The creation of the Alfa Romeo badge dates back to 1910 when Alfa was founded in Milan. The two well-known symbols that it includes, the Red Cross of the municipal banner and the Visconti serpent became the emblems of the Lombard car manufacturer. Since the early years of the 20th Century, the badge has always remained true to itself and undergone very few changes.
The first badge dates back to a period from 1910 to 1915. The name A.L.F.A., which stood for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, appeared from the very beginning, flanked by heraldic symbols of the Visconti household, within a circular shape. The circle divided into two parts contains a red cross on a white background in the left side while the right side contains the serpent-dragon of the Visconti family devouring an enemy. The words Alfa and Milano were separated by two Savoy knots that the badge incorporated until the fall of the monarchy in Italy.
The original Alfa Romeo badge underwent its first change in 1915, when the engineer Nicola Romeo took over the company and his surname was added to the badge: hence the new name "Alfa Romeo". In the meantime, the P2's victory in the first world title added a new element to the badge: a laurel crown in silver metal running around the entire circumference. The austerity of the immediate post-war period, together with the destruction of the original mould following the bombings, led to a simplified, single-coloured badge. With the proclamation of the Italian Republic, the two Savoy knots disappeared from the circular shield, replaced by wavy lines. In the 1950s, the badge was restored to its previous colourful glory, while in 1972 a decision was made to remove the word Milano from the badge following the opening of the Alfa Sud plant near Naples.
The last restyling dates back to the 1980s, when the badge increased in diameter and the laurel crown disappeared. For Alfa aficionados throughout the world, the Alfa Romeo badge has always been a marriage of passion and sportiness; a symbol of true and genuine values, a never-ending love affair.
Distinguishing feature of a motor vehicle, the front-end makes the car and model recognisable at first glance. This is true of Alfa Romeo, a traditionally sporting brand where the front-end looks both attractive and aggressive, conveying the quality and sophistication of engineering excellence.
On the 24 HP of 1910, the big upright brass radiator was flanked by two side gas-fired lanterns. Twenty years later, the position of the front end was already more raked, with a protective grille in front. With the advent of new machining processes, the shapes became smoother and more dynamic: now it was possible to discern - firstly, in the 8C 2900 B Lungo and later in the Villa d'Este - the shape of the badge with additional slots.
It was not until the Giulietta, however, that we saw the advent of the celebrated three-part 'trilobo' motif with a central shield and iconic side whiskers, accompanied by round headlights. During the modern or 'rational' era, the entire width of the front-end was taken up by an air intake incorporating the shield and headlights. These were the features that varied most: the headlights were round on the GTA, rectangular on the Alfasud and trapezoid on the Alfa 75. On the 164 and the GTV/Spider, the badge returned to its position resting on the bonnet, with the 156, it again acquired a dominant role on the front end, moving the car number plate to one side. In recent years, Alfa Romeo cars have gone back to the iconic 'trilobo' motif again and again – for example the 147 or the 8C Competizione – and marking a new kind of family relationship with the Brera.
The front end is still a distinguishing element, even on the most recent additions to the Alfa stable. In particular, the front-end of the Alfa Mito features generous air intakes required to allow the exuberant power unit to breathe, a stylised version of the classic grille and a badge on the bonnet. The front end of the new Giulietta, on the other hand, develops around the classic badge, an essential element which is suspended in a new position between the air intakes.
The fine, precision wheel rims on Alfa Romeo cars are unmistakable for their harmony and elegance. This distinguishing feature represents the outcome of an ongoing quest to perfect shapes and materials over the years.
The rim of the Alfa's first car, the 24 HP, with its 12 massive wooden spokes constitutes the starting point for the journey that allowed Alfa Romeo to develop its present-day wheel rims. The great weight of this rim soon led to a need to develop something lighter: the result was tangential metal spokes, fastened by a central nut with two wings. In some cases, the spokes were also covered with opulent hemispherical caps in aluminium: one such example was the gorgeous Villa d’Este, winner of the style competition that took its name. Large-scale production, which started after World War II, required pressed steel rims with holes and chrome covers. Examples of this output included the Giulietta in 1954 and the Giulia saloon in 1962. Not to mention the 6C CM with tangential spokes and overhanging front rims designed to accommodate the bulk of the disc brake callipers.
he desire for even faster racing cars led to a need for light alloy rims: such as those applied to the TZ, to the TZ2 and to the 33 Stradale. The concave surface on the latter model is worthy of note. These rims were subsequently adopted on top-spec versions of standard-production cars such as the 156 (Star-shaped alloy rims with round holes) and the147 GTA. The rims developed for the Alfa Mito, on the other hand, had a broader channel. This choice allowed an evident improvement in handling performance, due to the tyre's greater footprint on ground. The hole design, in different interpretations, was subsequently reprised on the new Giulietta with alloy rims in the Progressive, Distinctive and Quadrifoglio Verde versions. The process of development continues, however, both in terms of revisiting old designs and finding avenues as yet unexplored.
