Sconto. Nicola Romeo will soon have to leave his leadership position to the Mussolini protégé Ugo Ojetti. Mussolini prefers Alfa Romeo as a show car and wishes prestigious racing victories. For this he even had his chauffeur Ercole Borratto start at the Mille Miglia 1937 on Alfa Romeo 6C 2300
1925: The Alfa P2 developed by designer Vittorio Jano wins the first brand world championship in automotive history. Jano replaces the previous Alfa chief designer Giuseppe Merosi. The victory is reflected in the laurel wreath, which from now on adorns the brand logo. Luxury sedans like the RL55 become desirable lifestyle attributes for “the rich and beautiful” of the 1920s
1928: The Alfa 6C 1500 Sport starts as the first production sports car with two overhead camshafts, which are a brand symbol for Alfa
1929: The global economic crisis puts Alfa Romeo in financial distress
1930: The Italian state takes over Nicola Romeo’s shares and the company operates as SA Alfa Romeo
1931: Alfa Romeo wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans and repeats this success in 1932, 1933 and 1934. Alfa Romeo racing cars achieve a total of 15 victories in the Mille Miglia
1933: After the State Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (IRI) took over the leadership at Alfa Romeo, the following year the racing activities were stopped. The former Alfa works racing driver Enzo Ferrari purchases the Alfa P2 racing car for his Scuderia Ferrari. In fact, the Scuderia Ferrari becomes Alfa Romeo’s racing department until Alfa takes over racing again five years later and Ferrari is now hired as race director
1937: With 205 km / h Vmax, the Alfa 8C 2900 B is considered the fastest production car in the world
1946: Orazio Satta Puglia presented the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 in the first post-war year, which was built in series by the “Alfa Romeo SpA”. Puglia is the brand’s new chief designer
1950: The development of the first small Alfa Romeo series, the later Giulietta, starts. The representative sedan Alfa 1900 is built as the first model of the brand in assembly line production. The Alfetta Type 158 wins the first Formula 1 world title with Giuseppe Farina and thus also wins over Ferrari1951: Alfa wins the Formula 1 World Championship again this year, now under Juan Manuel Fangio
1953: 1953 and in the two following years 1954 and 1955 Bertone caused a sensation at the Turin Salon with the spectacular streamlined studies BAT 5, BAT 7 and BAT 9 on the chassis of the Alfa Romeo 1900 SS.BAT stands for Berlinetta Aerodinamica Technica
1954: World premiere for the Giuletta Sprint sports coupe. The Giulietta engine also works in Alfa vans
1955: The Giuletta Berlina (sedan) is introduced. The American sports car importer Max Hoffman pushed ahead with the development of a Giulietta Spider
1959: Renault Dauphine / Odine are built under license and until 1964 in 70,502 units. From 1962 Alfa Romeo also manufactured the Renault 4
1961: The plant in Portello has become too small for Alfa, so a new plant is moved to Arese on the outskirts of Milan
1962: The Giulia celebrates its world premiere as the successor to the Giulietta and becomes the epitome of the compact sports sedan internationally. Large prestige coupes and Spider Alfa Romeo 2600
1963: On September 9, the Giulia Sprint GT is presented as the first type of the Bertone Coupé built until 1976 on the factory premises in Arese
1966: In March the Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider 1600 celebrates its world premiere at the Geneva Salon. The two-seater is the last Pininfarina design made in the Battista Pininfarina era. A name competition for the Alfa Spider brings suggestions such as Lollobrigida, Sputnik, Lucia, Pizza. The winner is the name Duetto. In May 1966, a duetto on board the Italian transatlantic liner Raffello was transferred to New York and presented in America as the epitome of the Italian way of life. In the American blockbuster “The Graduate” (“Die Reifeprüfung”), the spider occupies the leading role in the automobile and thus becomes globally known and successful
1967: The successful racing prototype 33/2 Stradale is also sold in limited numbers with street approval
1969: The Austrian Rudolf Hruska, who has been working as a consultant since 1951, becomes head of development at Alfa Romeo
1970: The V8 sports coupe Alfa Montreal caused a sensation. It was originally developed for the Montreal World’s Fair (1967)
1971: The Alfasud celebrates its world debut as a new entry-level model at the Turin Salon. This first Alfa Romeo with front-wheel drive caused a sensation in the compact class, but it became an image fiasco due to rust problems and poorly built vehicles despite the large number of units
1972: Alfa Romeo opens the Alfasud plant in Pomigliano d’Arco near Naples. Named after the first Alfa Formula 1 winner, the Alfetta sedan goes into series production with a technically exceptional transaxle layout
