ALFA ROMEO - Italian

Written in 1963

SINCE the first world war, a wide range of cars has left the Alfa-Romeo factory at Portello near Milan. Most of these have been excellent, some indifferent, but none dull. Faults there have been, but positive rather than negative ones. Few makes have such a long and consistently successful racing history. The foundations of the company go back to 1906, when Alexandre Darracq decided to find a further outlet for his cars, by introducing them to the Italian public (the make was already well established in England) and a factory was opened at Naples. Components were brought here from the parent factory at Suresnes and assembled by local labour, but the project was beset by a multitude of difficulties, arising mainly from the scarcity of skilled labour and political and economic problems. In 1910 Darracq cut his losses and sold out to a group of Italian business men.

The factory was moved to Portello and the company reformed under the title "Anomina Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili," hence the abbreviated "Alfa". At this stage the company's products were known as A.L.F.A. and were distinguished by a badge, the left half of which showed the cross of St. George and the right half, a coiled serpent; this symbolized the Saracen Red Ensign, which had been captured by a Milanese force during the Crusades. In 1910 the company produced two new models, the 15/20 touring car, with a 4-cylinder side-valve engine of 2,413 cc (80 x 120 mm), a 4-speed gearbox and open coachwork and the basically similar 20/30 model with 4,084 cc (100 x 130 mm) engine. Cars were entered for the Targa Florio in 1911 and 1912, but retired with engine trouble both years. The range was supplemented in 1913 by the even larger 40/60 with an engine of 6,082 cc (110 x 160 mm) in the same chassis and the following year a sporting version of the 20/30 was marketed. A 4t-litre Grand Prix car with a 4-cylinder engine of 100 x 143 mm was also built in 1914, but it is not known to have achieved any success.

Nicola Romeo, a noted railway engineer, was placed in control of the company in 1914, but for the duration of the war the company's resources were devoted to a wide range of engineering work, including the manufacture of Isotta Fraschini aero engines. In 1919 the company was reorganised under the title "Alfa-Romeo" and the first new model appeared in 1921. This was the ES20/30, which had a 4-cylinder engine of 4,250 cc (102 x 130 mm) and two of these cars finished first and second in their class in the 1921 Targa Florio. The following year a team of four finished 4th, 9th, 11th and 16th overall driven by Antonio Ascari (father of Alberto), Sirocci, Enzo Ferrari and Campari.

Another new model introduced at this time was the Tipo G 1, a large touring car with a 6-cylinder engine of 6,597 cc (100 x 140 mm), but this was superseded in 1923 by the Tipo G2, with a redesigned engine of 6,330 cc (98 x 140 mm). Neither of these models was a great success, as they were ponderous beasts with inadequate roadholding and insufficient performance (top speed around 70 mph) for the high price and heavy fuel consumption; it should be remembered that Lancia, Bentley and Vauxhall, among others, were offering commodious coachwork and better performance from smaller and more efficient engines.

A much better car, the RLT 21/70 was also marketed in 1923; this had a 6-cyliflder 2,991 cc (75 x 110 mm) push-rod ohv engine, developing 56 bhp at 3,200 rpm and a top speed of around 70 mph. Later the same year a faster version, with more sporting inclinations as added. This was the RLS, with a shorter wheelbase, the engine bored out to 76 mm, twin Solex carburettors and developed 71 bhp at 3,500 rpm. It was a very pleasant and fast car, with excellent road manners: but like its contemporary, the Lancia Lambda, the gear ratios were unsuitable for British roads; so the British concessionaires were obliged to offer closer ratio constant mesh pinions for this model and its immediate successors. An RLS model was driven by Antonio Ascari into second place in the 1923 Targa Florio, but the race was won by an old 20/30 model driven by Sirocci. In 1925 the RL Super Sports 22/70 with power output raised to 83 bhp at 3,600 rpm was introduced and this had a top speed of over 80 mph. It would accelerate from 10 to 60 mph in third gear in 14 seconds and was capable of 65 mph in this ratio. The RLSS was distinguished by a most imposing V-shaped radiator. Prices in the UK ranged from £695 for the bare chassis to £995 for the special sports tourer. Some examples intended for competition work had a seven bearing crankshaft and raised compression ratio and there was also produced in small numbers a 4-cylinder 1,996 cc version known as the RM.

