There's an old saying, "there's nothing permanent in this world except change". This is especially true when it comes to one of the oldest car brands in the world--Alfa Romeo.
Founded in 1910, Alfa is responsible for building some of the most famous race cars ever – like the Alfetta, the car that won the first World Manufacturers' Championship.
But how much do you actually know about this storied Italian company? Well, here are 10 interesting facts about Alfa Romeo.
Enzo Ferrari Once Worked For Alfa Romeo
The whole story is fairly complicated, but did you know Enzo Ferrari himself ran the Alfa Romeo racing team for about 20 years? His world-famous prancing horse logo even appeared on their cars. IT'S TRUE!
Enzo Ferrari gained control of Alfa Romeo in the early 1920s and slowly began to pursue his passion for racing within the company. By 1923, he was running the racing team "Scuderia Ferrari" himself, and by 1932, Alfa Romeo was winning at a more frequent pace.
It wasn't until the 1930s that Alfa Romeo was seen as a threat to Mercedes, with the two carmakers dueling throughout the decade.
Eventually, Enzo Ferrari was forced to leave Alfa Romeo in 1939 the same year that Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini passed laws that tuned Alfa Romeo into a state-owned company.
As politics ensued in the company's running, Enzo stated that he had driven his last race car. However, Enzo Ferrari's racing career was far from over. Shortly after World War II, Enzo Ferrari founded the Ferrari company. Learn more about Ferrari's fascinating history here.
One of The Most Iconic Alfa Romeo Racers
Tazio Nuvolari is easily one of the best and most daring racers to sit behind the wheels of an Alfa Romeo.
After winning some difficult races in the early 1930s, Tazio faced his biggest challenge yet. He had to race against the almost obscenely powerful German machines during the 1935, German GP.
Despite being in a car (a three-year-old Alfa Romeo P3) that many considered outclassed by the German racers, Nuvolari was victorious, marking another significant milestone in Alfa Romeo's racing history.
The Nürburgring, the most challenging racing circuit of its day, had a lot of sharp turns. While most German racers were concerned about skids, Nuvolari was busy drifting the sharp corners at an average speed of over 70mi/h!
He made a powerful statement; “if the driver was exceptional and daring, any car could win the GP, even with an inferior engine or chassis.”
However, the next year the Italian racer crashed his Alfa Romeo P3 during another race. Nuvolari was badly injured and was rushed to hospital. This did little to dampen his daring nature. In fact, once he regained consciousness, he esca[ed the hospital and got right back into the race. Using a spare care he completed the race with a broken leg, finishing in the seventh place!
Tazio Nuvolari is without a doubt an Italian racing legend and one of the best racers Alfa Romeo has ever had.
The Alfa Romeo Iconic Logo
The Alfa Romeo logo is a simple, elegant monocle. The red cross on a white background is a symbol of Milan, and the dragon-headed crown-wearing snake gobbling up a man represents the Visconti family who ruled Milan during the medieval ages.
The origin of the snake emblem and its meaning has been a subject of debate.
The Alfa Romeo logo was originally designed by a local craftsman, Romano Cattaneo. While he was already a renowned designer in Milan, this was one of his most remarkable creations and perhaps the longest-standing.
The Alfa Romeo coat of arms has undergone minor alterations over the past 100 years. Still, the design has remained consistent since its first use in 1910, making it one of the most historically significant automotive emblems in the world.
As part of the rebranding by their in-house team, in 2018, the company included the logo on the vehicles' steering wheel, following the modern trend of manufacturers that place the automaker's badge on the car's steering wheel.
The Legend of the Four Leaf Clover
Ugo Sivocci was an Alfa Romeo driver in the 1920s who was infamous for the bad luck that plagued his races. Though Sivocci was an experienced driver, mechanical failures that plagued his races just wouldn't let him win.
So to try to bring some good luck, he had a local sign painter come and paint a diamond and a four-leaf clover on his car. This seemed to do the trick, as Sivocci won the 1923 Targa Florio.
From then on, Sivocci would have a four-leaf clover within a white diamond painted on his car before every race weekend.
Later that year, at the Italian Grand Prix, the painter didn't show up. Sivocci went out on track for the practice session, but sadly this would be Sivocci's last time in the car. He tragically crashed and died.
Sivocci's passing also marked the beginning of a tradition – one that exists to this very day. All future Alfa Romeo race cars would feature a four-leaf clover on a white triangle in memory of Sivocci.
It also symbolizes a car that is race-worthy and, of course, remains a symbol of good luck.