1975: 227,531 vehicles are manufactured. By the end of the 1970s, despite the red figures on the balance sheet, Alfa Romeo was once again a large-scale manufacturer that was active worldwide and was even successful in Germany as the most important export market. A boom in the registration statistics, which the young models Alfasud and Alfetta in particular carry, but which is also inspired by the elderly Giulia
1976: Ermanno Cressoni becomes director of the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo and puts the finishing touches to the Nuova Giulietta (Tipo 116), which is finalized in a wedge shape under the motto La Linea
1977: World premiere of Nuova Giulietta at the Frankfurt IAA, series production started in November in the Arese plant in Italy. Niki Lauda is hired by Brabham-Alfa Romeo team boss Bernie Ecclestone as driver for the upcoming Formula 1 season. Niki Lauda signs the first 999 Giulietta vehicles and is an Alfa brand ambassador
1979: Return to the upper class with the Alfa 6 with a newly developed V6 engine. The design of the sedan is controversial, however, and its success is only moderate
1980: The motivation and ability to work of the employees at the Alfasud plant worries the group. The daily absenteeism rate of 20 percent of employees is a European record, even 40 percent of workers are missing from a national team soccer game, 20 percent of the workforce is certified physical disability by the health insurance company, and almost five percent are even disabled. The daily vehicle output is therefore only 455 vehicles, 30 percent less than cars could be produced
1981: Production declines to 192,826 units
1982: Presentation of the Giulietta with a 2.0 liter turbo diesel engine. The 82 HP diesel engine achieved on October 28. on the high-speed course in the Italian Nardo FIA world records in category A
1983: Cooperation between Nissan and Alfa Romeo with the Arna model, which connects the body of the Nissan Cherry with the technology of the Alfasud. Also new is the Alfa 33, which will later replace the Alfasud
1985: The Alfa 75 sedan debuts on the 75th anniversary of the brand and uses the Alfetta platform. Only 147,385 vehicles are produced
1986: The Ford Motor Company is interested in taking over Alfa Romeo, but Fiat gets the contract under Giovanni Agnelli, so Alfa Romeo is again privately owned
1987: The Alfa 164 celebrates its world premiere at the Frankfurt IAA in September. The 164 was the first Alfa flagship to have front-wheel drive and was partially galvanized (later fully galvanized) as part of an anti-corrosion offensive. The design was co-developed by Pininfarina. The Alfa 164 will not be delivered until model year 1988, 18 months later than planned. The Alfa 164 was created as a cooperation model between Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema and Saab 9000
1989: The last Alfa Romeo with rear-wheel drive is the SZ (Sprint Zagato) sports car with the technology of the Alfa 75
1992: The front-wheel drive Alfa 155, which shares the technical basis with the Fiat Tipo and achieves great sporting success in the DTM, brings new momentum
1994: A new spider (series 916) with front-wheel drive replaces the classic spider with rear-wheel drive built since 1966
1997: The Alfa 156 designed by Walter de Silva quotes legendary Alfa models from the past and at the same time sets design trends (hidden handles on the rear doors etc.) and becomes a successful model. Production of the Alfa 164 ended after around 269,000 units in June, followed in 1998 by the Alfa Romeo 166
1998: The bestseller models 156 and 145 increase Alfa sales from 101,000 units in 1996 to 208,000 units
2002: Giugiaro shows the Brera as a concept car, three years later the coupé, celebrated by the public and the press, goes into series production
2006: The last Spider generation for the time being debuts at the Geneva Salon. The open two-seater will be produced until June 2010 under the internal name Spider 939. The new image bearer is the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, whose limited edition of 500 units is sold out within a few days
2007: Alfa Romeo is a public company again
2008: The MiTo (Milano, Torino) is presented as a compact three-door Alfa Romeo
2010: The third Giulietta generation is presented, on the other hand Chef Sergio Marchionne begins with a reduction in the model range. Alfa GT, Alfa Brera and Spider are gradually being eliminated
2014: Sales figures drop to 68,000 units
2016: A new generation of the Giulia (Type 952) is launched
2017: The Stelvio is the first production SUV from Alfa Romeo
2019: Return to Formula 1 by Peter Sauber’s team as Alfa Romeo Racing with Ferrari engines. In March, the concept car Alfa Tonale made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show as a harbinger of a future compact SUV. The PSA group and FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles including Alfa Romeo communicate their merger
2020: Alfa Romeo celebrates 110 years of automotive engineering