Buon Compleanno (Happy Birthday) Alfa Romeo

Don Sherman
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1936 The Alfa 8C2900, the top sports car of the 1930s, combined surplus racing engines delivering 180 horsepower with fully independent suspension in stunning two-seat coachwork.

1938 Rather than butt heads with the Germans, Alfa Romeo and Enzo Ferrari created a 1.5-liter single seater to compete in voiturette races. The Colombo-designed eight-cylinder Alfetta was quick out of the box, winning several races before World War II erupted.

1940-45 The Alfa factory was converted to produce Daimler-Benz aircraft engines under license for use in Italian fighters. Bombed mercilessly by the Allies, the flattened plant was slow to return to peacetime production.

1950 Post-war formula changes fell in Alfa's favor and the Alfettas--rechristened Type 158s and now supercharged - won all eleven races they contested and the first Grand Prix World Championship.

1951 Threatened by real Ferraris fielded by Enzo Ferrari, Alfa gave its pre-war Alfetta one last go. Updated to a Type 159 delivering 420 horsepower, the old warrior won the first three races of 1951 before losing the next three. To cap off the era, Juan Fangio beat the bloody red cars with an Alfa 159 at the Spanish Grand Prix to earn his first World Championship.

1954 The 1.3-liter twin-cam Giulietta was Alfa's first major post-war accomplishment and a design that gained universal respect. The addition of Bertone coachwork, a five-speed transmission, and more piston displacement helped this seminal design endure. Sedan, coupe, and roadster bodies were offered.

When Max Hoffman began importing Alfas to the US, Road & Track waxed romantic, calling the Giulietta "a modern Juliet...a wench to win the heart of any motor-minded Romeo before he even gets out of second gear." In addition to Giuliettas, 1900 sedans and coupes were imported. All had long production runs.

1962 A new Giulia line was introduced with slightly larger engines along with 2600 six-cylinder models.

1966 An Alfa GTA won the SCCA's first Trans Am Championship. The Duetto roadster arrived with a rounded nose and tail.

1967 Countless young lives were permanently twisted by an Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider's epic supporting role in The Graduate. True to Italian form, a dysfunctional gas gauge also played a part of the pageant. Alfa sold a special Graduate edition Spider in the 1980s.

1972 Alfa's new V-8-powered Montreal coupe was never certified for sale in the US.

1975 Alfa's new small Alfetta was powered by a 2.0-liter engine and offered in coupe and sedan form. The name changed to Sprint Veloce in 1978 then GTV in 1981.

1986 Fiat bought Alfa Romeo from an Italian government operating agency and merged production with Lancia.

1987 The new Milano four-door sedan was powered by a 2.5-liter SOHC V-6.

1990 A new front-drive 164 sedan arrive to replace the Milano.

1995 During Alfa's final year on the US market, only a handful of 164 sedans were sold.

2007 With the reorganization of Fiat, Alfa Romeo became one of four independent enterprises under the corporate umbrella.

2008 A handful of Alfa 8C Competizione models (essentially a Ferrari Enzo redressed as a Maserati MC12 then an Alfa) were delivered to wealthy US owners for track-only use.

2012 Alfa Giulia mid-sized sedan and wagon models will arrive at Chrysler dealers during the last half of the year. Production of a compact SUV based on Giulietta architecture will commence in the US.

2013 The miniature Alfa MiTo will arrive in five-door form.

2014 After a face-lifted Giulietta (bowing soon in Europe) reaches the US and production of a reskinned version of the Jeep Liberty begins, a full line of Alfa Romeo models will strive to earn 85,000 sales out of a global production of half-a-million cars.

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