The summer is here and DTW’s offices become ferociously stuffy, a maelstrom of dandruff, cigar ash and wine-label dust dancing in the shafts of half-light.
Simon Kearne, the editor, moves his collection of sherry and cooking marsala to his summer residence (location: secret) and Myles Gorfe’s padded rally jacket disappears off his swivel chair. We never see him, or him taking it. He has gone, like a swallow in September.
So, this writer is also fleeing DTW’s dusty, cramped, byzantine, magazine-clogged rooms on the ninth floor for a summer pause. However, I am not going to display complete dereliction of duty and so have left a trove of articles on automotive life in 1998. which I have tagged Re-1998. They will appear over the coming weeks.
Alfa Romeo stared success in the face with 2003’s Kamal crossover concept, but opted to pursue MINI instead. Was this Fiat Auto’s worst product planning decision ever?
Product will only get you so far in the auto business, but it certainly does help. It helps a great deal more when it is the right product, preferably at an opportune time. Successful product planning is a subtle art and a rock many a car company have stumbled messily upon, for exact science it is not.
In the immediate post-Millennium period, Alfa Romeo was in serious financial trouble, losing millions of Euros a day, despite having Continue reading “Culture Club”
The Arese merry-go-round has a fresh face in new CEO, Tim Kuniskis. Will he enjoy better fortune than his predecessors, or will it simply be more of the same?
Who’d take on a basket-case like Alfa Romeo? A marque with almost boundless potential for greatness, yet equally one with an unimpeachable aptitude for tragi-comic reversals of fortune. A state of affairs which is rooted in successive management failures – from those amid the semi-state Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale who oversaw Alfa’s affairs until 1987 and subsequently, the individuals Fiat Auto appointed to Continue reading “The Circle Game”
Reports have surfaced of Alfa Romeo readying a two-door version of their Giulia saloon later this year. As aficionados of the coupé, we should be delighted, so why is Driven to Write more troubled than pleased?
While not entirely immune from hyperbole’s more strident notes, Autocar can normally be relied upon to swerve outright speculation. However, last week, Richard Bremner – a respected journalist who these days seems reduced to penning listicles for their online edition – reported (citing ‘sources’), that FCA are at work on a Giulia-based coupé, said to employ the Sprint nameplate. “The Giulia coupé could appear towards the end of this year and go on sale in 2019”, his Autocar piece suggested.
Recently we posted an article about a concept car from GFG Design and we didn’t much like it. So, asked reader Adrian Tebby, what do we like? And why?
Even if this article might end up being a bit of a restatement, we might get to extract some general attributes of a worthwhile design. I have taken a little while to think about recent cars so if they are here again they can be judged in a broader context and over a longer time. In a sense this article is a “best of” the concept designs we’ve been writing about for the last few years.
A clumsy name for a rather clumsy car. Ten years ago, Alfa Romeo took aim at the MINI (and its ilk) and missed. We plot the MiTo’s wobbly trajectory.
Alfa Romeo has throughout its long history enjoyed a distinctly patchy relationship with small cars. Pre-War, such a notion would probably have been laughable but even in the latter half of the 20th century, despite the occasional prototype, the smallest car Portello actually got round to Continue reading “Two Cities, One Car”
The history of the motor industry is littered with lost causes and alternative realities. Today, we look at one of the more poignant examples.
Even in automotive terms, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell is not a household name, although perhaps he ought to be. The late German engineer and product supremo enjoyed a stellar career at BMW and in 2004, landed what appeared to be not only a dream job, but one which promised truly great things.
Alfa Romeo’s choice of ‘brand ambassador’ is inspired – and telling, maybe in more ways than intended.
Unlike so many ‘brand testimonials’, Giovanni Giorgio (or Hansjörg, as his mother referred to him) Moroder isn’t the kind of person who caught the public eye for all the wrong reasons. He never had his own reality TV show or featured in a programme of this kind as a guest. He didn’t enjoy a very public, tabloid-filling affair of the romantic or some other variety.
It’s been a while since we did one of these, and while today’s candidate might appear a little tenuous at first sight, look beyond the scudetto and there are chevrons galore.