Ugo Sivocci in his Alfa Romeo at the 1922 Targa Florio
Alfa Romeo Factory Was Bombed and Destroyed
Alfa Romeo has gone through many ups and downs over the last 120+ years. For example, one of the worst tragedies was 1938, when the Germans bombed the Alfa Romeo factory.
As with other industrial factories, the Alfa Romeo plant was targeted in the World War II bombing. The bombings were so devastating that it took Alfa Romeo almost 10 years to recover.
The Alfa Romeo factory in Milan was rebuilt until 1947 after World War II had ended.
The first car to come out of the factory was the famous Alfa Romeo 6C 2500. This car is considered by many to be a classic, even today.
This was followed by the launch of the new Alfa Romeo 1900 Super. This was the first Alfa Romeo to be launched in the United States, and it was an instant success.
The company slowly rebuilt itself in the 1950s as it introduced new and innovative models.
Alfa Romeo Isn't The Company's Original Name
Alfa Romeo's story started when Cavalier Ugo Stella decided to purchase shares in an automobile factory, the Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (A.L.F.A), in 1910. In the first few years, the company made racing cars.
At the onset of the First World War, Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo took over the company. The factory produced military equipment for the Allies and Italian military forces for the next several years.
However, Nicola perceived the value to be obtained from civilian automotive production, so he didn't dispose of any of the car assembly stock.
After the First World War ended, Nicola Romeo resumed car production initially with the inventory he had preserved over the war years, then with the design of new models.
In 1920 A.L.F.A was renamed to Alfa Romeo and a legend was born.
Enzo Ferrari (right) with Nicola Romeo (middle)
Alfa Romeo Enviable Racing Heritage
It's an understatement to say that Alfa Romeo is one of the most successful marques in motor racing history.
This iconic brand also holds the record for the first car to win the World Automobile Championship in 1925, and successfully followed up this win with a first-place victory at the inaugural F1 Championship in 1950.
Alfa Romeo also won the 1933 and 1934 editions of the prestigious Targa Florio. For 35 years, Alfa Romeo dominated the competition at the legendary Mille Miglia, winning the event 16 times.
In 1950 Alfa Romeo launched the supercar, the 158. During the 1950s and 60s, the 158 dominated both Touring Car and Sportscar racing.
Alfa Romeo's racing success was not just limited to cars. In 1933 the company's motorbike team won the first Motogiro D'Italia competition.
Alfa Romeo Holds Record for Fastest Sedan
The Giulia Quadrifoglio was unveiled at the 2016 Paris Motor Show as the most powerful Alfa Romeo ever made. Rightly so as the car showcased Alfa Romeo's motorsport heritage by setting a record time at the Nürburgring.
An automatic Giulia Quadrifoglio, powered by an all-aluminium direct-injection 2.9-litre V-6 bi-turbo engine, which delivers a best-in-class 505 horsepower, took to the legendary German track with a record-setting 7:32 lap time!
This is the fastest time ever by a four-door production sedan and nearly six seconds faster than its nearest competitor.
Alfa Romeo Once Made Buses
It might be hard to imagine Alfa Romeo's badge on a bus, truck or trolleybus, but that's exactly what the company did in the 1930s.
During World War II, the production gained further traction when the company was required to make trucks for the Italian army.
For example, the Autotutto, meaning "all-purpose", was first launched at the 1954 Turin Auto Show. It was originally offered by the company in panel van and minibus variants and had a capacity of up to 24 passengers, so it was ideal for city transportation. Italian coachbuilders also refitted the Autotutto mobile shops and clinics for different clients.
However, the production of light commercial vehicles (LCVs) came to an end only in 1967.
Currently, Autotutto is a popular collectible item for classic cars enthusiasts.
Alfa Romeo Almost Became a Ford-owned Company
If you're looking for a car that's stood the test of time, you could do a lot worse than Alfa Romeo.
That said, if you read our article: The Epic History of Vehicles, you probably know that the 70s and 80s were tough for carmakers.
From the energy crisis, the rise of Japanese automakers and socio-political problems back home, Alfa Romeo was in deep financial turmoil.
As a result, Alfa Romeo was in need of a buyout to salvage its business. That's when Ford came knocking. In fact, this Italian luxury brand could have been part of Ford if Fiat didn't present an offer to acquire 100% of the struggling automaker in 1986.
Ford was interested in buying only a part of Alfa Romeo, but its offer was trumped by Fiat, which also offered job guarantees for Italian workers.Now, Alfa Romeo and fellow Italian rivals Lancia and Maserati are part of Stellantis (formed in 2021 after the merger of PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles).