If ever you end up meeting a thoroughbred Italian who is an automobile enthusiast just like you and begin to strike in a conversation about cars. Apart from the usual talks about the Ferraris and Lamborghinis, if you ever ask them about the Alfa Romeo. A thoroughbred Italian would always feel pride in telling you about the Alfa Romeo and how it has brought success in the motorsport industry. Not many would recognize the old heritage of the brand Alfa Romeo until they have been given a trip down memory lane and the many accolades that they have garnered in a century’s time. It has been a long journey for the Italian car manufacturer as this year marks its 120th Anniversary.
In Milan, on 24 June 1910, Alfa Romeo was founded by Frenchman Alexandre Darracq as A.L.F.A. also known as “Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili”, translated to “Anonymous Lombard Automobile Factory”. Five years later, the company changed its name to Alfa Romeo, when Nicola Romeo took over the property. From there, the company immediately built vehicles with the intent to conquer speed. More powerful engines were introduced in the early 1900s, 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.
What’s the story behind its logo?
On the left: The red cross on the 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 its mouth (some deem it to be a dragon, but most likely it is 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.
In 1918, after the company had been bought by Nicola Romeo, the wording “ALFA” was replaced with “ALFA-ROMEO”.
Did you know the importance of the Cloverleaf logo on the Alfa Romeo?
Since 1923, the Quadrifoglio logo (also called the ‘cloverleaf’) has been the symbol of Alfa Romeo racing cars and since WWII, it has also been used to designate the higher trim models of the range. The Quadrifoglio is usually placed on the side panels of the car, above or behind the front wheels—on the front wings in the case of modern vehicles. The logo consists of a green cloverleaf with four leaves, contained with a white triangle. The Quadrifoglio has been used on Alfa Romeo cars since the death of Ugo Sivocci in 1923. As a friend of Enzo Ferrari, Sivocci was hired by Alfa Romeo in 1920 to drive in the three-man works team—Alfa Corse—with Antonio Ascari and Enzo Ferrari. Sivocci was thought to have enormous experience, but often hampered by bad luck and considered the eternal second-placer. To banish his bad luck, when the Targa Florio (an open road endurance automobile race held in the mountains of Sicily near the island’s capital of Palermo, Italy) came around, the driver painted a white square with a green four-leaf clover (the Quadrifoglio) in the centre of the grille of his car. Sivocci had immediate success, crossing the finish line first. The Quadrifoglio subsequently became the symbol of the racing Alfa Romeos with the victory at the Targa Florio. Almost as if to prove the magic effects of this symbol, Sivocci was killed while testing Giuseppe Merosi’s new P1 car at Monza, a few months after winning the Targa Florio. The P1, which went off the track on a bend, did not have the Quadrifoglio. Also, the car had the number 17 on it. A number that is unlucky in Italy. After this accident, 17 was banned from Italian cars. There is a slight irony in the fact that his greatest victory came in a car bearing the number 13, a number that is unlucky in most countries.
Since this period in 1923, the bodies of Alfa Romeo racing cars have been adorned with the Quadrifoglio as a lucky charm. The white square was replaced with a triangle in memory of Ugo Sivocci.
Alfa Romeo has competed successfully in Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sportscar racing, touring car racing, and rallies. It has competed for 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 the company, and Alfa Romeo won the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925. The race victories gave a sporty image to the marque, and Enzo Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari racing team in 1929 as an Alfa Romeo racing team, before becoming independent in 1939. It has had the most wins of any marque in the world. The Italian auto manufacturer boasts a number of gas-powered masterpieces with unique features that all include one of the most noticeable elements — the Alfa Romeo Scudetto grille.
Symbol of an Alfa Romeo
Talking about the Scudetto grille, which has been the highlight of all Alfa Romeo vehicles to date, it is never difficult to spot an Alfa if you see its front fascia. Here’s how the legendary grille came into existence.
Originally designed by Giuseppe Merosi, the Scudetto, or “little shield” in Italian, has gone through many design changes before ending at the shield shape you see today. Various design firms have worked with the Alfa Romeo brand, including Pininfarina, Bertone, Italdesign, and Zagato. Each has played with the design to stylize the grille further to create an artistic, distinctive look that could not be mistaken for any other brand. Why is it that the Alfa Romeo grille is such an important piece of the car? The Alfa Romeo grille is a prominent status symbol with the most common name being referred to as “Villa d’Este” after the design won the Concorso d’Eleganza that was held at the historic Lake Como in Northern Italy. The modern shield-shaped grille was first seen on the 1934 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Turismo. There seemed to have been a bit of experimenting with the grille shape in the years that followed, with the heart-shaped centre grille being used on an 8C 2900B Touring special-bodied car for King Michael of Romania in the early 1940s. This characteristic design feature was further revised in the various 6C 2500 examples of the 1940s, and the 1900 model of the 1950s, remaining an Alfa Romeo design trademark still to this day.
Back Again to where it matter
An abundance of rich racing history is what defines the Italian car manufacturer. After diverting their attention from racing to production cars and producing ever so menacing German killers with the likes of Giulia Quadrifoglio and its Stelvio Quadrifoglio, they have made their comeback to the pinnacle of motor racing once again, Formula One. In 2017, the Sauber F1 Team signed a multi-year technical and commercial partnership with Alfa Romeo, returning the Italian car manufacturer to F1 after an absence of more than 30 years. The deal will see saw the Swiss squad renamed Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team from in 2018, with the car bearing the Alfa Romeo logo and being was equipped with 2018-spec Ferrari engines.
2019 and beyond
Having taken over Sauber, Alfa Romeo’s return to F1 for the first time since 1985, a welcome comeback for the marque that won two drivers’ titles with Giuseppe Farina in 1950 and Juan Manuel Fangio in 1951. This is Here is the 2019 driver’s lineup for Alfa Romeo Racing.
Returning to the team with whom he made his F1 debut in 2001 seems to have revitalised Räikkönen away from the Ferrari overalls. His hunger just to drive seems strong and he is the experienced hand needed to bring on the car. Will be having a lot of fun jousting in the pack.
Put in two races for Sauber in 2017 but his chance for greater things at Ferrari was blown away as Leclerc burst to prominence. Giovinazzi, however, has excellent form in F2 and this is an excellent opportunity to make his case once more, especially in a car now firmly in the midfield.
Coming back to producing road cars with a vision, which is nothing less than art, Alfa Romeo’s future looks promising with its latest cars that were seen at the Geneva Motor Show in 2019. The true stars of the display area were undoubtedly the Giulia Quadrifoglio and Stelvio Quadrifoglio “Alfa Romeo Racing” limited editions. Apart from the Quadrifoglio spec cars, there was a surprise as well, the Alfa Romeo Tonale, a compact SUV to rival models such as the Audi Q3 and the BMW X2.
Will it ever make it to India?
Alfa Romeo is a brand which not many would have heard of and is not really popular amongst the millennials. Only the few who have been following the Italian car scene or auto industry, in general, would take note of it. However, what we are missing here is a proper competition to the Germans, and with a brand like Alfa Romeo, which is quite capable of giving the Germans a run for its money in the luxury saloon car segment, it is definitely being missed. It is a dream to even drive one of these machines and to own one would be bliss. The well established German car manufacturers’ feathers can be ruffled if the giant Italians decide to expand their presence in the South Asian market. For now, we’ll have to do away with these beauties and hope that someday we could witness the brand make its way here!
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