The company well appreciated that the best advertisement for a sports car was an impressive competition record. The next step, therefore, was the construction of a Grand Prix car and this was ready for the 1923 Italian Grand Prix. It was called the PI and with a 6-cylinder 1,990 cc engine and Vane type supercharger developed some 110 bhp. The roadholding was decidedly deficient and when Sirocci was killed in a practice crash, the team was withdrawn. Vittorio Jano, who had been with Fiat since 1911 and who was responsible for the 1954-5 Grand Prix Lancia, was persuaded to change his allegiance and evolve a successor to the PI. The new P2 was of very advanced design, and the 1,987 cc (61 x 85 mm) 16-valve straight-eight engine had the cylinders welded up in four blocks of two (in accordance with Fiat practice), the big ends and mains ran in roller bearings and there was a Roots type supercharger. Output was estimated to be 135 bhp at 5,500 rpm and the chassis had an 8 ft 6 in wheelbase. During its first season, it won the Circuit of Cremona and the Italian and French Grands Prix and in 1925 the Championship of the World against strong opposition from Delage, Bugatti and Sunbeam. Since then the company's badge has been surrounded by a laurel wreath. For 1925 the P2 had been considerably improved and now developed 170 bhp at 6,000 rpm. Riding mechanics were no longer carried, so the bodywork was slimmer and lighter. Victories included the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix, but in the French event, held on the Montlhery road circuit, Antonio Ascari, when in the lead, lost control on a bend, the car overturned and the driver was tragically killed, trapped beneath it. The Alfa-Romeo team was withdrawn, permitting the V12 Delages to finish first and second. By a curious coincidence, Delage was unable to run at Monza, nor did Alfa-Romeo appear at San Sebastian for the Spanish Gra Prix, so each was assured of a comfortable win in the absen of their closest rival. The capacity limit for Grand Prix cars was reduced to I.5litres in 1926 and Alfa Romeo declined to take part.

To revert to production cars, Jano produced a very beautifully constructed I.5 litre model, designated the. 6C, which was put into production in 1927. The 1,487 cc (62 x 82 mm) 6-cylinder engine had a five-bearing crankshaft and the single overhead camshaft was driven from the rear by a vertical shaft and bevels. The engine was largely of aluminium alloy construction and mated to a 4-speed gearbox. Suspension was by semi-elliptic springs all round. Power output was 44 bhp at 4,200 rpm. With a top speed of 70 mph, 60 available in third and an overall fuel consumption of around 25 mpg, the performance was very satisfactory for a I.5litre car. However, a year later a twin overhead camshaft version, the 6C "1500," developing 54 bhp at 4,500 rpm was introduced and the range was further extended the same year by the addition of a supercharged version, the 6C "1500" Super Sport; in the latter model, the engine was moved 15 in further back in the frame and the Roots type blower operated at 5 lb per. sq in, giving 76 bhp at 4,800 rpm and a top speed of over 90 mph. One of these cars driven by Ramponi a Campari won the 1928 Mille Miglia and cars entered by the British concessionaires scored a string of successes, including wins by Ramponi in the 1928 Essex MC Six-hour race and the 1929 Junior Car Club Double-Twelve, both at Brooklands.

An exceedingly successful version of the 6C appeared in 1930 with the engine enlarged to 1,750 cc (65 x 88 mm). Development followed the same pattern as for the 1500, the initial model, the 6C "1750" Turismo, having a single overhead camshaft and producing 45 bhp at 4,000 rpm. This was followed by the Gran Turismo, a twin-earn version developing 55 bhp at 4,400 rpm and the supercharged Gran Sport, which had a top speed close to 100 mph. As with the 1500 series, the un supercharged cars were normally fitted with touring coachwork and the blown versions were usually sports 2-seaters. Chassis design was identical to the 1500 cars and it is worth mentioning that the supercharger fitted to both series was of Alfa-Romeo manufacture. Weight varied according to coachwork fitted, but an average sports 2-seater had a dry weight of around 16 cwt. Perhaps the most attractive feature was the superb finish, of the chassis and engine and truly delightful sounds were made by the whine of the straight-cut gears and the howl of the supercharger. Springing was exceptionally harsh by British standards. The 6C won innumerable races, including the 1929 Mille Miglia (Campari) and the 1929 Irish Grand Prix (Ivanowski) in prototype form and the first three places in the 1930 Tourist Trophy (Nuvolari, Campari ana Varzi).

