Secrets of Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo is squarely back in the U.S. after a 20-year absence and FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne says they’re here to stay this time, so it seems appropriate to review a few little-known facts about Alfa Romeo:

  1. Alfa Romeo is among the most frequenly misspelled and mispronounced automotive brands for sale in America: A simple Craigslist search will yield countless spellings of “Alpha” Romeo (“ALFA” is actually an Italian acronym, the name has nothing to do with the first letter of the Greek alphabet). And don’t get us started on the number of times in the course of a single car show one hears “Romeo” pronounced “Romero” (as in Cesar Romero) or “Romeo” as in “and Juliet.”
  2. Alfa Romeo has always had an on-off relationship with America: Alfa first started selling cars in the U.S. in the 1950s. They became the immediate darlings of the likes of Road & Track and Sports Car Graphic. But the emission-control years were hard for a small Italian company and they actually sold no cars in the U.S. for model years 1968 and 1970. They disappeared altogether after 1995 only to return with the 8C Competizione supercar in 2007, and then they disappeared again until last year when they reappeared with the 4C sports car and the promise of a new Audi-fighting Giulia sedan in late 2016.
  3. The film “The Graduate” incorporated real Alfa Romeo quirks: Dustin Hoffman’s character Benjamin Braddock famously drove a red 1967 Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider in the 1967 movie classic. Unknown to most people, the car’s actual (and very distinctive) exhaust note was used in the final cut. In most cases, exhaust sounds are dubbed with a generic sound in post-production. The actual non-working fuel gauge also became a plot device.
  4. Alfa sold the same model for almost 20 years: The iconic Alfa Romeo Spider was introduced in 1966 as the “Duetto” and Alfa managed to sell the same basic car (albeit in four modestly changed series) until 1994 in the U.S. Although the car went from 1.6 liters to 2.0 liters, it was the same basic Alfa twin-cam four and suspension, and the 1994 Series IV cars were instantly recognizable as part of the same line as the 1966 Duetto. It broke the 16-year record of the MGB.
  5. The Alfa Romeo logo is one of few automotive logos to incorporate a religious symbol: The Alfa logo incorporates a cross (and a man-eating serpent) that is part of the symbol of the city of Milan, Alfa’s hometown. In any event, countless brand junkies and journalists have likened driving an Alfa to a religious experience, so it seems appropriate.
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