The History of Alfa Romeo
Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A. is an Italian automaker founded on June 24, 1910 in Milan. Alfa Romeo has been a part of the Fiat Group since 1986, and since February 2007 a part of Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A. The company was owned by Italian state holding company Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between the end of 1932 to 1986. The company was originally known as A.L.F.A., which is an acronym for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili.
The company that became Alfa Romeo was founded as Societ Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. The firm's initial location was in Naples, but even before the construction of the planned factory had started, Darracq decided late in 1906 that Milan would be a more suitable location and accordingly a tract of land was acquired in the Milan suburb of Portello, where a new factory of 6,700 square metres (8,000 sq yd) was erected. Late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and Stella, with the other Italian co-investors, founded a new company named A.L.F.A., initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Giuseppe Merosi, hired in 1909 for designing new cars more suitable to the Italian market. Merosi would go on to design a series of new A.L.F.A. cars, with more powerful engines (40-60 HP). A.L.F.A. also ventured into motor racing, drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24 HP models. In 1914, an advanced Grand Prix car was designed and built, the GP1914 which featured a four cylinder, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and twin ignition. However, the onset of World War I halted automobile production at A.L.F.A. for three years.
When the war was over, car production resumed in 1919 since parts for the completion of 105 cars were still lying at the A.L.F.A. factory since 1915. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo with the Torpedo 20-30 HP becoming the first car to be badged as such.
The Alfa factory (converted during wartime to the production of Macchi C.202 Folgore engines) was bombed during World War II, and struggled to return to profitability after the war. The luxury vehicles were out. Smaller mass-produced vehicles began to be produced in Alfa's factories beginning with the 1954 model year, with the introduction of the Giulietta series of berline (saloons/sedans), coupes and open two-seaters. All three varieties shared what would become the classic Alfa Romeo overhead Twin Cam four cylinder engine, initially in 1300 cc form. This engine would eventually be enlarged to 2 liters (2000 cc) and would remain in production through 1995.
In 1952, Alfa-Romeo had experimented with its first front-wheel drive compact car named "Project 13-61". It had the same transverse-mounted, forward-motor layout as the modern front-wheel drive automobiles. Alfa-Romeo made a second attempt toward the late 1950s based on Project 13-61. It was to be called Tipo 103. It even resembled the smaller version of its popular Alfa-Romeo Giulia. However, due to the financial difficulties in post-war Italy, the Tipo 103 never saw the production. Had Alfa-Romeo succeed in producing Tipo 103, it would precede the Mini as the first "modern" front-wheel drive compact car.
By the 1970s Alfa was again in financial trouble. The Italian government company Finmeccanica bowed out in 1986 as Fiat Group bought in, creating a new group, Alfa Lancia Industriale S.p.A., to manufacture Alfas and Lancias. Models produced subsequent to the 1990s combined Alfa's traditional virtues of avant-garde styling and sporting panache with the economic benefits of product rationalisation, and include a "GTA" version of the 147 hatchback, the Giugiaro-designed Brera, and a high-performance exotic called the 8C Competizione (named after one of Alfa's most successful prewar sports and racing cars, the 8C of the 1930s).
In 2005 Maserati was bought back from Ferrari and brought under Fiat's full control. The Fiat Group plans to create a sports and luxury division from Maserati and Alfa Romeo. There is a planned strategic relationship between these two; engines, platforms and possibly dealers will be shared in some market areas.
In the beginning of 2007, Fiat Auto S.p.A. was reorganized and four new automobile companies were created; Fiat Automobiles S.p.A., Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A., Lancia Automobiles S.p.A. and Fiat Light Commercial Vehicles S.p.A. These companies are fully owned by Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A.
In 1910 a draughtsman named Romano Cattaneo was given the job of coming up with a badge for a new Milan-based company, ALFA. It is generally accepted that the badge is based on the coat of arms of the House of Visconti and the red cross on a white background of Milan. In the early part of the 5th century AD a serpent that devoured humans was said to be at large in the area around Milan and terrifying the local populace. It was slain by Ottoni Visconti and this heroic deed was celebrated as part of the coat of arms. The red cross on a white back ground celebrates the deeds of Giovanni Da Rio, who is reputed to have been the first to climb the walls of Jerusalem and erect a cross there during the first crusade. The badge can be seen as a shield, reversed, above the great door of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan.
In 1918, after the company was purchased by Nicola Romeo, the badge was redesigned with the help of Giuseppe Merosi to include the emblem of the City of Milan and that of the Visconti family in a circular motif, bordered by a dark blue metallic ring containing the inscription "ALFA ROMEO" and "MILANO" separated by two Savoy dynasty knots to honour the Kingdom of Italy. After the victory of the P2 in the inaugural Automobile World Championship in 1925, Alfa added a laurel wreath around the logo. In 1946 after the victory of the Italian Republic Savoy knots were replaced with two curvy lines.
Alfa Romeo motorcars are recognised by all Motor enthusiasts as being the first "supercar", with the term being coined in the 1920s by a British journalist to describe an Alfa Romeo.
Until the 1980s, Alfa Romeos, except for the Alfasud, were rear-wheel-drive.