For 1929-30 the Grand Prix regulations were of a rather peculiar nature. There were no restrictions on engine capacity, butthere were fuel and oil consumption limits and bodies had to be of 2-seater type, with spare wheel and a non-streamlined uncovered fuel tank. The inevitable result was that most races were run on a formule libre basis and the more powerful sports cars, such as the Bentley 4.5-litre, frequently ran. For these two seasons, the P2s had the dust covers removed and were raced in rebuilt form. Although they scored a considerable number of wins on home territory, they were unsuccessful in foreign events. However, the company was busy with the production of a wide range of industrial machinery, as well as car manufacture and it was unable to devote any substantial effort to racing. It was therefore decided to place the whole of the racing material at the disposal of Enzo Ferrari and in late 1929 Scuderia Ferrari was formed with premises at Modena. Design and development of racing cars remained at the factory in the capable hands of Jano.

Their national rivals, Maserati, had had an extremely successful season in 1930 with a new 2.5-litre straight-eight car and this, with pressure from Mussolini, induced Alfa to proceed with a new racing design. The Grand Prix regulations 1931-3 were formule libre, but 2-seater bodies had to be fitted, although no riding mechanic was carried, and the minimum race distance was ten hours. The new Alfa-Romeo evolved by Jano to meet these requirements was the 8C; this had a 2,336 cc (65 x 88 mm) straight-eight engine cast in two blocks of four cylinders, with the gear train, which drove the supercharger, oil and water pumps and the divided twin overhead camshafts between them. The supercharger operated at a pressure of 10 lb per sq in and at a compression ratio of 6.2: 1, the 8C initially developed 160 bhp at 5,400 rpm, but this was later increased to 190 bhp. Although designed from the outset as a racing car, the 8C was developed into an exceptionally successful sports car and its first competition appearance was in the Mille Miglia. Although both cars retired in this race, they won the Italian Grand Prix, this victory giving the model its unofficial title of "Monza."

A further racing Alfa-Romeo, the Tipo A, appeared in 1931 with a view to taking full advantage of the free formula. on those circuits where power was of more importance than roadholding. Two 1,750 cc engines were mounted in a 9 ft 6 in wheelbase chassis, each engine. having its own half of the radiator, separate lubrication, clutch, gearbox and final drive unit. There were separate, but linked gearchanges, one each side of the driver. Weight was 20 cwt and with an estimated total power output of 250 bhp and 3: 1 rear axle ratios, top speed was in the region of 160 mph. Two such cars were entered for the 1931 Italian Grand Prix, but Arcangeli was killed in practice, when he lost control on a fast bend.

The car had suffered only slight damage and under pressure from higher authority and with very little confidence in the controllability of these monsters, Alfa-Romeo ran the two cars with Nuvolari and Campari as drivers. It was perhaps fortuitous that both retired with mechanical trouble. Although the Tipo A ran subsequently in several other events, it never achieved any success and was quietly dropped.

Development of the 8C as a sports car was continuing and prototype works cars won the 1931 Targa Florio (Nuvolari), while at Le Mans, Earl Howe and Tim Birkin won, with a 7-litre Mercedes in second place, covering a record 1,875 miles at an average of 78 mph, compared with 76 mph for the winning Speed Six Bentley of Barnato and Kidston in 1930. Alfa-Romeo again won at Le Mans in 1932, '33 and '34 and when Lagonda broke the run of victories in 1935, an Alfa was second. In addition an Alfa-Romeo won the Targa Florio ~very year from 1931 to 1935. In 1932 the 8C sports car was put into production and was available in three forms :-the Le Mans with a 10 ft 2 in wheelbase and usually, full 4-seater touring coachwork, the Mille Miglia with a 9 ft wheelbase and 2-seater sports coachwork and the Monza, which was a full competition model with an 8 ft wheelbase and a more highly tuned engine. In a sense the 8C was analogous to the contem­porary Bugatti, for it represented traditional design taken to its finest and most logical conclusion. It was certainly built to exceptionally high standards and the chassis price was in the region of £1,700. The Mille Miglia had a top speed in excess of 110 mph and could accelerate from 20 to 80 mph in top gear in fractionally under 20 seconds-but at the expense of a fuel consumption of 13-14mpg. The Monza was a completely tractable road car, but it was also capable of winning a Grand Prix and naturally the number of these sold to the public was severely restricted. The 8C 2300 was produced in three series, but the differences were of a minor nature. In due course the, Mille Miglia and Monza models were available with an engine of increased bore (69 mm) giving a capacity of 2,632 cc.

