By on April 11, 2011

We recently asked our Best And Brightest to help Chevrolet look back through its past and find the designs that should inform the brand’s future design direction, an assignment that touched off a number of fascinating conversations. Now, with news of Alfa’s US launch being delayed at least in part due to problems with the design of its all-important D-segment sedan, we reckon it’s time to help Alfa navigate its current design crossroads. Only this time, it’s even more important. Though once-famous for its crackling V6s and flat-fours, Alfa’s have become increasingly dependent on their non-mechanical attributes: style, flair, and Italian-ness. And unlike Chevrolet, the brand has more recent design heritage to draw on as it approaches a US launch just as automotive designs are becoming increasingly emotive. But whereas Chevrolet lacks design identity, Alfa suffers from too much identity: though the 8C is a gorgeous car and a sublime halo, its design cues are becoming something of a crutch for Alfa’s designers.

And so we ask: if Alfa is looking for a new design direction to help launch it as a global premium/sporty brand, what past designs should it turn to? My personal top choice, the Alfetta GTV6, may not be the most beloved design amongst true Alfisti, but it’s a distinctive design at the crossroads between old- and new-school Italian brio. If Alfa is to succeed, it needs designs that reference both heritage and modernity, and to my eyes, the GTV does just that. But that still leaves nine more choices…

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36 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: What Ten Alfa-Romeo Designs Should Define Its Future?...”


  • avatar

    The Alfa Romeo Giulia Super Sedan and the 105 series Coupes ( Giulia GT , GTV,GTA, 1750GTV and 2000Gtv) are great designs also the duetto, the giulietta spider and coupe, the 2600, the TZs and the Junior Zagato

  • avatar
    gottacook

    For me this is an unanswerable question, because the Alfa that appealed to me the most – the 164, the last new Alfa to be imported into the U.S. – wasn’t truly an Alfa design at all, but merely Alfa’s variation (although perhaps the best of the lot) of a design also shared by Lancia, Fiat, and Saab (the 9000 in the U.S.).

    I know that I should be considering the sporty coupes and convertibles too, but if Alfa is to avoid disappearing, it has to offer a popular sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      one-eyed snake

      Having purchased a new 164 Quadrifoglio in October of 1995, I believe I’m qualified to say that the statement that the 164 “wasn’t truly an Alfa design at all” is absolutely incorrect.  The Tipo 4 (Type 4) was a joint venture project between Alfa Romeo [still an independent manufacturer at the time], Fiat, Lancia [owned by Fiat], and Saab in a shared design/engineering studio set up for the purpose of developing a common platform.  The Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema, and Saab 9000 [I’m certain that was its designation in all markets.] also shared cabin, door, and quarter panel stampings designed by the joint studio.
       
      The Alfa 164, on the other hand, shared only the central part of the platform and its hard-points.  The body design and engineering was awarded to Pininfarina after a competition between them and Alfa’s own in-house design studio, Centro Stile.  When placed alongside each other, the Fiat, Lancia, and Saab seem as if identical off-the-rack suits with different finishing details.  By comparison, the Alfa’s handsome custom-tailoring was a standout.  [The 164’s side sheetmetal has a crease (which partially disguises the door pulls) running rearward from one headlight assembly around the rear of the body and then forward to the other headlight assembly; the glass quarter windows in the rear doors have a unique shape; and the cabin roof is also lower than the other three.]
       
      This was all documented in Alfa Romeo 164 by Bruno Alfieri, published by Automobilia, Milano, 1987.
       

  • avatar
    mazder3

    Geeze, this is a toughie. Um, the Pininfarina Dardo and the Sprint Speciale. Or maybe it’s just time for a clean sheet design ala Jaguar. Just give it a shield grill and make it look good in red.

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    I am going to say the Alfetta.  Good looking, great handling fun-to-drive sedan that distinguished itself based on its sexy mechanicals, beautiful sound, etc., without being too expensive.  1973-ish (?). 

    And, or course, the Graduate / Spyder / Veloce / Whatever else they called it.

    Edit: oops, what am I thinking…even more than the above two…the GT Junior!!!

