A Brief History of Alfa Romeo

 

Whilst it is no secret that the latest models from Alfa Romeo have been causing quite a stir in the automotive world for the last 2 or 3 years, it is worth remembering that Alfa are not an upstart brand, or some flash in the pan! Due to their extended absence from the North American market over the last 30 years, some younger drivers may not have even heard of the famous marque before their latest generation of performance sedans and SUVs were released. Alfa Romeo of Windsor one of your premier Alfa Romeo Canada dealers are keen to inform and educate one and all with this brief history of the storied Auto brand that is Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo’s beginnings date back as far as 1906, under the name ‘Societa Italiana Automobili Darracq’, where the company was founded on the outskirts of Milan. However this phase of the company wasn’t long for this world, and in 1909, economic troubles plagued the owners, who went on to sell their shares to the Italian Aristocrat, Ugo Stella. Stella rebranded the company, and spent the next year preparing for the brand’s re-launch under a new name ‘Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili’, or ‘A.L.F.A’ for short. Ugo Stella’s takeover was a catalyst for the future success of the brand, and that success began quickly. The first car to roll off the production line was the A.L.F.A 24 HP, a car that could reach an (at the time) astonishing 62 mph, and thanks to its quality engineering (something not all that common for cars of its day), it began to attract attention at the likes of the Targa Florio endurance race.

 

A.L.F.A liked the glory and accolades that came along with motorsport success, and so, efforts were doubled to establish the brand on the international scene. They charged Giuseppe Merosi with the design of a new sports car based upon their 40-60 HP model, what they got was the legendary Alfa Grand Prix, a 4.5 liter race car capable of 87 miles per hour.

After the onset of World War 1, prosperity was low, and Alfa simply did not have the funds required to retool their plant to assist with the war effort. Enter Nicola Romeo, A Neapolitan electrical engineer who had had great success throughout his career. Romeo purchased Alfa, and set up the factory to continue building, where they build airplane engines amongst other things. In early 1918, a year before war’s end, Nicola Romeo and his investor cohorts took the company public, changing the company name officially to ‘Alfa Romeo’.

After the November Armistice, Nicola Romeo took another gamble by investing his profits he made with Alfa during the war in locomotive and rail carriage factories across Italy, all of which built machinery under the Alfa name. In 1920, roughly a year after the end of war, Alfa resumed the manufacture of automobiles, and found further success on the race track with several stand out race cars, particularly the Torpedo 20-30 HP. Such was the dominance of Alfa Romeo on the track that they went on to sign the one and only Enzo Ferrari to their race team, who won big at several major events.

 

As well as Enzo Ferrari, Alfa Romeo also had legendary Italian racing driver Ugo Sivocci in their fold. Ugo Sivocci had a string of second place finishes during the 1920s, and in an attempt to break his streak of ‘bad luck’, he painted a four leaf clover on the front of his Alfa Romeo RL Targa Florio, and lo and behold – he finished first! This four leaf clover, or ‘Quadrifoglio’ has come to symbolize Alfa Romeo’s racing heritage, as well as paying homage to Sivocci himself, who was unfortunately killed during the testing of a new race car in 1923.

Alfa Romeo continued to prosper, however by the 1930s Italy was changing, and at this point Nicola Romeo took his leave from the company he had helped to build. With this gaping hole in the organization, the Italian government stepped in, taking charge of Alfa, helping to solidify the brand’s status as an Italian national icon. It was during the years the followed that Alfa Romeo build some of their most iconic cars, including the 8C 2300, widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest touring cars, and to this day the most expensive pre World War II car to ever sell at auction. The 8C found great success at several world class racing events such as the 24 hours at Le Mans, as well as the notorious Mille Miglia. Alfa had continued vehicle production throughout World War II, however this came to a sudden stop in 1944, when the plant was destroyed during a bombing raid.

 

For the second time in a century, War was over, and with that, businesses once again began to flourish, including Alfa Romeo. Not only was commercial production rolling again, Alfa had continued success on the race track during the famous Grand Prix events. Motorsports victory led to increased interest in road going vehicles, and with that came some of the most beautiful and iconic vehicles ever made. This was truly the Era of Alfa Romeo, and as such the brand became synonymous with Italy, and all things Italian. By the 1960s Alfa Romeo had capitalized on their national success, and turned that in to international acclaim, and the car to do it was the original Giulia sedan.

The 1970s heralded a change across the automotive industry, and Alfa Romeo were truly a part of it. The revolutionary Alfasud brought sports car handling and driving in a front wheel drive, hatchback package. Cars were no longer a luxury item only for the affluent, and Alfa Romeo recognized this by building practical cars that were also a joy to drive. Not wanting to be left behind by other manufacturers, Alfa Romeo also unveiled their first ever turbo diesel during this generation; the Alfetta 2000 TD.

The 1980s brought about even greater change for the Alfa Romeo brand, as the famous marque, under Italian government control since the 1930s was sold to the FIAT group in 1986. Regardless of ownership, Alfa were still a force to be reckoned with in international motorsports, with the 155 winning the Italian Superturismo championship in 1992, and then the British Touring Car Championship in 1994. North American owners were still experiencing the joy of Alfa Romeo, until 1995, when the brand pulled out of the market.

 

Moving in to the new Millennium, Alfa Romeo continued to innovate, designing some of the world’s most beautiful cars, the Giulietta, the Brera, the 1998 car of the year winning 156, and the enigmatic 8C to name but a few.

After a long, and noticeable absence, and under new management once again, Alfa Romeo, now part of the FIAT Chrysler group, and chaired by CEO Sergio Marchionne, reemerged in to the US and Canadian markets with a bang, the 4C and 4C Spider led the way in 2014, followed by the incredible Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV. The styling and performance of the current lineup are unparalleled by any other vehicles on the market today, and Alfa Romeo is truly here to stay! Alfa Romeo have also dusted off the famous four leaf clover, or ‘Quadrifoglio’ for the Giulia and Stelvio, making record breaking, high performance versions of these already incredible cars.

 

Alfa Romeo of Windsor Ontario are proud to be one of only 12 authorized Alfa Romeo Canada Dealer. We gladly ship anywhere in the nation, so we welcome you to get in touch if you’d like to find out more about these incredible machines. We hope you found this history of the Great Alfa Romeo brand of interest! We have incredible passion for these vehicles at Alfa Romeo Windsor and Alfa Romeo Canada and we know you will too; 

If you would like to learn more about the history of Alfa Romeo please visit www.alfaromeo.ca
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