First shown at the 1983 Geneva motor show, the Delfino was an attempt by carrozzeria Bertone to update the classical luxury gran turismo after almost a decade of decline. Alfa Romeo’s relationship with Bertone was long-standing, but had entered a prolonged period of stasis, with Portello forging a closer relationship with Ital Design when they were not Continue reading “Cars That Could Have Been Citroëns – 1983 Bertone Delfino”
Heralding a stylistic revolution to follow, the 1996 Alfa Romeo Nuvola would underline in the most eloquent fashion the power of the past.
Alfa Romeo’s mid ’90s output was a mixture of the sublime and, if not entirely ridiculous, the at least unconvincing. On one hand we had the ageing, but still elegant 164, the sharp-looking 145, and the strikingly handsome 916-series GTV / Spider, while on the other, there was the 146 and 155 – hardly Alfa designs for the ages.
Commonly regarded as the most beautiful Alfa Romeo saloon shape of recent times, the Alfa 156’s svelte lines remain a credit to its designer. But questions remain as to its authorship.
Over the past sixty-odd years, Alfa Romeo berlinas and the notion of ravishing beauty were (for the most part) mutually exclusive. Now of course this doesn’t necessarily mean Arese wasn’t home to some very fine and finely wrought motorcars, but it’s difficult to avoid the view that the habitual centro stile fare hasn’t exactly been an art curator’s dream.
The 1992 Alfa 155 certainly wasn’t. Based on the Tipo-derived Type Three corporate platform, its tall, narrow-looking silhouette combined with skin surfacing endowed with an over-abundance of character lines, and clumsily placed shutlines was a clear evolution of its 75 predecessor, but hardly a car to Continue reading “Beauty Stab”
A decade ago, Alfa Romeo wowed the faithful with the 8C Competizione, a car which ultimately amounted to less than the sum of its parts. But weren’t we here before?
The philosopher, Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás once essayed the line, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Following this logic, amnesia clearly runs as deeply within Alfa Romeo as blind optimism. The perennially crisis-ridden Italian car brand seems locked into a habitual cycle of hope and despair, with each new dawn promising that this time all will Continue reading “Anniversary Waltz 2017 : A History of Lessons”
Original photos by Douglas Land-Winbermere (sic). Due to damage in storage, stock photos replace the actual ones (which were damaged in storage). The article first appeared in the Canterbury Weekly Post June 2, 1980.
The performance race continues unabated in these increasingly competitive times. Alfa Romeo have decided to add a 1.8 litre engine to their range of roomy family saloons. As if good looks and capable road-holding were insufficient, the famous Milanese firm has taken the decision to Continue reading “1980 Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.8 Road Test”
The Thinker’s Garage might be a blog you have heard of. If you haven’t it’s worth a little look. The latest post shows a proposal by designer Andrew Marshall for a new Alfa Romeo Giulia.
The proposal draws quiet inspiration from the 1974- 1987 GTV while using the running gear of the current rear-drive Giulia. Marshall’s proposal eschews the production car’s soft shapes for something more angular (in some ways). The sideglass is a bit deeper than is fashionable – which is a good thing, lending the car a welcoming feeling many modern sports cars lack. Continue reading “I’ll Second the Third”
Today I’ll ask why the 164 is ace and why the 2017 Mazda Vision Coupe is like a naked lady.
An article and a comment by our colleagues on the Alfa Romeo 164 constitute the launch position of this particular rocket aimed into Inquiry Space. The article can be found here for your review but I will cite part of S.V.Robinson’s follow-up comment as it suggests the direction of this piece today: “I remember one commentator stating that the 164’s styling had that same balance and immediate sense of effortlessness as the Supermarine Spitfire and, oddly, it stayed with me as a very left field but accurate point if view…. I see a beautiful red 164 V6 regularly and it still Continue reading “About Really Nice Cars and Boring Ones Too”
Fiat received most of the credit, but the 1987 Alfa Romeo 164 was a genuine Alfa Romeo, despite what some might retrospectively suggest.
