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The History of Italian Manufacturer Alfa Romeo
The history of the classic Alfa Romeo car began in 1906 when the French Darracq company became allied with Italian investors to form an Italian Darracq brand. However, sales were slow, which forced the formation of the Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobil, or A.L.F.A. company, on 24th June 1910. The ALFA company initially produced a 24hp racing car and competed in the classic Targa Florio, then developed the 15-20hp, the 40-60hp and the GP14 models, before the First World War intervened.
In 1915, with war work ended, the ALFA company was taken over by Nicola Romeo, a Neapolitan entrepreneur. The Torpedo 20-30hp was the first Alfa Romeo car, and was successfully driven by Enzo Ferrari, coming second in the Targa Florio. Despite economic turmoil in Italy, the Targa Florio had Alfa Romeo cars take first, second and fourth places in 1923, the same year that chief designer Giuseppe Merosi was replaced by Fiat’s Vittorio Jano. The P2, the first Grand Prix car designed by Jano, won the inaugural world championships in 1925.
Romeo departed in 1928, and during the economic depression of the 1930s the company was taken into state control to produce bespoke cars for wealthy clients, the bodies being produced by Pininfarina and Touring of Milan. The resultant Freccia d’Oro and Villa d’Este cars, with their innovative steering wheel mounted gear shift, were popular with royalty and film stars alike. Racing car production continued under Ferrari, with the Alfa Romeo 8C series, known as the Spider, successful in racing and touring models. Spider means ‘speeder’, and refers to a two horse open carriage, not an arachnid. In 1938 the cars took the first three places in the Mille Miglia, whilst the 2900B Type 35 series were the pinnacle of company production prior to the Second World War.
The 1950s saw the introduction of the 1900, the first classic Alfa Romeo car to be fitted with a unitary body, and the 158, which excelled in Grand Prix races. Fangio won the world championship in 1951 driving a 159. The classic Alfa Romeo Giuletta (series 750 and 101), produced from 1954 to 1965 in coupé and sedan versions, also included a Spider derivative with bodywork by Pininfarina, and a 1957 Berlina Giulietta TI version.
The classic Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan was produced between 1962 and 1978 in a variety of sporting and saloon models, and the 105/115 series Spider, a roadster, from 1966-1993. The classic Alfa Romeo Alfetta, in executive saloon and fastback coupé versions, was produced from 1972 to 1987, and is the most recent of the marque to be regarded as a classic Alfa Romeo car.
Sales of classic Alfa Romeo cars remain strong, with cars built for the track and road alike cherished and sought after by enthusiasts. Alfa Romeo’s of the 1950s vintage through to the late 1970s are in demand at present amongst aficionados, and those of more recent vintage are rapidly being added to the ‘classic’ fold, especially if in excellent condition.