Known in the 1950’s as “the family car that wins races,” Alfa (A.L.F.A. for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili) Romeo has long been a staple in the market of automotive sports cars. The English translation of anonima is anonymous. That’s just how Alfa began, by an anonymous pool of investors who in 1910 purchased a failing french car company, Darracq, and used it’s building in Milan, Italy to begin production.
Designed and injected into the public marketplace in 1910, Alfa’s first model was named the 24 HP which interestingly signified the taxable horsepower rating as a way of quantifying its taxable value. In 1915, engineer and entrepreneur, Nicola Romeo, funded the struggling Alfa. It wasn’t until 1919 the name Alfa Romeo was introduced.
Drop, Throttle, Oversteer: Collecting & Investing in Classic Cars (available now on Amazon)
In 1909 the iconic Alfa emblem was developed. On the left of the badge is a red cross on a white field representing the flag of Milan. The images on the left side of the emblem are easily understood. But what about the right side? I must admit there appears to be several interpretations and I’m electing to pick the most interesting one in my opinion. If you look closely at the biscione (meaning grass snake) the green snake-like serpent tongue could be easily be overlooked, but actually the tongue is a person. Is that person being consumed?
Legend has it since snakes can shed their skin and be created anew, so too can a person be renewed or made pure by having been “rebirthed” orally by the serpent. The crown above the serpent is a symbol of the prominent Viscontis family of Milan who fought in the first crusade and defeated a Saracen knight who bore the biscione on his shield.
Here are some interesting trivia and facts: one who is a collector, driver or enthusiast of Alfa Romeo is called an “Alfisti.” Thanks to Alfa Romeo, Enzo Ferrari started his racing business, Scuderia Ferrari, which ultimately led to its own brand. Lastly, Henry Ford, an admirer of the Alfa Italian design, had been quoted saying, “When I see an Alfa Romeo go by, I tip my hat.” Today Alfa Romeo is owned by Fiat Chrysler.
Jason Paynter is a classic car appraiser, collector and unabashed enthusiast. He is also author of the book, Drop, Throttle, Oversteer: Collecting & Investing in Classic Cars, available at Amazon. He lives in Louisville, KY with his beautiful wife and three sons who are (heaven help him) of driving age.