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    OK so, GTV6

    2. Veloce Spider (modernized, see if the Italians can give Mazda a run for their money, or maybe bring something to the table that the Miata doesn’t.) 

    3. Oh since we’re fantasizing here lets build one of the BAT cars.  Maybe this one… http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/1955-alfa-romeo-1.jpg

    4.  How bout an Alfa Romeo Montreal?  Sort of looks like an Italian Camaro.  Maybe give it an inovative power plant to make it interesting and handling to rival the Corvette.

    5. Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 in a Chrysler 200 size package.  Then everyone can stop bitching about the lack of orginality in the segment.  http://www.thecartorialist.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/alfa_romeo_6c_2500_4.jpg

    Oh and sorry 5 was the best I could do.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    As a total nonsense post, the only Alfa Romeo that ever impressed me was on an old movie called “The Rocket Man” (1954) I happened to catch on TV a very long time ago. The car almost ran a kid down and the little triangular grille was the only thing that caught my attention, as it filled the screen at the last moment. I have no idea what model it was, but it was a roadster. Of course, the car stopped in time and the kid was fine.

    Other than that, I don’t care about A-R.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    That gray car next to the eyesore has potential.

  • avatar

    The 33 Stradale.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    How long is a piece of string ?
    How about :
    Latest 8C , Montreal, Duetto, Disco-Volante, Sud-Sprint, TZ3, Guilietta GTA, Alfetta GTV6, Last GTV, and Canguro.
    Will this do ?

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Alfas used to have characterful engines and sometimes have beautiful styling. Europeans don’t make characterful engines or attractive cars anymore. Everything there is some combination of torque managed, forced induction, compression ignited, direct injected, primary imbalanced, compromised mediocrity. They’re as full of passion as an auxiliary power unit and they sound like industrial vacuum cleaners. There is no place for a modern Alfa Romeo. It would be like if Ford tried to recreate the magic that was the Model T. It just doesn’t have anything to do with today’s regulations, expectations, or priorities.

  • avatar
    retrogrouch

    I want a Milano, the most reliable car in LeMons.

  • avatar
    Acubra

    Easy for me:
    GTV 1750
    Early 70s Alfetta 4 door
    Alfetta GTV as shown above
    The Alfasud
    164
    156 Station Wagon
    159 Sedan

    I am no that big a fan of a 164 design-wise, as it belonged to a batch of Pininfarina’s copy-paste cars with the same style (Peugeot 605, 405 & Alfa 164) and of these three I like the 405 better.

  • avatar

    I have an ’82 GTV6, but I don’t own it because of the styling. I do love the front end with it’s hard creases and slanted nose. The back half just seems oddly disproportionate to my eyes, though. The back windows are too large and give it sort of a Pinto or Pontiac Le Mans thing (I know the Giugiaro design came first, but still). The bumpers also totally ruin the flow – which is true of any 70s/80s car really.
    I’ve always through the more curvaceous, previous generation GTVs were far better looking in terms of proportions and angles. Anything named Giulia is also in that sweet spot of attractive with personality.
    What Alfa needs to do is found its reentry to the American market on an attractive design, like the Brera, coupled with RWD and a singing V6 and a sub-$25k price to compete with the Mustang, Camaro, etc. Those are your volume leaders in the sport coupe market. Make the kind of car you only drive with all windows down so you can hear it playing that amazing music and that causes people to wonder what the hell it is. I still get asked all the time when I’m out in my old rusty beater.

    • 0 avatar
      racebeer

      I’m sort of with you on this one.  Having owned a ’78 Alfetta GT (think GTV with the DOHC 4 cylinder), I really liked the overall drive train arrangement.  This was a very balanced driver with almost perfect 50/50 weight distribution due to the rear transaxle placement.  The styling was a bit awkward at certain angles, but not bad.

      As for what I would do …… update the Alfetta driveline to current standards keeping the transaxle arrangement.  HOWEVER …. I’d stuff this underneath an update 1750 GTV coupe body.  To me, the early 70’s GTV coupes were just the most beautiful thing on the road.  That body style with a balanced chassis would be absolutely perfect … in my eyes at least.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    Can someone kindly move the Project Car Hell aside so I can see more of the Curbside Classic…?