In 2014, then Alfa Romeo chief, Harald Wester illustrated the marque’s latterday decline with an image of the 164, stating that by making it front wheel drive, it had diluted the carmaker’s bloodline. But instead he demonstrated both an eloquent disdain for his forebears and a blind ignorance of history. Dismissing the 164, perhaps the most accomplished and rounded product the troubled Milanese car maker had produced since the 1960s, not only made Wester Continue reading “When the Poets Dreamed of Angels”
This is a lovely 1972 Alfa Romeo 2000 with classical Bertone tailoring. I had a chat with the owner who had it restored, a childhood dream-car. What was delightful was seeing it move: a relaxed amble and a cheerful sway. Continue reading “Hear The Air!”
Or, putting it another way, getting the most out of your platform architecture. We count the branches of the Alfa Romeo 116-Series’ family tree.
Since its post-war reconstitution under semi-state ownership, Alfa Romeo was forced to cut its cloth in ever more inventive ways. Budgets were tight and new model programmes hard-won. Expensive unitary body architectures needed to be well and truly amortised, which led to production runs that in retrospect probably lasted too long. Continue reading “Six Degrees of 116”
Disappointingly uneven, despite occasional flashes of brilliance, the 1977 Giulietta personifies Alfa Romeo’s 1970’s wilderness years.
The much-loved 105-Series Giulia was the model line that put Alfa Romeo back on a World stage. This compact sporting saloon was a concentrated blend of Portello engineering knowhow wrapped in a highly aerodynamic, if superficially four-square package. Belying it’s ‘boxy’ appearance however, the 105 drove beautifully becoming a firm favourite from its 1962 inception until its ultimate demise 15-years on.
Even the top-of-the-range AR Giulia has no rear centre armrest.
This is the Quadrifoglio version with a 6-cylinder engine and Brembos all around. An absent rear centre arm-rest is a characteristic of cars from two classss down costing a quarter of the Alfa’s asking price.
I sometimes think I’m fated to have encounters with unusual Alfas when I least expect to…
The 2600 duo in Friedrichstadt, the SZ in Dorridge, and the decaying Fadesa Romeo van on the road into Fornells spring immediately to mind.This Montreal was spotted on an unremarkable suburban street in Basel in March 2008. I imagine that the massive rise in classic car prices would make such encounters far less likely now. Continue reading “A photo for Sunday – Alfa Romeo Montreal”
Alfa Giulia is available to own and steeling to give Gaydon’s finest a lash of its tongue. We look at how it’s faring against its sternest rival.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to spend a day around FCA towers? If only to truly discern the degree of reality evinced by the likes of Big Reidland et al. Because even the big fella must now realise the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are conclusively beyond reach. Last year, luxury sector leader, Mercedes-Benz shipped 176,038 C-Class badged vehicles to waiting customers across the European market alone. What hope for Alfa Romeo’s ambitions against those kind of numbers? Continue reading “Theme: Rivals – The Serpent and the Cat”
And now this. FCA boss Marchionne is going to wring some profits from the investment in the Giulia platform known as Giorgio.
Future Maseratis, Jeeps and Dodges will use the Giorgio platform. Did they design it to be so flexible?This was reported in Automotive News: “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will offset the high costs of relaunching Alfa Romeo by sharing the brand’s Giorgio platform with Maserati, Dodge and Jeep, CEO Sergio Marchionne said.” It’s not going to be quite badge engineering yet it does point towards the Alfa-ness of Alfas and the fussiness of Maseratis being constrained by the need to make the platform compatible with cheaper cars sold as Dodges and Jeeps. This is how they explain it: Continue reading “AD0 16, K-car, J-car, Jags From Mondeos…”
Two designers with long careers provide an insight worth looking at.
Two of our regular authors run their own blogs, which we have mentioned before. Mick has taken a look back at the work of Walter de Silva and finds much to praise but also there’s a sore point which is worthy of attention: de Silva’s penchant for absent rear door handles. I will admit to having been swept along on the unthinking currents of received wisdom. Now the point has been made I realise I had not been critical enough. And a ever-present thought that I had ignored now seems as plain as day: that 156 would be perfect were it not for the silly faux-coupé trope. Continue reading “Two Items About Designers”
Alfa Romeo have revealed the standard edition Stelvio soft-roader CUV raised hatch product.