In 1932 the minimum distance for a Grand Prix was reduced to five hours and single-seater bodywork was now permitted. Although the 8C was still winning races, lano produced a completely redesigned version, which was to become one of the world's most famous racing cars. The Tipo B 2600 (often erroneously referred to as the P3) retained the straight-eight engine layout, but it had an alloy block with steel liners and a capacity of 2,654 cc (65 x 100 mm). Twin superchargers were mounted on each side of the gear train operating at a pressure of 10 lb per sq.~in.rPower output was 180 bhp at 5,400 rpm and with a dry weight of just over 15 cwt and a high axle ratio, top speed was in excess of 140 mph. The chassis was narrower and the frontal area smaller than the 8C and a quick-change final drive unit was fitted. The Tipo B was an immediate success, winning the Italian Grand Prix on its first appearance. One example came to England in 1934, when considered outdated by the works, but it was a persistent winner in the hands of the Hon Brian Lewis.

The Grand Prix formula was revised for 1934 and there were the following three restrictions: (1) dry weight was limited to 750 kilogrammes (14.73 cwt); this was with the intention of indirectly restricting engine size and was based on the standards of the three principal contenders, Alfa-Romeo, Maserati and Bugatti, all of whom used engines of under 3-litres. The Association International des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (the then controlling body) little realised how Mercedes and Auto-Union would upset the apple-cart! (2) the bodywork must consist of a minimum cross-sectional area of 85 x 25 cm at the driving seat. (3) all formula races should be over a minimum distance of 310 miles. Certain changes were made to the Tipo B. Wheelbase and track were both lengthened and the bore was enlarged to 68 mm giving a capacity of 2,905 cc. To comply with the regulations the body was widened and extended beyond the chassis frame. Although Alfa-Romeo got off to a good start to the season with wins at Monaco and Alessandria, while Mercedes and Auto-Union were sorting out teething troubles, the season finished with the Alfa score sheet looking decidedly sickly. During the winter of 1934 a streamlined version of the W25 Mercedes covered the flying kilometre at 197 mph and Alfa-Romeo responded with a gallant 199 mph for the flying mile. While Bugatti and Maserati became absorbed with an unexpected interest in smaller classes of racing, Alfa- Romeo continued to put all their effort into the Grand Prix against the German might. A revised version of the Tipo B was introduced for 1935; this had an engine increased in size to 3.2 litres (72 mm bore). Dubonnet-type independent front suspension was adopted and the change was made from mechanical to hydraulic brakes. But the new Mercedes had an engine of 4.3-litres developing 445 bhp and the situation was more hopeless than ever.

In the meanwhile production had ceased in 1934 of the incomparable 1,750 cc and 2.3-litre models and they had been replaced by the Tipo 6C 2300, joined the following year by the 6C 2300B. These were of more advanced design than their predecessors, but were simpler to maintain and had a much wider general appeal. Power unit was a 6-cylinder twin overhead camshaft 2,309 cc (70 x 100 rom) engine coupled to 4-speed gearbox, with, to the consternation of enthusiasts, synchromesh on third and top gears and a rather unpleasant ball-gate gear lever. There was independent suspension on all four wheels, with twin trailing links and torsion bars at the front and swing axles and torsion bars at the rear. Wheelbase was 10 ft 8 in or 9 ft 10 in. Rather ugly saloon coachwork was generally fitted and the traditional radiator had given way to a slatted grille. The shorter wheelbase model was available as the "Pescara" sports 2-seater with twin carburettors and the 2300B was a twin carburettor version of the saloon models.

Enzo Ferrari was still struggling in 1935 with the Tipo B, which now had an engine enlarged to 3.8 litres and the chassis redesigned. Independent front suspension was now by a pair of trailing arms at each wheel, oper~ting on an oil-bath enclosed vertical coil spring. At the rear there was transverse leaf swing-axle suspension and the gearbox was in unit with the final drive. This chassis was to be used with the new V12 4-litre engine, which Ferrari was impatiently awaiting. The 3.8-litre model was grossly underpowered compared with the German teams, but Tazio Nuvolari having perhaps his bestever drive defeated the combined Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union teams on their own territory. This was in the 1935 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, where he won over a 312 mile distance at an average speed of 75.24 mph. Apart from this and Nuvolari's second place in the Italian Grand Prix, Alfa-Romeo had a very dismal year.