  • avatar

    You can find our CC archive here, or by clicking the second image from the left on our featured stories bar at the top of the page (Curbside Classics Central).
    New CCs (since the beginning of this year) can be found at http://www.curbsideclassic.com

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      Methinks Flybrian was referring to the gray Buick in the background. Personally, I’m amazed that a Vermont-based Alfa could look that good, Hemmings or not.

  • avatar
    Morea

    once-famous for its crackling V6s and flat-fours
     
    A small quibble, but I believe you mean DOHC inline fours (although Alfa did make a heck of a flat four too).
     
    Alfas are known for three traits:
     
    1) High revving, beautiful sounding,  lovely-to-behold engines.  They don’t need to have the most horsepower, just the ability to tempt the driver to press the throttle until the tach reaches redline time and time again. And, no plastic NVH covers on the engine, let us all admire the beautiful aluminum and magnesium castings.
     
    2) Telepathic handling.  Not the highest lateral g’s, or the stiffest ride, but a balanced suspension that allows for nice throttle steer.  A car that handles even when the road is rough so you don’t need a completely clean, dry, glass smooth surface to enjoy it.  Oh, and no electronic cheater gizmos either.
     
    3) Sexy body work that is also aerodynamically efficient so you don’t need boy-racer wings.  The Alfetta shown above had its body shape wind-tunnel tweaked to create downforce at speed without an unsightly rear wing.
     
    Now I’m off to home in my ’84 GTV6.
     
     
     

  • avatar

    What exactly does Alfa make TODAY that would sell in the US? The 159, Brera and Spider? They are all basically GM/Fiat platforms, not a helluva lot different than Saabs nobody on this site can stand and they would sell how many to whom after how much was spent on building a dealer network?

    At least Saab bodies have a chance to make it two decades in crappy climates.

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    Easy…

    – ARNA (Much underrated)
    – AR6.14
    – Romeo (Rarity value)
    – 140A
    – Mille
    – 950
    – A11
    – F11
    – T10
    – F12

  • avatar
    dm123

    Financially the Spider might make a lot of sense because it is the most recognizable in this country. It is the only Alfa I can say that I have seen in my town. But the Montreal was stunning. Not sure…

  • avatar
    ajla

    Exterior styling is not Alfa’s problem.
     

  • avatar
    Zarba

    1) 8C 2900B 
    2) 105 GTV
    3) Giulia Super sedan
    3) GTV-6
    4) Duetto Spyder
    5) 159 Sedan
    6) Milano (Alfa 75) 
    7) 164
    8) 33 Stradale
    9) Disco Volante
    10) B.A.T. (any)

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Disco Volante (Flying Saucer)
    Giulietta check the Sprint Zagato

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    The photo car is a pre-GTV6 twin-cam four cylinder Alfetta coupe.  I like that styling better than the tarted up GTV6 with the hood bulge.
    I agree.  The Alfetta, both coupe and sedan, are my favorite Alfa.  Great styling, great mechanical layout too, with front engine, rear transaxle and rear deDion suspension.  If only the build quality were competitive.
     

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I am surprised that there are so many of us GTV-6 owners on here! Mine’s an ’86, in red, and it is a lovely thing.

    I have to agree with Ed on this one. And especially as wedge-shapes are so out of fashion. Everything is sort of tank-aero these days. Otherwise, I like pretty much all of the modern Alfas, with a special fondness for the 159 Sportwagon – simply perfection. Just keep doing THAT!

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    The heck with the Italian money pit, I want to rescue the Electra in the background from rat-rodder abuse.

  • avatar
    djn

    The GTV6 corrected the mechanical issues of the alfetta and will surely be the post Giulia collectable Alfa.  I really can’t add much to the already posted lists but I didn’t see the 101 series Sprint Speciale.  One of Bertone’s most beautiful designs.
     