Based purely on a careful glance of the publicity photos, the car radiates much less of a displeasing character than the full-on range-toppers that have been shown so far.
Much the same applies to the Alfa Romeo Giulia which, in its top-spec, looks slightly grotesque. In its standard form it’s nice enough. Turning to other brands, the AMG versions of Mercedes cars all overcook it. I would wager that if the AMG running gear was transferred to the body-shell of a base model the vehicle would even perform slightly better.
Recently I had a chance to be a passenger in an Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.8 and took the chance to see how they solved the ash problem.
The ashtray is the sliding lid type, rather cleverly flush with the surrounding surface. That’s done by having the adjacent panel meeting the console exactly where the ashtray slides forward. There’s a small flange to allow the user to push the lid forward to open it. It’s probably not the world´s biggest ashtray but then again it’s a compact car, comparable in dimensions to a BMW 3 (E21 1975-1983) of the same period. It would be a bit much to Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1982 Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.8”
It’s a twin-spark 2.0 and black: I thought they had to be red or white.
The year might be 1992 or a little earlier. Notice the width compared to the Auris. The two cars have much the same interior space. While no beauty, this is the car I tried to represent when I first started to draw cars so I owe it debt of gratitude.
I write as someone who is far from convinced of the universal wonders of the Free Market, yet I tend to the conviction that state-owned car makers are a bad idea.
I think that’s because I can’t help but regard most cars as rather frivolous things, so I base my prejudice on the feeling that I wouldn’t want to be governed by an organisation that wastes even part of their energies thinking about cars, except in legislating their use.
This prejudice soon falls apart. True, most of the cars built for a captive market in the old Communist states of Eastern Europe were disappointing at best, but Tatras were glorious things. The nationalised British Leyland was a reasonably cack-handed enterprise, with sparks of cleverness, but it only got nationalised due to the uselessness of its private management. Continue reading “Theme : Sudamerica – Parallel States of Evolution”
This is the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio. You will have seen it elsewhere. They are pitching it as an SUV.
I am reminded of the images of hamburgers shown over the counter in fast food restaurants and the way the damp wad you are served is somewhat less manicured and airbrushed. Here we are being told the car is a CUV or crossover or SUV (Autocar says SUV) but is it not just a tall hatchback? Take a hard look with Continue reading “LA Motor Show Shorts 1”
Autocar, Gearheads and Carscoops reports today that Alfa Romeo promises “up to” nine new cars by 2021. The numbers don’t add up.
As a check on this let’s look back: in February we reported that the plan was for eight cars by 2020. This is what I got out of the last report: – the promises included a mid-size SUV on sale by 2017 (one), by 2017-2020 there would be a ‘full-size’ SUV (two), then come two more UVs (for ‘utility vehicles’ (four). And by 2021 there would be two more ‘speciality’ models in the vein of the Alfa 4C (making six) Also confirmed by Alfa was a new hatchback (seven). I can’t find reference to car number eight. Continue reading “Alfa Romeo Promises Delays and Fewer Models”
Missing Links and lost causes – in search of Alfa Romeo’s elusive estate.
The recent announcement by Alfa Romeo’s Harald Wester that the Italian manufacturer has no plans to introduce an estate version of its latest Giulia saloon was hardly a shock, given that the forthcoming Stelvio crossover will henceforth fulfil that role, being to all intents and purposes a jacked up Giulia hatch. As we know, the European market for upmarket estate cars is shrinking to the crossover contagion and what is left of it is dominated by the German hegemonic trio and Volvo, so it probably makes little sense now for FCA to throw good money after bad. Continue reading “Estate of Arese – 1986 Alfa Romeo 75 Sportwagon”
Amidst the stolid carpark fare of Gaydon’s National Motor Museum, this little gem gleamed.