In order to take advantage of the one or two major Grands Prix still run under formule libre, Ferrari conceived a twin engined version of the Tipo B. Two engines were mounted, one at the front, one at the rear of the frame and were coupled to a central gearbox with drive to the rear wheels and with pannier fuel tanks along either side. Although they were very fast (Nuvolari covered the flying mile in one at 200.73 mph), their handling was very poor and this severely affected tyre wear. However Nuvolari took one into second place in the Tripoli Grand Prix and was fourth at Avus. Two cars were built, one with 2.9-litre engines and the second with two 3.2-litre units, the latter having a total power output close to 540 bhp. One of these cars was purchased in 1937 by Austin Dobson, who raced it with limited success at Brooklands and Donington Park, but he subsequently sold it to the Hon Peter Aitken. This driver completely rebuilt it, removing the rear engine and adding a new body and an ENV pre-selector gearbox. It was henceforth known as the Alfa-Aitken. The other Tipo B, which came to this country, was also completely rebuilt mechanically and fitted with a body similar to the contemporary Mercedes. This was the Multi-Union which lapped Brooklands at 140 mph with a holed piston and unlike the Alfa-Aitken is known to still exist.

For 1936 Alfa-Romeo had ready their new 4,064 cc (70 x 88 mm) V12 engine, for which there were great hopes. This was known as the Tipo 12C36, when fitted to the improved Tipo B chassis. From time to time, however, the 3.8-litre engine, which now had a single supercharger was used instead. Although Nuvolari occasionally won on the more tortuous circuits, in general Alfa-Romeo was completely outclassed. Some comparison of speeds may be taken from the fact that on one circuit Auto-Union were timed at 183 mph, as against 152 mph for the V12 Alfa-Romeo. In 1937 the power output of the W125 Mercedes was 600 bhp, while Alfa-Romeo could not induce the V12 to give more than 370 bhp at 5,800 rpm, although it had been stretched to 4,500 cc (72 x 92 mm). Before the season was over Alfa-Romeo quietly withdrew and Nuvolari went to join Auto-Union.

The obsolescence of the Tipo B had left Alfa-Romeo with a stock of some thirty unused engines and the company utilised these in a sports model known as the 8C2900B. For this very exciting road car, the engines were slightly detuned and were available in a chassis of 9 ft 2.5 in or 9 ft 10in wheelbase with aerodynamic 2-seater coachwork. Specification of the engine was as for the Grand Prix cars, with twin superchargers and Weber carburettors and chassis design was similar to that of the 6C2300. The 4-speed gearbox was in unit with the final drive and there was a twin plate clutch of very much in or out action. Price in the United Kingdom, dependent on the coachwork fitted, was some £3,000 and the maker's claimed speed was 115 mph. However it was a simple matter to restore the engine to full Grand Prix tune, when 130 mph was available. The car with which Biondetti and Stefani won the 1938 Mille Miglia was brought as a demonstrator to the London Motor Show that year. It was subsequently purchased by Hugh Hunter, who lapped Brooklands at 123 mph with it and it was later sold to Tony Crook. It is believed that six of these exotic cars were imported to this country, but all have now been sold in the USA.

The 2300B model remained in production until the outbreak of war in 1940, but was joined in 1938 by the 2300C, which was available in long and short chassis forms, and as the "Mille Miglia" sports model had a top speed of close to 100 mph. A version with engine enlarged to 2,443 cc (72 x 100 mm), the series 6C2500 was also added to the range in 1938 in three forms, Turismo, Sport and Super Sport. By this time the pattern of modern styling had been set and the saloon versions were fitted with gracefully curved and aerodynamic coachwork, which was a little on the heavy side, but gave the company an established, and modern car, to reintroduce after the war.

The Grand Prix formula for 1938-40 was changed to one based on engine size, with a minimum dry weight of 850 kg and a minimum body width of 85 cm. Engine capacity was limited to 3,000 cc (supercharged) and 4,500. cc, where no supercharger was fitted. Alfa-Romeo were obliged to scrap the expensively developed 4-litre V12 engine and produced three different power units, all of which were fitted to an improved Tipo B chassis, with a more aerodynamic body and sloping air-intake grille. The new engines were a 2,991 cc (69 x 100 mm) eight-cylinder unit, developing 300 bhp, a 2,997 cc (63 x 73 mm) V12 developing 320 bhp and finally a 2,959 cc (58 x 70 mm) V16 developing 350 bhp. These models were typed 8C308, 12C312 and 16C316 respectively. Power output in each case was developed at 6,000 rpm and all three engines were supercharged. Maserati, Bugatti, Talbot and Delahaye also built cars to comply with the formula, but the W154 3-litre Mercedes developed 420 bhp, in its initial form and it was abundantly clear that French and Italian engineering techniques were far less advanced than those of the Fatherland. It should also be mentioned that whilst AutoUnion and Mercedes-Benz received, indirectly, vast State subsidies, the French constructors received none and Mussolini's assistance was but a pittance in comparison. Alfa-Romeo had now resumed racing on their own behalf under the name "Alfa Corse," but apart from occasional luck when the German teams suffered mechanical failure, no success came their way and in late 1938 they decided to build a car for voiturette racing.

