Alfa Romeo. History, Production Cars, Racing, Iconic Cars & More from One of the Famous Car Makers Ever.
“When I See I See An Alfa Romeo Pass By , I Lift My Hat.” – Henry Ford
That quote summarizes the impact and the profound work that this Italian automaker has given to the world. Creating history for over 100 years, Alfa Romeo started their humble beginnings as a French company in Italy (that’s a weird combination), and worked on cementing their legacy by building a storied racing heritage, supporting it with countless wins, discovering a young racer named Enzo Ferrari, and being known as a ‘petrolhead’ marque.
Alfa Romeo has accomplished many wins such as “The World’s Best Motor Race”, the Mille Miglia in 1928, Le Mans, various Grand Prix, World Sportscar Championship, German Touring Car Championship, just to name a few.
That quote also exemplifies the craftsmanship that went to every single Alfa Romeo, painstakingly creating works of art like the P2 in 1924, the original Giulia in 1962, or the GTA in 1965.
Being flamboyant as any Italian can be, the company poured their heart and soul in every creation, focusing on aesthetics and making sure that their everyday, practical models (the 155, 156, the Bretta) were jaw-dropping to make their ancestors proud.
Alfa Romeos are known for their quirks and questionable reliability, but we don’t care. They’re graceful, elegant, and oh so undeniably pretty. Alongside their beauty, we embrace these cars because it’s the closest car that gives us an almost-human connection.
Everyone has their faults, but we’ll make it work.
Founded in 1910, Ugo Stella bought a floundering French car factory in 1909 and rebranded as “Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili” or A.L.F.A. Translated in Italian as “Lombard Automobile Factory Company”, it started a new beginning for this Italian automaker situated in Milan, which is in Northern Lombardy region of Italy.
From there, the company immediately built vehicles with the intent to conquer speed. More powerful engines were introduced in the early 1900’s, producing 40 – 60 hp and A.L.F.A. ventured naturally into motor racing. That venture went to a halt thanks to World War I, which caused the company to focus on manufacturing different products and planting the seeds of the other half of the brand that we all know today.
This takeover also gave birth to one of the most bizarre logos in the automotive world. Created in 1910, after the official rebranding of the company, the A.L.F.A crest debuts and everyone remembers the right-half of the crest, where a snake is eating a man. The meaning is actually quite interesting as given by Automobilismo Storico Alfa Romeo.
On the left: the red cross on white field is the symbol of Milan, the hometown of Alfa Romeo.
On the right: the symbol of one of the most important families in the history of Milan (and Italy), the Visconti family – the family that ruled Milan.
There are a lot of legends about the origins of this heraldic symbol, representing a mythological animal with a human in his mouth (some believe it to be a dragon, but most likely a snake). During the time of the crusades, Otone Visconti, the founder of Visconti Family and a knight, fought against a noble Saracen knight (nomad from the Syrian Desert that bordered the Roman Empire). Otone beat the Saracen knight and, following the tradition, took the symbols the Saracen carried on his shield: a snake with a human in his mouth. At first glance, it looks like the snake is eating the human. Instead, the human is coming out of the snake a “new man,” purified and renewed.
The meaning: The snake is a circular animal (a snake can assume a circular position) and is an animal of the changing – able to change his skin regularly and totally renew or rebirth himself.The meaning is definitely describing Alfa Romeo to a tee.
In 1915, A.L.F.A. is being managed by Nicola Romeo, which focused on helping the Italian war efforts in World War I. The car engines being developed were now refocused for compressors, generators, plane engines, and any propelling device that was required for war efforts. This initiative made a big impact to the company as A.L.F.A. grew beyond manufacturing, adding locomotive and railway manufacturing to the portfolio.
Fully Focused & Tradition Born Out Of (Bad?) Luck
With World War I over, A.L.F.A. returned to creating cars in 1919 with spare parts they had lying around and the 1920’s started the racing wars in Italy, creating the brand we all know and love: Alfa Romeo.
