Alfa Romeo is an Italian automobile manufacturer.
Alfa Romeo has been a part of Fiat SpA since 1986. The company was originally known as ALFA, which is an acronym for Anonima Lombarda
Fabbrica Automobili (translated: Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company).
The company that became Alfa Romeo was founded as "Darracq Italiana" in 1907 by Cavaliere Ugo Stella, an aristocrat from Milan, in partnership
with the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq. The firm initially produced Darracq cars in Naples, but after the partnership collapsed
Stella and the other Italian co-investors moved production to an idle Darracq factory in the Milan suburb of Portello, and the company was
renamed ALFA (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili). The first non-Darracq car produced by company was the 1910 24 HP (named for the 24
horsepower it produced), designed by Giuseppe Merosi. Merosi would go on to design a series of new ALFA cars with more powerful engines
(40-60 HP). ALFA also ventured into motor racing, drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24 HP models.
However, the onset of World War I halted automobile production at ALFA for three years.
1916 saw the company come under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military
hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. Munitions, aircraft engines and other components, compressors and generators based on the
company's existing car engines, and heavy locomotives were produced in the factory during the war. When the war was over, Romeo took
complete control of ALFA and car production resumed in 1919. 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. Giuseppe Merosi continued as head designer, and the company continued to produce solid
road cars as well as successful race cars (including the 40-60 HP and the RL Targa Florio).
In 1923 Vittorio Jano was lured away from Fiat, partly thanks to the persuasion of a young Alfa racing driver named Enzo Ferrari, to replace
Merosi as chief designer at Alfa Romeo. The first Alfa Romeo under Jano was the P2 Grand Prix car, which won Alfa Romeo the world
championship in 1925. For Alfa road cars Jano developed a series of small-to-medium-displacement 4, 6, and 8 cylinder inline power plants based
on the P2 unit that established the classic architecture of Alfa engines, with light alloy construction, hemispherical combustion chambers,
centrally-located plugs, two rows of overhead valves per cylinder bank and dual overhead cams. Jano's designs proved to be both reliable and
Enzo Ferrari proved to be a better team manager than driver, and when the factory team was privatised, it then became Scuderia Ferrari. When
Ferrari left Alfa Romeo, he went on to build his own cars. Tazio Nuvolari often drove for Alfa, winning many races prior to WWII.
In 1928 Nicola Romeo left, with Alfa going broke after defense contracts ended, and in 1933 Alfa Romeo was rescued by the government, which
then had effective control. Alfa became an instrument of Mussolini's Italy, a national emblem. During this period Alfa Romeo built bespoke vehicles
for the wealthy, with the bodies normally built by Touring of Milan or Pininfarina. This was the era that peaked with the legendary Alfa Romeo
2900B Type 35 racers.
The Alfa factory 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.
By the 1970s Alfa was again in financial trouble. The Italian government bowed out in 1986 as FIAT bought in, creating a new group, Alfa Lancia
Spa, to manufacture Alfas and Lancias.
Alfa Romeo scored many prestigious victories in the following categories: Formula 1, Prototypes, Touring and Fast Touring. Private drivers also
entered some rally competitions, with fine results.
In 1923 Vittorio Jano was lured to Alfa from Fiat, designing the motors that gave Alfa racing success into the late 1930s. (When Alfa began to
lose in the late 1930s Jano was promptly sacked.) It was year 1925 when Alfa Romeo won its first Grand Prix Championship with Alfa Romeo P2
In the 1930s Tazio Nuvolari won the Mille Miglia in a 6C 1750, crossing the finishing line after having incredibly overtaken Achille Varzi without
lights (at nighttime). Targa Florio was won six times in row in 1930s. Mille Miglia was won in every year between 1928 and 1938 execpt year
The 8C 2300 won the Le Mans 24 Hours from 1931 to 1934, with Alfa Romeo withdrawing from racing in 1933 when the Italian government took
over, and the racing of Alfas was then taken up by Scuderia Ferrari as Alfa's outsourced team. (Enzo Ferrari drove for Alfa before he went on to
manage the team, and after that went on to manufacture his own cars.) In 1935 Alfa Romeo won the German Grand Prix with Nuvolari. In 1938
Biondetti won the Mille Miglia in an 8C 2900B Corto Spyder, thereafter referred to as the "Mille Miglia" model.