Gioacho Colombo, who had been Jano's assistant and who was to be responsible for the early post-war V12 Ferraris, designed this model, designated the Tipo 158, but more usually nicknamed "Alfetta." Independent front susp~nsion was by trailing links at the front and swing-axles at the rear and the 4-speed gearbox was in unit with the final drive. The straight-eight engine had a capacity of 1,479 cc (58 x 70 mm) and consisted virtually of one bank of the abortive V 16 design. Power output was 190 bhp at 6,500 rpm. At its first appearance at Leghorn in 1938, Emilio Villoresi and Biondetti was first and second against negligible opposition. But the publicity was good-all augured well for 1939. A roller bearing crankshaft was' now used and power output had increased to 225 bhp at 7,500 rpm.

The 1939 Italian Grand Prix at Tripoli was held under Italian National rules and was, therefore, limited to 1,500cc and Alfa-Romeo felt assured of victory. To the Italian team's astonishment, Mercedes produced the I.5-litre W165 model, developing 260 bhp at 8,500 rpm and finished first and second ahead of E. Villoresi. A further blow was received shortly afterwards when Villoresi was killed while practising at Monza. Nevertheless a considerable number of wins were scored in voiturette races and Giuseppe Farina held second place at Berne for a short while against the big boys. Alfa Romeo's last race, before Italy entered the war in 1940, was the Tripoli Grand Prix and Alfa finished first, second, fourth and fifth.

During the war, the Alfa-Romeo factory was completely destroyed by bombing, but nevertheless by 1946 the 6C2500 model was back in production and the Tipo 158 was once again ready to race. This now had twin-stage supercharging and developed 265 bhp at 7,500 rpm and in due course this was raised to 310 bhp. Alfa-Romeo, supported by the 4CLT Maserati and the new Colombo-designed V12 It-litre Ferrari, were well in command of the situation, with an occasional place going to tne Lago- Talbot and ERA. At the end of the 1948 season, Alfa, aware that the Tipo 158 was reaching ultimate pitch of development, withdrew from racing. As serious opposition materialised in 1949, they re-entered racing in 1950 and with a minimum of effort resumed their predominant position in Grand Prix racing. As the result of considerable experiment with superchargers, exhaust systems and porting, the "Alfetta" now developed 350 bhp at 8,500 rpm and was typed the "159." But by the end of the season, Ferrari had sorted out most of the snags in his new Lampredi designed 4.5-litre cars and these could virtually equal the Alfa lap times. This meant an intense rivalry between the two teams, which in 1951 raised Grand Prix racing right out of the doldrums.

By 1951 the Tipo 159 was developing no less than 405 bhp at 10,500 rpm on the test bed, and it is believed that under race conditions around 390 bhp at 9,000 rpm could be sustained for short periods. A de Dion rear axle was introduced, which improved roadholding to a slight degree, although the swing axle suspension was still used in some races. Side fuel tanks, which increased the capacity to 75 gallons, were also tried, but when these were full the handling was affected. This was a desperate resort to combat refuelling problems, as the 159 was now consuming fuel at the rate of 1 t miles per gallon. At the end of the 1951 season, Alfa could still claim to be "Campione del Mondo," but only just, for they won four Grandes Epreuves out of seven entered, the Swiss, Spanish, Belgian and European (at Rheims) events, the other three, the British, Italian and German Grands Prix, being won by Ferrari. This was the great era of Italian drivers, Farina, Sanesi and Fagioli driving for Alfa, Ascari and Villoresi for Ferrari, while the former team also had Fangio and the latter, Gonzales. At this stage Alfa-Romeo decided to rest on their laurels and withdrew from Grand Prix racing. Indeed apart from the 3.5 litre six-cylinder Disco Volante sports-racing car, no Alfa has been built specifically for racing since that time.

