Alfa Romeo History
By Ben Harrington
Alfa Romeo was founded in 1910 in Milan, initially named A.L.F.A, which was an acronym for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili; in English, Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company. By 1911 they were competing successfully in motor racing, and with their first model, the 24 HP, they designed and made their first dedicated racing car in 1913 and went on to compete in many forms of motor sport for a number of decades.
One of Enzo Ferrari’s first ventures into motor sport was to run an Alfa Romeo racing team named Scuderia Ferrari before leaving to establish his own marque.
Alfa’s reputation for building competitive, reliable racing cars was reflected in their road cars which were renowned for being sporty and luxurious, a reputation they try to promote in their modern day cars.
Early Alfa Romeo race cars sported a cloverleaf badge; this is used now to denote the brand’s high end models. It is usually a green four leaf clover on a white background although silver and gold clovers have also been used with blue clovers being seen on modern Alfas.
In 1915, an Italian businessman called Nicola Romeo bought the company and immediately converted the factory to produce military hardware, obviously a far more profitable product during times of war. The name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo in 1920, although by 1928 Nicola Romeo had left as defence contracts expired and making a profit became more difficult. By 1932 the company were under government ownership and were proudly displayed by Benito Mussolini as a symbol of Italian dominance.
Following the end of World War 2, Alfa Romeo’s fortunes once again took a turn for the worse and a change of strategy was deemed necessary. Following the development of their four cylinder, twin overhead cam engine, production of large, luxurious models ceased and mass production of three small, affordable models began, all using the 1300cc unit which remained in use until 1995.
Motorsport remained a priority for Alfa in the following decades with their focus switching to production car based events in the 1960’s and then changing to prototype sports car events in the 1970’s, although by this time they were yet again to find themselves facing financial ruin. Following a buyout in 1986, Alfa Romeo became part of the Fiat group who immediately launched models consistent with the brand’s sporty, glamorous image of the past. With Maserati coming under the Fiat umbrella in 2005, they, along with Alfa are now considered the luxury arm of the Fiat family.
Alfa Romeo was withdrawn from the US market in 1996 following years of declining sales. The introduction in 2008 of the 8C Competizione, a premium sports car named after one of Alfa’s most successful race cars, has since seen a reintroduction to America with more models planned for release in the future.