The racing wars created a tradition within Alfa Romeo, which could be seen as either a great part of history or an unfortunate case of superstition. In 1923, a racer named Ugo Sivocci was sick and tired of getting second place in his Alfa Romeo RL. His upcoming race was the Targa Florio in Sicily and to see if he can break the streak, he painted a white square and a four-leaf clover on the front of his race car.
He finished first, and his other Alfa Romeo drivers won second and fourth as well, creating the racing heritage that is Alfa Romeo.
After that race, Sivocci was testing a new car that didn’t have the clover painted on and he lost his life. From there, Alfa Romeo started a tradition to commemorate his legacy.
The four-leaf clover, the ‘Quadrifoglio’ as the Italians called it, is present in every race car after that and would be a symbol of Alfa Romeo’s performance lineup, the equivalent to BMW’s M or Mercedes Benz’s AMG.
Around this time, Alfa Romeo had a racing driver that would help flourish the automobile world and create the brand we all cherish and love. You might know it: Ferrari. That’s right, Enzo Ferrari used to be a race driver for Alfa Romeo and after having some success on the track, he became the head designer for Alfa Romeo. He developed a racing team for Alfa Romeo called Scuderia Ferrari but after a failed venture and a disagreement with Alfa’s managing director, Enzo Ferrari left Alfa Romeo to build the prancing-horse supercar marque that we all yearn for.
World War II did not help the cause of Alfa Romeo as their production got halted after an airstrike razed their factory. After the war, the company produced memorable cars such as the Giulia and the GTA but by the 70’s they faced financial trouble that required joint ventures with fellow Italian automaker Fiat.
This partnership helped as it produced great modern examples such as the Brera hatchback, the 8C Competizione, the 4C, and the revived Giulia.
Today, Alfa Romeo is looking to return to North America with the 4C, the new Giulia, and the new Stelvio SUV. As a true car enthusiast, we look forward to their resurgence and cementing their legacy once again as one of the automaker’s greats.
Continue Reading the Complete History Of Alfa Romeo
Please remember that this site is called Supercars.net. That means we aim to list all the amazing cars that Alfa Romeo made and not every single model ever. If you don’t see a car here that you think is good enough to make the list, then let us know. If you’re wondering why the latest small Alfa sedan isn’t on the list, it may be because we don’t think it is special enough.
We recently created a chart with every (cool) Alfa Romeo model ever made, including information like engine, specs and performance numbers. You can easily sort and search too. Check it out.
What makes for an automotive icon? It is an aesthetically pleasing car that takes your breath away? Is it scintillating performance that defines an era? Is it a car with a rich racing history? In Alfa’s case, they have legendary cars from each of those groups.
The most iconic cars in the Alfa Romeo lineup are the ones that changed their history for the better. The most resounding models in the modern history are include the Giulia, GTA, Brera, 156, 8C, 4C and the recently resurgent Giulia (2017) – all commercial successes that grew the company. Go back a few decades and names like Alfetta, 8C2900, P3, Stradale, Tubolare Zagato, 6C1750, Duetto and Disco Volante all bring back memories of the iconic Italian brand in its best years when it defined sexy design and Italian style.
Alfa Romeo is not afraid to let aesthetics and soul take over in their designs. They’re really passionate about making their body sheet flow beautifully, in order to pull your heartstrings. Just look at the various prototypes that they have produced over the years and you get a real sense for why this automotive company is considered by many as the sexiest of all time. Don’t forget to check out all the Alfa Concepts.
Alfa has competed successfully in many different categories of motorsport, including Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sportscar racing, touring car racing and rallies. They have competed both as a constructor and an engine supplier, via works entries (usually under the name Alfa Corse or Autodelta) and private entries. The first racing car was made in 1913, three years after the foundation of A.L.F.A., the 40-60HP had 6 liter straight-4 engine. Alfa Romeo quickly gained a good name in motorsport and gave a sporty image to the whole marque and won championships across many categories.
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