In 1950 Nino Farina won the Formula One World Championship in a 158 with compressor, in 1951 Juan Manuel Fangio won while driving an
Alfetta 159 (an evolution of the 158 with a two-stages compressor). Alfa-Romeo returned to Formula One in 1971 as engine supllier to March
team and second time 1976 as an engine supplier to Brabham and then as a constructor from the middle of 1979 until the end of 1985. Alfa also
supplied engines to the tiny Italian Osella team from 1983 to 1988. There was little success, although Brabham-Alfa took two victories in 1978.
In late 80s and early 90s Alfa supplied engines to PPG IndyCar World Series eg. Scuderia March, V8 turbo 720 hp.
The various version of Tipo 33 were raced in the Prototype category from 1967 to 1977, winning titles in 1975 and 1977.
Alfa has won many touring car series during 60s and 70s. Alfa Romeo GTA won European Touring Car Championship in 1966, 1967 and 1968 and
later GTAm won titles in 1970 and 1971. Alfetta GTV6 won four European Champion titles between 1982-1985. Nicola Larina with Alfa Romeo
155 won DTM series in 1993. After 155 came 156 which has won four times in row European Touring Car Championships.
Until the 1980s, Alfa Romeos, except for the Alfasud, were rear-wheel-drive. According to the current Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, in order to
reap economies of scale, all new Alfa Romeo models will be made from the same basic platform (i.e., frame). Even Maserati will share components
with some Alfas.
Cloverleaf or Quadrifoglio badges denote variants of Alfa Romeo cars where the name denotes the high-end of the range in comfort and engine
size, but previously denoted Alfa Romeo racing cars in the pre-Second-World-War era. The image first appeared in 1923 when Ugo Sivocci
presented one prior to the start of the 14th Targa Florio as a good luck token to the team. This became the symbol of competition Alfas, denoting
higher performance. Some modern Alfas wear a cloverleaf badge which is typically a green four leaf clover on a white background (Quadrifoglio
Verde), but variants of blue on white have been recently observed as well.
The Alfettas of the early 1980s had models available sold as the "Silver Leaf" and "Gold Leaf" (Quadrifoglio Oro). These models were the top of
the range. Badging was the Alfa Cloverleaf in either gold or silver to denote the specification level. The Gold Leaf model was also sold as the
"159i" in some markets, the name in homage to the original 159.
The trim levels (option packages) offered today on the various nameplates (model lines) include the lusso, \“luxury,\” turismo, \“touring,\” and the
GTA (gran tourismo alleggerita, \“lightened grand touring\”). The GTA package is offered in the 147 and 156 and includes a V-6 engine. In the past,
Alfa Romeo offered a Sprint (from Italian sprinta, "tuned") trim level.
RHD Alfa Romeo Production post-1960
In the late 1960's, a number of European automobile manufacturers established facilities in South Africa to assemble right hand drive vehicles for
the Commonwealth markets. Fiat and other Italian manufacturers established factories along with these other manufacturers in Uitenhage, outside
of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.
With the imposition of sanctions by western powers in the 1970's and 1980's, South Africa became self sufficient, and in car production came to
rely more and more on the products of the Uitenhage factories. In consequence, production levels increased, and many manufacturers including
Fiat Spa., Lancia, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo transferring all their right-hand drive production to Uitenhage. Volkswagen AG, Daimler Benz AG and
BMW AG followed suit at about this time.
Since then, all right-hand-drive production of Alfa Romeo (and most other European manufacturers) remains in Uitenhage - so that RHD European
cars are actually South African in origin, or else have their steering and dashboard assemblies produced there.