110 Years of Alfa Romeo!

110 Years of Alfa Romeo!

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Happy Birthday Alfa Romeo

The Alfa Romeo brand will be 110 years old this year! 11 decades with one of the most beautiful emblems in the world, the green Visconti dragon and the red cross on a white background of the city of Milan. 110 years full of emotions and passions, characterized by grand victories and a few bitter defeats, with outstanding technical achievements and some fatal mismanagements. In spite of again and again being on the verge of ruin, the icons of automobile construction were created anyways, or precisely, because of it all.

The Alfa 24 HP was hardly the first car on the market in 1910 when the young company slipped into the First World War then their first bankruptcy. After a takeover by the investor and engineer Nicola Romeo, the financial means came about successfully for the automobile races that were just beginning at the time. International attention was attracted after Ugo Sivocci’s victory at the Targa Florio in 1923, followed by an almost uninterrupted winning streak in races large and small, especially 11 first places victories in the Mille Miglia, plus Grand Prix victories at home and abroad. Designers like Giuseppe Merosi and Vittorio Jano, race directors like Enzo Ferrari, drivers like Tazio Nuvolari, Antonio Ascari and Rudolf Caracciola cemented the Nimbus Alfa Romeo as a car manufacturer that builds cars that win races – and are bought by wealthy private drivers for everyday life can.

Ugo Sivocci on his way to his first victory with Alfa Romeo at the Targa Florio in Sicily in 1923

When Formula 1 was founded after the war, the light Alfa Romeo racing cars (“Alfetta 159”) dominated the Grand Prix circuits for years before the management of the now nationalized car manufacturer suddenly said goodbye to the premier class of racing .

May 13, 1950, Silverstone (England) Juan Manuel Fangio wins while driving the Alfa Romeo 158 at the European Grand Prix

The sporty genes of the brand and the successful racing history of the first four decades were a strong appeal to the incoming younger customers, and they really improved the numbers of Alfas sold. Under the new boss Giuseppe Luraghi and his chief technicians Orazio Satta Puliga and Giuseppe Busso, the dream Alfa Romeo’s came out of the brand’s heyday. In Italy, too, it was considered the “golden” 1950s: the economy was booming, and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta as a sedan, coupé and spider became the flagship model for all those who ‘made it’.

Design icon of the “Dolce Vita” the Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider Veloce 1965

In 1959, Alfa Romeo sold as many units in just one year as it had in the entire history of the company up to that point; almost 30,000 units. While in 1960, north of the Alps, Daimler-Benz was on the verge of taking over the tumbling Munich carmaker, the excavators for Arese near Milan were aiming to be Europe’s most modern automobile plant. Two years later however, Alfa Romeo opened their work in Giuseppe’s hometown, not realizing that the difficult years would begin with the 1968 revolts and a great deal of worker struggles.

Today the Alfa Romeo Museum is housed in the Alfa Romeo plant in Arese.

The influence of politics was increasing, the Milanese kept telling each other which party received the most jobs in the flourishing state enterprise. Evidently, unemployed bakery assistants were placed in the paint shops, unskilled workers were also put into many of the technical offices, illiterate people were even put in suits and hired as drivers. The “assenteismo”, an unfounded absence from the workplace, climbed to a record high, and productivity fell to the bottom. The spin-off, Auto Delta, racing division celebrated brilliant victories on road and mountain races. The sports car icons such as the light Alfa Romeo Sprint GTA (Gran Turismo Allegerita – “lightweight GT”) and the Alfa 33 only let their competitors see the rear lights.

Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 stradale, the Alfa Romeo designed by Franco Scaglione is considered one of the most beautiful Alfas. The 33, equipped with a 2 l V8 engine, currently costs more than one million euros.

These were the years in which Alfa Romeo dealers started and maintained their own teams. One of the most successful branches in Italy was the Alfa agency in Siena, which sent a young man into the race in 1968, he was to get an apprenticeship only to become a well-known chief mechanic a very short time after: Amerigo “Joe” Bigliazzi. He was in the cockpit on the weekends, and he worked in the shop on weekdays for private customers and on winning racing cars. The wiry young-at-heart Italian started over again at an age when others were thinking of retiring, and he founded his own workshop primarily for classic car customers – He was a major reason for Nostalgic to base the Alfa Romeo fleet in Siena from the start.

After 75 years of effort and passion, Alfa Romeo lost its independence in 1985 and became part of what was then the Fiat Group, today FCA Automobiles. The new owners strived not to forget the brand’s history and sought to bring exciting models such as the Alfa Romeo 8C and its little brother the Alfa Romeo 4C onto a market that could not deny their sporting genes. In 2018, the start was made in the premier class of automobile sports – the Formula 1.

Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione (images courtesy of the Alfa Romeo Automobilismo Storico Centro Documentazione Arese)

Are you interested in the history of Italian sports car construction? Then we have an exciting journey to the cradle of Italian sports car construction for you in the program. You drive 4 days at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo Spider from the heyday of Alfa Romeo through Emilia Romagna. Visit the Casa Enzo Ferrari and the Galleria Ferrari in Maranello and much more. Click here for detailed information on the Nostalgic trip to Emilia Romagna.