Alfa Romeo Through The Years
Alfa Romeo began when the company was founded in 1906 by renowned French designer Alexandre Darracq, who received a vast amount of finance from Italian investors.
In 1909, Italian Ugo Stella became the chairman of SAID, moving the company's headquarters from Naples to Milan. The new location had more potential for growth due to land being available to construct a factory. Sales were slow as the SAID models were released to the public. Desiring a more lucrative automotive product, Stella led the group of investors to form ALFA, Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, which translates to Lombard Automobile Factory Public Company. In 1910, ALFA released the first vehicle outside of the Darracq design direction, the 24HP designed by Giuseppe Meroni. Production continued through 1914 but was halted shortly after in 1915 during the beginning of World War I.
In 1915, Nicola Romeo took over as director of ALFA, and the factory was transformed to produce military supplies. It wasn't until 1919 that the thought of automobile production once again became a goal of ALFA. In 1920, the company officially became Alfa Romeo and it introduced the first Alfa Romeo model, the Torpedo 20-30HP, a model very similar to the 24HP.
During this time period, a young race car driver by the name of Enzo Ferrari raced Alfa Romeos in the most prestigious European races. In 1923, it was Ferrari who lured Vittorio Jano away from Fiat to become the new head of design at Alfa Romeo, effectively replacing Meroni. Ferrari proved to be as effective in offering direction to the company as he was on the track and Alfa Romeo developed a stellar reputation. Ferrari eventually left to begin his own automotive company, continuing to enjoy more influence within the Italian automobile world.
Romeo left the company in 1928, and Alfa Romeo went broke shortly thereafter. The company was saved by Benito Mussolini and the Italian government. The company continued production and also continued to change ownership, even after being introduced to the American market in the 1950s. In 1974, the well-known brand was acquired by Fiat, which remains the parent company to this day.
Alfa Romeo in America
Alfa Romeo was introduced to the American automotive market in the 1950s by the legendary Max Hoffman. In terms of offering rare European vehicles to the American market, Hoffman was a unique and powerful man. Due to the immediate popularity among American automotive enthusiasts, Alfa Romeo began exporting cars to the United States in 1961. Several models became immediately popular, including the Guilietta Spider and the convertible version of the Guilietta produced from 1954 to 1962. Many of the Alfa Romeo Spiders can still be seen on roads throughout the United States.
In 1995, Alfa Romeo stopped sales of new vehicles in the United States due to waning interest from the American public. In the early 21st century, rumors began to circulate that the popular Italian brand would once again be released in the United States. Fiat owned Alfa Romeo and released the Fiat 500 in 2011. The models were sold in a partnership with the Chrysler Corporation.
Alfa Romeo Models
Alfa Romeo has released over 50 new models, as well as remodels and redesigns of some classics. Presently, there are three factory produced models boasting the Alfa Romeo badge.
One of the three models presently in production is the Guilietta, a five-door hatchback designed for small families and drivers with a six-speed manual and I4 gas turbo or diesel option. The MiTo is a three-door super-mini also boasting gas turbo and diesel options. Finally the 159 is a compact executive sedan offered as a four-door or station wagon possessing multiple motor design options.
While many drivers have enjoyed getting behind the wheel of Alfa Romeo models for decades, it is the Alfa Romeo racing influence that has truly sustained the brand for over 100 years. Alfa Romeo racing culture is a true subculture, attracting millions who enjoy auto racing.