Even though it is not as well-known as Ferrari or Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo has cemented its place in the annals of Italian automotive history. Here are 10 quick Alfa Romeo facts you probably did not know.
#1 Older than you thought
Officially, 1910 is considered as the establishment year of ALFA. However, its history actually started with a company named Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) which was established in 1906. SAID was started by Frenchman Alexandre Darracq in Naples. However, Darracq quickly realised Naples wasn’t the ideal location for car production and thus, Milan was chosen as the location for the plant. Subsequently, the investors in SAID, started ALFA in 1910 still in collaboration with Darracq. The new company initially produced Darracq-branded cars.
#2 Military Service in WWI
During World War I, the company was not producing cars but military hardware such as aircraft engines, compressors, and generators based on its car engines. It might be difficult for pure petrol heads to even imagine luxury cars and generators together but that’s among interesting Alfa Romeo facts.
#3 Nationalization and government control
The company came under control of Italian government in 1933 after Nicola Romeo’s holding company went bust (head to this page for more on Nicola Romeo). Under the government ownership, it developed close ties with Benito Mussolini and was making bespoke vehicles for the wealthy. Even today, government limousines for the Italian Prime Minister and other senior bureaucrats are supplied by Alfa Romeo.
#4 Alfa Romeo even produced small cars
This one is an absolute bouncer in Alfa Romeo facts. Known for its avant-garde styling, the company was forced to produce small cars and police cars at one point in time. This started in 1960’s and subsequently, several Alfa Romeo models found favor with Italian police force. Here is one such model the Alfa Romeo 33.
#5 Experimented with trucks and buses too
It might be hard to imagine Alfa Romeo badge on a bus, truck or trolleybus but that’s exactly what the company did in 1930’s. This business gained further traction during World War II when the company was required to produce trucks for the Italian army. The production of LCVs came to an end only in 1967. Now that’s a really long time to figure out if it wanted to be a car marker or a commercial vehicle maker!
#6 A really weird logo
Alfa Romeo could easily win a trophy, if there was ever any, for weird logos. Its distinctive logo is actually made of two historic symbols, closely associated with its birthplace, the city of Milan. There are several theories behind the strange but memorable logo of a snake with a human in its mouth. You can find more details about the logo here.
#7 Alfa Romeo factory was bombed in WWII
As with other industrial factories, the company’s plant was targeted in World War II bombing. This resulted in extensive damage to the factory and some machines were completely destroyed, including the ones that produced the badges installed on the vehicles. As a result, the company had to use a minimalistic single-color logo during the years.
#8 Alfa Romeo could have ended in Ford portfolio
Another one of the lesser-known Alfa Romeo facts. The Italian 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 in addition to taking over all the operations. As of now, Alfa Romeo and traditional rival Lancia and Maserati are part of the same FCA group and share components to drive cost advantages.
#9 Racing heritage
Like so many other Italian brands, the company has roots in racing and had even reserved a separate logo for its racing cars. The Quadrifoglio logo – consisting of a green cloverleaf with four leaves in a white triangle – has been the symbol of Alfa Romeo racing cars since 1923.
#10 Connection with Ferrari
Thanks to its rich heritage, steeped into racing, the company has played a very important role in the evolution of racing cars. The legendary Enzo Ferrari, which went on start his eponymous car company, started his career at Alfa Romeo and honed his skills for a long time there. Alfa Romeo practically played the role of business incubator for Scuderia Ferrari.