History of Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo imageAlfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A. is an Italian automaker founded on 24 June 1910 in Milan. Alfa Romeo has been a part of the Fiat Group since 1986. The company was originally known as A.L.F.A., which is an acronym for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (translated: Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company).

1900's: The Early Years

Surprisely the history of Alfa Romeo starts in France. Carmanufacturer Alexandre Darracq putted up a factory in Portello near by Milan. In this factory cars with one or two cylinder engines were build from parts imported from Paris. This project was not that succesfull as Alexandre Darracq hoped for and in 1909 he sold his factory to the Italian Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, shortly A.L.F.A.


And here the history begins:

In 1915 Nicola Romeo, a very skilfull engineer and keen on autosport became the head of this fabbrica and the name of this firm became Alfa Romeo. The early four-cylinder engines were replaced by six- and eight-cylinder engines from Merosi and Jano. Later on engines with double overhead camshafts and a compressor were used. Examples are the 3-litre 8-cylinder Tipo B, the Bimotore with two 8-cylinder engines and a 4.5-litre V12.


Alfa’s P3 was the first monoposto (oneseater) Grand Prix-car. This car made its first appearance in 1932. The P3 was a very beautifull racecar and a born winner in which great drivers like Nuvolari scored many victories! The experience gathered with all races and triumphs were used into the development of production-models like f.e. the 1932 two-seats Spyder with 2300cc 8-cylinder engine. Thanx to Alfa we have the so much misused word ‘GT’. This concept ‘Gran Turismo’ was used for the 6-cylinder sportscar with long wheelbase (1750cc with compressor).

Financial problems in 1933 leaded to a take-over by the Italian state. Mussolini stimulated Alfa Romeo to stay racing and Enzo Ferrari (yes, the one and only!) became the head of the race-departement!

In the pre-war period Alfa Romeo was very succesfull and the foundation was laid for a total of 11 victories at the ledgendary Mille Miglia and 4 on Le Mans. The greatest victory in this period was gained in the 1935 German Grand Prix at the treacherous Nürburgring in which Nuvolari surpassed the supreme teams of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union.

In 1938 Enzo Ferrari instructed the highly gifted technician Gioacchino Colombo to design the Tipo 158 ‘Alfetta’ Grand Prix-car. After World War II this car showed up again and dominated the 1948 Grand Prix-season. With an updated version of the Tipo 158 Guiseppe Farina won the first world championchip in 1950. The only other Grand Prix-winner that season was Juan-Manuel Fangio also driving a Tipo 158 with an 8-cylinder 1.5litre engine (line-configuration) with two Roots-compressors. The Tipo 158 was described as ‘old but invincible’! In the following year Fangio could keep the Formula 1-title for Alfa Romeo, but it was clear that a new period was born. Although the pre-war race- and productioncars with single (SOHC) or double overheaded camshafts (DOHC)-engines designed by Jano and with bodies designed by Zagato and Touring were fantastic and exciting, people asked for cheaper and more reachable cars.


In 1947 already the 2.5 litre Freccia d’Oro (Golden Arrow) made its appearance. This car was a coupe with 5 seats and column mounted gearchange. In 1950 introduced Alfa her first 4-cylinder engine within 25 years: the 1900 Berlina


Coupé-versions called Super and Sprint followed soon, just as racing-version called Disco Volante (Flying Saucer) in 1952. This car with a subversive designed body by Touring in Milan did not reach production, but a more conventional race-version of the Disco Volante with a 3.0litre 6-cylinder-engine captured a second place in the Mille Miglia from 1953 and won the Grand Prix from Merano.

In 1954 Alfa Romeo introduced the Giulietta, a concept reachable for the big public. This car had a 1300cc 4-cylinder-engine with double overhead camshafts and perfectly combined performance with low costs! It was delivered as coupé with two doors or saloon with four doors. Later on versions followed tuned by Pininfarina, Zagato and Bertone.

In the period 1950 till 1955 the Italian carproduction grew very fast and of course the Giulietta joined responsibility. This car and its versions were responsible for the growth Alfa Romeo knew for 8 years! In 1962 a bigger Giulia was presented. This car was equipped with a 1570cc engine, a five-speed gearbox and disc brakes on all wheels. The 1900 Super was build till 1956 and replaced by the bigger and more luxurious 2000 in 1958 which in 1962 appeared with a 2.6litre engine. All these types were deliverable with different kind of bodies and engines and they became very popular because of their outstanding performance and handling.


