Alfa Romeo's 110th Anniversary Highlights the Marque's Fabled History
Reaching one's 110th birthday is worthy of celebration no matter who or what you are. For an automotive brand with the rich and varied heritage of Alfa Romeo to attain that milestone calls for a popping of wine corks and a ticker-tape parade.
On June 24, Alfa Romeo will officially honor its 110th birthday, and as a key part of the festivities, it has created a "heritage package" that includes a fascinating interactive eBook that traces the proud and stylish brand from its founding in 1910 to the present.
The timing is certainly auspicious for Alfa Romeo to celebrate its rich provenance because its history puts to shame the heritage of many rival luxury brands. The company was established in Milan on June 24, 1910, after a group of local businessmen acquired the Italian branch of French carmaker Darracq. Alfa was an acronym of Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, which translates to Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company. (You can see why it immediately became known as Alfa.)
Its first car, designed by well-regarded engineer Giuseppe Merosi, was the 24HP, which, confusingly, didn't offer 24 horsepower. Instead, its advanced 4.1-liter engine produced 42 horsepower that enabled the early sports sedan to reach a top speed of 62 miles per hour. During the company's first year of production, it manufactured 50 24HPs, and it entered the car in the 1911 Targa Florio, initiating the brand's close association with auto racing. It was in racing that Alfa Romeo earned much of its century-long reputation for fast, stylish automobiles.
The 79-page eBook titled simply "110th Anniversary" is chockfull of interesting facts and figures, and it is profusely illustrated with photos, many of which come from the archive at the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo in Arese, Italy.
Within the virtual covers of the eBook, Lorenzo Ardizio, curator of the museum, reveals the most significant Alfa Romeo performance cars. They include the GP Tipo P2 (1925), Tipo 158 "Alfetta," Giulia Sprint GTA, 33 Stradale, and Giulia Quadrifoglio. Ardizio noted the last of these, the Giulia Quadrifoglio, represents "the synthesis of Alfa Romeo DNA: technology, performance, driving pleasure and design." The GP Tipo P2 enabled Alfa Romeo to win its first World Championship, and Ardizio called it "the turning point that creates the brand DNA: light, agile, essential and victorious."
In another fascinating portion of the book, Ralph Gilles, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles head of design, selects his favorite Alfa Romeos. Included on the stellar list are 1952 Alfa Romeo Disco Volante, Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ (1964)/TZ2 (1965), 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900, 1963 Alfa Romeo Giulia GT, 1967 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale, 1970 Alfa Romeo Montreal, 2005 Alfa Romeo Brera, and 2013 Alfa Romeo 4C.
About the Disco Volante Gilles said, "It must have seemed like something from another universe at the time. Its wind-cheating shape is something we take more seriously than ever today as aerodynamics is one of the most important aspects of modern car design, although I believe in the case of the Disco Volante it was more about provocation than science."
Perhaps even more provocative is the shape of the Tipo 33 Stradale. Calling it his favorite Alfa Romeo design of all time, Gilles said, "Its design was clearly about performance and its layout was an extreme departure for the times, with an innovative mid-engine configuration and ground-hugging proportions in the search for the lowest center of gravity possible."
In addition to those impressive compilations, the eBook describes the evolution of the famed Alfa Romeo logo. Dating from very early in the brand's history, the logo combines the emblem of the city of Milan and the "Biscione Visconteo," the coat of arms of the Visconti family, which ruled medieval Milan. Though it has undergone mild revisions over the past 100 years it is still one of Italy's best-known and most beloved symbols.
If you ever wanted to know where Enzo Ferrari cut his racing chops, how the famed Alfa "Trefoil" grille was created, or what Juan Manuel Fangio drove to the Formula 1 championship in 1951, it is all there in the 110th Anniversary eBook. The book will be accompanied by a short video synopsis of the 110 years that will be available starting today.
All of this will give discerning car buyers a deeper understanding of the rich Alfa Romeo heritage that is still obvious in its current U.S. lineup, which includes the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Giulia, and 4C Spider. The Giulia Quadrifoglio and Stelvio Quadrifoglio feature Alfa Romeo's most powerful production engine ever. Their respective 0-60 mph times of 3.8 and 3.6 seconds make clear that performance is still an integral part of the Alfa Romeo brand 110 years after the 24HP.