I can’t be certain about the year, but the mesh side grilles flanking the scudetto and the presence of the ornate chromed side repeaters on the front wings suggests this is a late-series Sprint. The car was pristine, looking delicate and almost fragile amidst the bloated moderns in its midst. Continue reading “A photoseries for Sunday – Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint”
With the reveal of Alfa Romeo’s new crossover only weeks away, we look back at a few they made earlier.
Alfa Romeo has confirmed it will reveal the forthcoming Stelvio crossover/SUV at this November’s Los Angeles motor show. It’s a highly significant reveal for FCA’s mainstream ‘premium offering’ since it will be the key to the commercial fate of the Alfa renaissance. Failure will not be an option. We’re likely to hear a good deal about how this will be the fabled Milanese marque’s first stab at a production SUV, but while that may be accurate in a literal sense, it won’t be Alfa Romeo’s first off-roader. Continue reading “A Matta of Precedence”
I had high expectations of Friedrichstadt, a perfect little displaced Dutch town in German Nordfriesland, but they didn’t include two Alfa 2600s.
Their presence was unexplained. No ‘Oldtimer’ gathering, no other participants on a one make outing. I would hate to think that they had just ‘failed to proceed’. The 2600 Sprint’s charms are beyond dispute, but a bit of fact-finding on the Berlina sprung some surprises. Continue reading “A Photoset for Friday: Alfa Romeo 2600 Berlina”
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. Continue reading “Transitory Twins – 1986 Alfa Romeo Vivace”
A former doubter takes a thimbleful of humble pie as the Giulia lands…
In the eleven months since Alfa Romeo revealed the Giulia to the world, I’ll admit to being more than a little dubious about the car and its prospects, and with some justification. Not only did it look faintly ridiculous in its early-reveal Quadrifoglio Verde warpaint, also the on again, off again nature of its gestation and introduction did little to lend confidence or succour to those who had waited so long for a competitive, mid-sized Alfa saloon following the demise of the pretty, if portly 159. But now that it’s finally here, perhaps it’s an opportune moment to view it with less cynical eyes. Continue reading “Giulia Shock!”
The glory days of the sports saloon and smoking occurred around the late 60s to early 70s. At this time Alfa Romeo produced a car for the determined driver who also enjoyed a rush of nicotine…
The Alfa Romeo 2000 berlina shown here comes with all that is necessary in a performance saloon. In addition to the five-speed gearbox (when Fords and Opels made do with four), rear-wheel drive, independent suspension and a 1,962 cc four-cylinder engine (132 bhp) the 2000 had a very-well placed and sensibly-sized flip-top ashtray for the driver and front-passenger.
The rear-passengers could use bottom-hinged ashtrays placed in the lower part of the doors. This, as we have seen, is probably one of two optimum locations for the rear passengers’ ashtrays, the other being behind the console between the front seats (where there is usually room for a large receptacle). The rear ashtray of the 2000 has a thoughtfully wrought tab on which to Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1973 Alfa Romeo 2000”
The image shows a car well-clad in black vinyl sheeting and foam packing that somewhat disguises the vehicle’s finer features. What they don’t hide is the grille or front bumper themes, the rising waistline or silhouette. By and large I’d be surprised if I was surprised by the final form of the Stelvio. I would not be surprised at all if the Stelvio sells in greater numbers than the Giulia saloon. Continue reading “Alfa Romeo Stelvio Spied”
Our editor will be cross with me for appropriating this month’s theme in such an arbitrary manner, but the title did rather suggest itself.
Last year Alfa Romeo revealed the Giulia berlina well before it was ready, allowing damaging rumours of engineering issues and rushed development to take hold. FCA management launched the Giulia early to reassure potential investors of the robustness of Alfa Romeo’s expansion plans and to strengthen their negotiating hand in talks with General Motors. So while the reasons for its botched launch are understandable, I’m sure it’s one Marchionne regrets, given the ensuing damage to both his own and Alfa Romeo’s credibility. Continue reading “Suspension – (Of Disbelief)”
Our roving reporter, Robertas Parazitas, has been out with his Hasselblad to capture some of the vehicles at the Geneva Motor Show.