The Disco Volante achieved mixed results in sports car events. Fangio won the 1953 Supercortemaggiore Cup and finished second to Marzotto's Ferrari in the Mille Miglia that year after leading the race until the last 200 miles, when he was slowed by a steering defect, only one. wheel being steered, the other wobbling uncontrollably. All three cars retired at Le Mans, Fangio/Marimon with gearbox trouble and Sanesi/ Carini and Kling/Riess with back axle failure, although they had held second and third places early in the race. The Disco Volante was not produced for resale, but one car with special fixed head coupe coachwork was sold to President Peron of the Argentine. An ex-works car was bought by Joakim Bonnier, who achieved a number of good placings and this car was driven in the British Empire Trophy by the late Ken Wharton.

Although the 2500 model remained in production until 53, it was joined and eventually superseded by the 1900, which was introduced for the 1951 season. This was designed by Alessio and had a 1,884 cc (82.55 x 88 mm) 4-cylinder chain-driven twin overhead camshaft engine developing 80 bhp at 4,800 rpm. The 1900 was a sporting saloon, very much in the modern idiom, with integrally constructed steel body and chassis. Front suspension was by coil springs and wishbones and at the rear there was a rigid axle on coil springs and located by a Panhard rod. The standard body was a 4-door 5-seater saloon, but there were also separate-chassis versions available, the "1900L," which was mechanically identical with the standard saloon and the" 1900C," which had a 100 bhp motor and wire wheels. These were available with a wide selection of coachwork by such builders as Farina and Ghia, and as with most Italian chassis, a vast assortment of "one-offs" and specialist versions were built.

A much faster standard saloon model was added to the range in 1953 and this made its initial appearance in the Tour of Sicily. The model was designated the TI (Turismo Internazionale)-the name of the category in Italian sports car rules for which the cars was conceived. Modifications included twin Solex down draught carburettors, a new light alloy cylinder head with larger valves and stronger valve springs, twin exhausts and improved manifolding. Standard power output was 99 bhp at 5,500 rpm and top speed was in the region of 105 mph. However it was considered that the engine could be tuned to produce over 120 bhp at 6,000 rpm and in this form Lorraine Dubonnet completed 20 laps at Montlhery at an average speed of 108 mph, with a fastest lap of 114.9 mph.

In 1955 both the standard. and TI models were supplanted by the 1900 Super, which had an increased bore of 84.5 mm (1,975 cc) and developed 90 bhp at 5,200 rpm. Top speed was just over 100 mph and if it was not quite as hot as the TI, there was the compensation that the engine lost its tune less readily. At the same time, the 1900C was given the larger engine, which in this form developed 115 bhp at 5,500 rpm and was henceforth known as the "Super Sprint." The 1900C had a shorter, 8 ft 2.5 in wheelbase and was usually fitted with very handsome Superleggera coachwork by Carrozzeria Touring. The engine and radiator were mounted 2 in lower in the chassis than the standard model and appearance was closely akin to that of the Giulietta. From 1955 a 5-speed gearbox was fitted, incorporating an overdrive top gear.

The 1900 was withdrawn from production in 1958, but its successor, the 2000 was identical in most respects and can be' regarded as a stop-gap until the introduction of the current 2600 range. Two. basic versions of the 2000 were offered: the standard 4/5 seater. saloon with Alfa-Romeo bodywork and an bpen spider by Touring. The 8 ft 2.5 in wheelbase and 5 speed gearbox were standardized and there was a choice of 100 and 112 bhp engines.

It was in late 1954 that the small Giulietta model was announced, but it did not enter production until 1955. Design followed similar lines to that of the 1900, incorporating a 4-cylinder chain-driven overhead camshaft engine of 1,290 cc (74 x 75 mm) running in five main bearings and developing, in its initial form, 60 bhp at 5,500 rpm.Since then the power unit has been extensively developed and in its most advanced form gives an output of twice this figure with reliability. Front suspension was by coil springs and wishbones and a rigid rear axle was retained at the rear. The excellent roadholding of the Giulietta indicates that independent rear suspension is not essential to achieve good results, if the rigid axle is properly designed and located. Early Giuliettas had a rather unsatisfactory gearbox, but this has been eliminated on later cars by the substitution of a new gearbox with Porsche-type baulk ring synchromesh on all gears. Until recently one of the biggest snags has been that the Giulietta was available with left hand drive only, but this has since been rectified as far as the saloon models are concerned. This has not been possible with the Sprint and Sprint Veloce models, as the engine is canted eight degrees to the left, principally to accommodate the Weber carburettors and to transpose the steering column would mean introducing several universals. However, the problems have now been overcome by Rudds of Worthing, who offer an ingenious and thoroughly practical conversion for all models.