The handle is one of the details that has developed most in the history of Alfa Romeo. In many cases, attempts have been made to conceal the handle at the design stage, in others it has become part of the design.
THE FIRST MODELS
On the first models, handles looked like adapted versions of normal house door handles or were adapted from handles already existing in other contexts: the handle on the 24 HP is reminiscent of a cupboard handle, while the 20-30 has a lever handle similar to handles that can still be seen in houses of a certain standard.
In the years to come, when the motoring world had established itself, handles became more car-like (the handle on the 2000 Sportiva was concealed), although they had a somewhat makeshift look at least until the years after World War II. The handles that nowadays we refer to as 'classic' are those designed between the 1950s and 1960s: chrome, ergonomic and with a button opening. These can be found on the Giulietta Sprint and the Giulia.
During the three decades of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, carefully-crafted design led to recessed handles, that are flush with the body, never protruding from the car. Three examples illustrate this point: the Giulia GT, Alfetta GTV and Alfa 164.
In the 1990s, the handle became the subject of research and development: chunky and chrome-plated at the front, to act as an ideal join between the two pencil strokes on the side panels, while the rear handle was sunk in the door pillar, giving the car a sporty coupé shape. The same solution was reprised on the 147, GT and Mito, while on the new 159 family, the handle - chrome-plated and triangular - was very evident on the side panel to make this 'grown-up' car look more imposing. The distinctive features of past handles reappear even in the most recent models: elegant concealed rear handles were designed for the new Giulietta.
Material use mirrors the development of automotive engineering. The quest for strength, lightness and performance in the history of Alfa Romeo has ensured that each component has been developed and designed using the most disparate materials.
One essential feature of the first car dating from 1910 was metal, used not only as a covering but also used for the structure of the car itself. Another material used to a greater or lesser extent throughout all historical periods was steel: one good example was the abundant use of steel on the AR51, known also as “Matta”. Titanium, on the other hand, was used in structural features of the racing car chassis and also on the suspension systems of the F1 179 F dating from 1982. As time went by, aluminium and its alloys were used more and more for both mechanical components, structural components and also in the body. This is illustrated by the GTA dating from 1965. The most recent addition to the Alfa Romeo range uses aluminium, high-strength steels and magnesium, reducing the weight of the resulting components by 35%.
Yet it was probably not until the 'composite' materials - used first for coachwork and then for entire bodyshells of racing cars that truly incredible results started to become apparent. This was the case for the 33 SC 12 (1977), which used fibreglass or the Gruppo C (1986), a prototype made predominantly of Kevlar. It was taken to extremes in the 8C Competizione, where carbon elements make the car simply unique and the Alfa MiTo with its aluminium and carbon fibre inserts.
Once upon a time, plastics were a cheap alternative to more noble materials such as metal, wood and leather. Nowadays plastics are an instrument of design; technology has made it possible to obtain materials that are pleasant on the eye and to touch: plastics that are matt and soft. Their design, processing and finishes make it possible to combine them with other materials easily and use them for interior furnishings even on top level cars. Nowadays exterior plastics are painted and difficult to distinguish from metal parts, while also allowing a saving in terms of weight and cost.
As on any car, but perhaps even more so on an Alfa Romeo, the dashboard is undoubtedly one of the elements that really rings the changes. The dashboard mirrors the development of the car, evolving with it over the course of the years.
In 1910 it was sufficient to have a few instruments screwed onto a simple plank of wood to create a "dashboard". As models came and went, however, the dashboard became more complicated. The number of instruments grew and the wood was replaced by a panel, first flat and then with a more moulded shape. After World War II, it became typical to use synthetic materials such as Bakelite and Perspex for the knobs and panels: this is noticeable, for example in the Villa d’Este and in the Giulia T.I. In this way, we gradually came to see the classic round instrument layout that is still typical of all dashboards on Alfa Romeo cars, with the rev counter and speedometer in front of the driver. In the case of racing cars or out-and-out sports cars - such as the TZ2 and the 33 Stradale - the speedometer was moved to one side, in front of the passenger. These main instruments are joined by secondary instruments (fuel, oil and water) of lesser diameter and located in the centre of the dashboard: examples can be seen on the Duetto of 1966, the Alfa 156 and also the 8C Competizione.
Recent developments led to the advent of a dashboard that is more driver-oriented. The sensation for the driver is that of being in perfect control of the vehicle, of a safe, wrap-around passenger compartment with everything within easy reach. The sensation of control by the driver is backed by that of safety and comfort for passengers. Developments present on the dashboards of the most recent additions to the Alfa range: a forceful dashboard with an intuitive control panel and graphics developed specially for the driver of the Alfa Romeo Mito; a horizontal dashboard for the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta harking back to the taut and light lines of the historical Giulietta in the 1950s and the addition of rocker controls in the centre.