Alfa Romeo really ought to have made these lovely Pininfarina concepts – well maybe not…
By the mid-1980s, Italy’s Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale had run out of the two crucial components necessary for their ongoing custody of Alfa Romeo: patience and money. Having come bitingly close to selling the ailing motor company to Ford in 1985, Fiat swooped in and made the Italian government agency a far more palatable offer, both financially and politically. With the storied marque now a part of the sprawling Fiat empire, carrozzeria Pininfarina were quick to see the potential, and for the 1986 Turin show, prepared twin concepts for a new coupé and spider derivative, called Vivace.
Of course, by then Pininfarina were already at work on the styling for the ‘Tipo Quattro’-inspired 164 berlina, overseen by Enrico Fumia. While uncredited, it’s likely he was also responsible for the Vivace twins, especially as he is said to have completed the initial styling proposal for what became the Tipo 916 GTV/Spider models in 1987, eventually appearing in 1994.
While there is little stylistic commonality between them, the Vivace concepts both referenced the previous styling motifs of (Alfa styling chief) Ermanno Cressoni, while at the same time prefiguring the forthcoming 164. So in some ways Vivace marks a transition from Cressoni to Fumia – a shift from stark modernist angularity to a more classical, softer formality.
Vivace was well received and there was a clamour for Alfa Romeo to productionise them. However, with an ageing range of saloons, steadying Alfa’s listing vessel was of greater import to Turin management, to say nothing of Fiat’s inability to successfully leverage the marques they already had.
I recall being very taken with Vivace thirty years ago and to be fair, the concepts – (especially the coupé) – haven’t really aged that badly in the interim. Given that the Alfasud Sprint model was forced to soldier on into 1989, the idea of Vivace forming the basis of a more up to date replacement seemed a very tantalising prospect in 1986. To be honest however, I prefer Fumia’s Tipo 916 twins. It’s just a shame they took so long to arrive.