Thus we have these exclusive images of the Superleggera Touring Alfa Romeo. Yes, it’s still very fine looking. Alfa Romeo’s own designers are having a very hard time expressing how a modern Alfa Romeo should look. To judge by this, Superleggera Touring have their finger on it. The car is actually deeply retro and yet isn’t at all. This is a first rate synthesis of old and new.
As a blog with a bit of design focus, it’s always a pleasure to show something that’s interesting and good….
…and not complain about it. First, I was unaware that Touring Superleggera were still in business. I was not paying attention. With a badge as evocative as theirs I’d be falling over myself to find an excuse to put it on a production car if I was a major manufacturer. Second, this car is lovely in its own right and is vastly better than the car it’s based on. The squared-off wheel arches are nicely handled and I like the flat top to the front arch. Bonus points accrue for that colour blue they chose. Continue reading “It Exists”
Autocar reported on the 27th of January that Alfa Romeo’s product plans have been set back by two years. All their eight cars arrive by 2020.
You can read the full text at Autocar if you are interested. I think at this point the whole Alfa Romeo thing has become a kind of extended joke. In comedy there have been two examples of the joke involving something overly prolonged and the tension of the joke running on too long. In Dead Men Don´t Wear Plaid (1982) Steve Martin’s character pours the last grains of coffee out a bag and the grains never quite Continue reading “Alfa’s Product Plans For 2018 Or Whenever”
Ranking in equal 7th place with the Datsun Cherry (N12) is the 1984 Alfa Romeo 33 Green Cloverleaf.
With the Alfa Romeo 33 Green Cloverleaf, the Milanese firm continued its struggle to march back to the front of the sporting pack, to chase the Peugeot’s 305 GT and VW’s Golf GTi. Building on the structural foundations of the 1971 Alfa Sud, the 33 had a 105 bhp 1.5 litre flat-four engine and the same basic mechanicals.
Alfa Romeo’s design chief, Alessandro Maccolini, denies that the new Giulia was inspired by the BMW 3-series. Instead, he cites the 156 as the main reference.
I added the Jaguar XE for comparison. My own view is that this is a matter of convergent evolution while also feeling that the resemblance to the 156 is, at best, passing and perhaps coincidental. Those strakes on the Alfa’s bodyside are not very original but the idea is quite generic anyway.
The news today is that after the launch of the new Giulia, Alfa Romeo promises, no really promises – and they mean it this time – to launch a new model every six months.
The table above holds a lot of question marks as soon as it reaches the dim future time known as 2018. The following year’s plan is hard to read because there is a car pasted into the image. Fiat’s plans are rather flimsy. In 2016 and 2017 Fiat dealers will have ‘refreshed’ versions of the 500 and 500L. Did you know that by 2016 the 500 will have been on sale since the death of William Gladstone. It is older than the hills.
You can take a look at an old product plan here to see that since 2014 the new Spider and new D-class SUV were supposed to have been on sale. What value this new product plan?
The Alfa 166 had a nine year run. The unfortunate front had a redesign in 2003 but the rear stayed much the same for almost a decade.
I can’t visualise how Alfa Romeo got around to signing-off on the rear bumper of this car. The rest of it has some very eccentric detailing too. But I will concentrate on the bootlid and rear bumper. As the photos show, the bumper seems to mate with the body-in-white in an rather odd way. At the sides the upper and lower edges meet along a horizontal plane. But in the middle of the car, the bumper is tucked behind the bodywork. Continue reading “Theme: Shutlines – The 1998 Alfa Romeo 166 Boot and Bumper”
No, not the one you’re thinking of. This is the last rear-wheel drive Alfa saloon. Or is it?
By 1980, government owned Alfa Romeo was in trouble. The Alfa Sud experiment was unravelling amidst chronic labour unrest and the deteriorating reputation of the model that took its name. In addition, its expensive engineering couldn’t be recouped by its low price and paltry volumes, meaning Alfa was haemorrhaging Lire at a prodigious rate. Continue reading “Tipo 156 – The Last Alfa Romeo”