The following year the build of a new factory was started in Arese near by Milan. This new factory replaced the one in Portello which had become too small. In the new factory the Tipo 33 racesportscar was developed. This Tipo 33 had a 2.0litre midplaced V-8 engine with DOHC. In 1971 the 3.0litre version of the 33 won the Targa Florio, the 1000km-race of Brands Hatch and the 6-hours race of Watkins Glen. And although the 33 was not without problems this car was the concept of perfect racesportcars as real Alfa Romeo traditions propagate!

At the international carexhibition of Montreal in 1967 the Montreal designed by Bertone made its first appearance. It made use of a 2.6litre V-8 engine developed from the 2.0litre version, with fuelinjection and a five-speed gearbox. This very beautifull 2+2-seater was a very fast sportscar with real racequalities. A topspeed of 220km/h was given! The Montreal was build on the same chassis as the Giulia 1600 coupé and had the same stiff rear axle and its disc brakes on all wheels. This car got a outstanding reputation and became the pride of Alfa Romeo. In the period 1970 till 1975 3925 Montreals were build.

In 1966 on the Salon the Genève Alfa Romeo introduced the 1600 Spider Duetto. This concept should be deliverable for almost 25 years!

In 1968 also the Giulia with an 1779cc engine made its appearance and at the same time the Italian government had persuaded Alfa Romeo to build a new factory near by Naples on behalf of employment in the poor south. This new factory was opened in 1971 at the same time with the presentation of the Alfasud (Alfa South). This totally new developed car had a 1186cc boxerengine with SOHC, a four-speed gearbox, frontwheeldrive and McPherson frontsuspension. The design of Hruschka an Giugiaro was highly praised because of the outstanding road-handling, thanks to wide track of the car and the great balanced rearaxle. Disc brakes on 4 wheels and a 63bph engine encouraged to a lively and sportive way of driving. Marketing technical speeking the Alfasud was a winner and with faster versions Alfa Romeo took care that this car was a unbeatable offer in the sportive and compact marketsection.


In 1971 the 1750cc engine was upgraded to 1962cc and one year later the name Alfetta was reborn. Now it was used for a saloon with a 1779cc 4-cylinder engine, a De Dion-rearaxle and a next to the diff placed 5-speed gearbox, just like the Grand Prix-car of 1951. Because of the concept engine frontside and the remaining components like gearbox and so on placed at the rearaxle the Alfetta had a very balanced and sportive handling when driving! Later on versions with the economical 1.6litre Giulia engine and 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0litre G.T.’s were added to the deliveryprogram.


In 1981 the Alfasud got a fifth door. In 1984 the Sud was replaced by the Alfa Romeo 33. This car also got boxerengines with 1351cc, 1490cc or 1712cc and was continuing a great succes.

In 1984 (but I can be wrong) Alfa introduced the Alfa 90 which replaced the Alfa 6. For this great car can be chosen from a 2.0litre 4-cylinder, a 2.0litre V-6, a 2.5litre V-6 or a 2.0litre VM-dieselengine.

In 1986 after more than 20 years the name ‘Giulietta’ disappeared with the arrival of the Alfa Romeo 75, called Milano in the USA. The name 75 was given because of the 75 year jubilee of Alfa Romeo. The chassis with the rearplaced gearbox and the De Dion rearaxle was kept and the 75 could be equipped with engines from 1779cc till 2959cc with an 190bph. From 1988 on a 1570cc engine is also delivered for the Alfa 75. In 1987 Alfa Romeo is incorporated by the Fiatgroup and will represent the sportive part in the concern, where Lancia stands for luxurious cars and Fiat for the mainstream cars.

In 1988 Alfa Romeo introduced the 164 with frontwheeldrive as the topmodel. Also is re-introduced the twinspark-system on the 1962cc engine (for the 164 and 75). This double ignition was already used in 1923 by Alfa and later on the GTA and the GTAm had such a system. In 1990 the 164 Quadrifolglio was presented to the world with a 200bph 3.0litre V-6 engine and in 1994 this engine got a 24valve-head so the engine could give a maximum output of 230bph!

In 1989 during the Salon Genève Alfa Romeo amazed the world with the presentation of the SZ (Sport Zagato), also called ‘The Beast’. There should only be build a 1000 of this brutal car. The SZ was based on the 75 and had a 3.0litre tuned V-6 engine. In 1994 the RZ, a cabriolet based on the SZ is introduced.

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