The distinctions between the various models are set out in the accompanying table, but it is interesting to note the excellent performance of these cars. The Giulietta Sprint Veloce has a top speed in excess of 110 mph with 55 and 85 mph available in second and third gears. Acceleration from 0-60 mph takes around 12 seconds. In comparison the TI saloon has a top speed of just under 100 mph and can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 18 seconds with 70 mph possible in third gear. These fine performances are not achieved by virtu of flimsy construction or exceptionally good aerodynamics, but rather as the result of an excellent power output.

In July 1962 all versions except the TI saloon were fitted with an enlarged engine of 1,570 cc (78 x 82 mm) and a 5-speed gearbox, the 5th gear being a geared-up-overdrive (previously standard on the Sprint Speciale and SZ models). The model was renamed "Giulia" and a completely restyled 1,570 cc Giulia Tl saloon was added to the range. This has recently been supplemented by a lighter "Super" version, with the same power output as the faster sports versions. The latest model is the Bertone styled Sprint GT model, which was shown at Frankfurt and which is to be available with rhd. Mention should also be made of the Giulia TZ, which, unlike its predecessor the SZ, is not simply a Sprint Veloce clothed in a lightweight Zagato body, but has a pmlti-tubular space frame and independent rear suspension. The TZ is principally a competition car and only a couple of dozen have been built.

Undoubtedly the Giulietta and its successors have been among the most exciting and satisfactory small cars produced since the war. Quality of construction is high and as a result they weigh a little more than some of their rivals. Although this is of little account in normal road use, they have been at some disadvantage in track events, where the much lighter Lotus Elite and larger-engined Porsche have in general proved more successful.

Perhaps the most significant new Alfa-Romeo since the super has been the 2600 model introduced in 1962. The power unit is an entirely new 6-cylinder twin overhead camshaft design incorporating many lessons learned in the development of the 1900 and Giulietta models. Details of power output and body design are given in the accompanying table, but it is worth noting that although a 5-speed gearbox is standardized, a rigid rear axle is retained. It is because of three main virtues, performance, good styling and, in the case of the Berlina or saloon, excellent carrying capacity that the 2600 has been such an outstanding success. In Switzerland it is far more numerous than either Mercedes or Jaguar, but Alfa-Romeo has long been popular in that country; even in Germany the vast Daimler- Benz concern has shown anxiety at the inroad made into its market by the 2600. In this country the 2600 Berlina costs £2,271 and the other models rather more, so that import duty and purchase tax make it available only to the affluent.

Although with the introduction of the 6C 2300 model in 1934, Alfa became as mass-produced as most other makes and although it is unlikely that enthusiasts will again gladden to the exhaust note of a Grand Prix car from this factory, the marque still shows vigorous activity in production car events and doubtless Alfa-Romeo will build cars with a distinctive specification and excellent performance for many more years.

Just for the record it should be mentioned that since the beginning of 1963, the concessionaires for Alfa-Romeo cars have been Alfa-Romeo (GB) Ltd, a subsidiary wholly owned by the Italian company. Thompson and Taylor (Brooklands) Ltd are now area distributors and Chipstead Motors Ltd are the London distributors. Their predecessors in this role, S.Morris & Co Ltd, remain dealers for the make.

Author: ArchitectPage

Alfa Romeo 15/20 built 1912 in competition trim
Alfa Romeo GP car 1914
Alfa Romeo 20/40 built 1910
Alfa Romeo 20/30 built 1913 with aerodynamic body
Alfa Romeo 21/70 torpedo body
Alfa Romeo P1 1927
Alfa Romeo P2 1924
Alfa Romeo 22/70 RLSS
Alfa Romeo 2 litre RLSS
Alfa Romeo 6C1750
Alfa Romeo Tipo B2600 P3
Alfa Romeo 6C1750 open 2 seater
Alfa Romeo 8C2900B 1938 Mille Migilia
Alfa Romeo 12C36 Tipo B
Alfa Romeo 6C2300
Alfa Romeo 6C2500 1940
Alfa Romeo 6C2500 military version
Alfa Romeo 1900 model Farina body
Alfa Romeo 159
Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Super 1963