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Alfa Romeo Company History

Published: 24th Mar 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo Archive

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In 1910 this famous company was named A.L.F.A (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili) and produced its first model, the 24 HP. As WW1 broke out, businessman Nicola Romeo who specialised in making pumps and compressors for the Army – took the company over in 1915, so the name ‘Romeo’ was added to the original ‘Alfa’, thus creating one of the most evocative brands of the last 100 years. The arrival of designer and engineer Vittorio Jano in 1923 with pivotal to the company who started moving away from small production runs of heavy, large and expensive pre-war cars, and enthusiastically embraced the concept of mid-sized sporty models.

Despite success Alfa was still in financial trouble (so what’s new?-ed) Help came from the Government, in the form of IRI (Istituto di Ricostruzione Industriale – Institute of Industrial Reconstruction), which took over the management in 1933. The ‘30s were years of attempts by Alfa Romeo to enter mass-market production. During the war the Portello factory was destroyed. Afterwards, the long, slow and painful process of picking up the pieces (literally), restarting the business and rebuilding cars took some time. The Government was determined that the steady flow of unemployed should be stopped, and a bright future for

Alfa Romeo also meant no redundancies. The aim was to create a model which would be simple and full of the Alfa Romeo sporty personality, but at the same time cheap enough to appeal to a large number of buyers. The Alfa 1900 was such a car. Some compromises were sought but the 1900 fulfilled its scope, by keeping things afloat, yet it was with the arrival of the Giulietta in 1954 that Alfa Romeo’s true reason of being and philosophy of life was embodied. Giulietta’s successor, the Alfa Giulia, also came in different versions, like the Sprint GT and the Spider Duetto. Giulia GTA (‘A’ stands for ‘alleggerita’ – lightweight) was introduced in 1965, and won in all the big races, including three European Touring Car Championships. As production increased, the factory was moved to Arese, near Milan, and a private test track was acquired in Balocco.

A decade later a new factory was created in Pomigliano D’Arco, near Naples in Southern Italy, where a smaller car, the Alfasud (where ‘sud’ stands for ‘South’) was built. It was joined by the Alfetta in the same year. An unfortunate joint venture with Nissan gave birth to one of the lesser Alfas, the Arna (Alfa Romeo Nissan Autoveicoli) in 1983. The Arna is one of the very few models that Alfa Romeo would rather were forgotten!

After rumours about a Ford buy-out the public-owned car manufacturer was sold to Fiat in 1986. After a few years of models such as Alfa 155, based on the Fiat Tipo’s chassis, and engines coming out of the factory and dropped into Alfa cars whilst still bearing the Fiat badges, the parent company realised that a true separate identity was really needed. This started an intensive programme of re-invention and hard work to make sure that Alfa models retained the personality that the public had come to expect over the years. This ‘regeneration’ period started with the arrival of Alfa 145 and 146 in 1994 (which joined Alfa’s flagship, the 164), continued with GTV and Spider, and culminated with superb Alfa 156, 166 and the Brera. The good times were now truly back!

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