    Alfa has a long history of ugly sedans, think Milano and Giulia TI.  The 164 was stunning break from tradition.  While sharing Saab/Lancia shell, the car looks more like a Ferrari 400i or even a 4 door Allante.  Pininfarina should design the next Alfa sedan. When it went to market in the US, your only choices were the 164 or the Spider.  Alfa really needs 2 sedans in the showroom, think 3 series / 5 series.  Spiders are nice, but not volume models.

    • 0 avatar
      one-eyed snake

      The Alfa Romeo 164 did not share any part of its cabin with the Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema, or Saab 9000.  It was a unique design by Carrozzeria Pininfarina.
      See my reply to gottacook above.

  • avatar
    one-eyed snake

    The Alfa Romeo 164 did not share any part of its cabin with the Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema, or Saab 9000.  It was a unique design by Carrozzeria Pininfarina.

    See my reply to gottacook above.

  • avatar
    ruspa

    The 8c, 4c, MiTo and Giulietta are simply perfect on my opinion. Talking of historical models, I love the 1964 Spider, the one that Al Pacino drives in the movie S.I.M.O.N.E.
    Anyway alfaromeo exterior design is almost a step ahead under any circumstances. For 90% of people (except for Audi fanboys, which prefer a 3rd hand A3 :P ) Alfa Romeos exterior is always brilliant, so racy, so badass.. Just take a look on google for “alfa romeo polizia” or “alfa carabinieri” and see how alfa romeos really look good in uniform eheheh. I tend to believe that our police cars are the best looking ever (and scary, when you’ve got them in your rear mirror).
    Well, since taxation and petrol cost is very different in your country, USA had different models of AlfaRomeo in the past than rest of the world. The legendary 75 TurboAmerica (75 was the last AlfaRomeo RWD, and got many Alfisti angry because it was not available with the Boxer engine, very beloved by everyone in particular for the sound and lateral strong vibration, very racy) was available only in u.s.a. with its 3.000cc Turbocharged O__O we never had such impressive motors here in Italy.
    Anyway, for the disserting over Alfa and Dodge let’s say that those brand will save each other: since AlfaRomeo was bought by Gianni Agnelli (FIAT founder & Juventus FC manager) Alfa lost almost completely his soul. Alfa were famous for being low-cost (and components low-quality as well) very fast race cars. The point was: why to buy a BMW or Mercedes (Audi was null at the time) when you can have an AlfaRomeo that is twice badass looking, twice faster and half price? 70’s – 80’s Alfa were going rust quickly, creaky and unreliable (except for the perfect motor) but the emotion once the engine was turned on was unique.
    Then with Fiat acquisition market-laws had to be taken, so Alfa lost his traditional rear wheel drive, gained those awful 80’s fiat motors and the exterior design (another total WIN of alfas among other makers) was no racy any more.
    Let me get to the point: if Chrysler is so bad (and consequently all its sub-brands as Dodge) on business and Fiat is fast growing since its greatly greatly increased quality of both exterior and motors, then AlfaRomeo can escape from the savvy politics and get benefit from the Dodge RWD chassis and manufacturing system, which Alfa lost since ages and is not profiteable to reimplement from scratch.
    So you in the end, let’s hope you will have better-looking Dodges in USA, cheaper, faster and more technological as Fiat can push in these things, and Alfa can get back its traditions and get also bigger engines.
    I have a Mito, and I’m very very satisfied with. But Fiat has to face Wolswagen in world-markets, and AlfaRomeo (& Lancia) used to be in the same category of Bmw and Audi, but they got systems to produce 300hp engines, while Fiat can’t risk that much. So Alfa is losing ground, and it’s not fair, not for the first car maker that ever won an international car race.
    We want back our redneck-ferraris :D and besides, you’ll love those 500’s and Mitos sneaking in narrow lanes fast as missiles in NYC ^___^
    I’m entushiastic about this italy-usa join venture.

  • avatar
    djn

    Ruspa,
    We never got an Alfa 75 (Milano) with twin turbo.  The hottest version was the Verde with a 3.0 Ltr v6 replacing the 2.5.   Not very successful and Milanos (75) are very difficult to find today.   The best thing about the Milano Verde is that when wrecked, you could swap the 3.0 into a GTV6.  Now thats a nice ride.

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