THIS IS WHY A SITE IS DEDICATED TO ALFA ROMEOS

 FIRST A BRIEF HISTORY:

Beginning in 1906 under the name Societa Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID), the company built French Darracqs under license. Starting in Naples they soon moved to Milan and on June 24, 1910, the name was changed to Societa Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automodili - or A.L.F.A. Along with passenger cars, A.L.F.A. began racing. Looking for valuable factory room, Nicola Romeo took over the company in December 1915. After the war, the cars were rebadged-Alfa Romeo. During the years between the wars, Alfa Romeo built a variety of Gran Tourisamo and sporting vehicles. Alfa Romeo virtually dominated their classes in racing until the mid 30's when the German machines took over. After World War II Alfa Romeo quickly began producing automobiles for customers, as well as for racing.

While not as exotic as Maserati or Ferrari (who had been the team manager of their racing division during the early thirties), Alfa always had the reputation of producing well engineered, sophisticated automobiles. Alfa Romeo, who was now owned by the government, was not alone among European automobile producers in not always designing and producing the most reliable of automobiles. Alfa cars were not only expensive, but often lacked the degree of development which was required by the American buyer.

Initially after World War II, Alfa Romeo built warmed over 30's designed cars - again, as did much of the rest of the world, including the US. In the mid 50's, Alfa made the decision to concentrate on smaller, 4-cylinder sports cars. While successful, they were considerably more sophisticated, and of course, expensive than their British competition. While Alfa continued to offer somewhat larger engines, a straight six and a V-8 derived from a racing engine, it was the 4-cylinder, dual overhead cam engine which was to dominate as their "bread and butter" engine over the ensuing years. There is currently an extremely sophisticated version of this engine still being produced today.

Again, like so many manufacturers, Alfa moved "upmarket" in 1987 by producing the Milano and the GTV-6 - both powered by 2.5 liter, single overhead cam engines. Later the V-6 engine was to go from north to south and become a longitudinal V-6 3.0 liter. Although the 4-cylinder Spider was still being produced, their main car was the 164 - at least in the US.

With dwindling sales, Alfa Romeo ceased selling cars in the US in 1995. Alfa Romeo, now owned by Fiat, has continued to build outstanding vehicles. These include a new Spider, nuvola, the 156 - 1998 European Car of the Year, and the new 166.

There are constant rumors Alfa will return to the U.S. Right now all we can do is hope.

 

 CURRENT HISTORY:
Currently there are approximately 20, 000 Alfas registered in the US. A safe estimate is double that figure could be "put back on the road" with relatively minor work and another 10,000 could be returned to service with somewhat more effort - making the total Alfas in the U.S. around 50,000. When one includes Canada, Europe, Japan, South Africa, Australia, Hong Kong,and New Zealand, the figure of potential Alfas on the road swells to well over a half million.

 TODAY:

Let's take for instance a 1953 restored Triumph which might go for up to $17,000. While certainly not all, many used Alfas go for considerably less. When one compares the brilliance of the twin-cam Alfa engine, the heart and soul of any automobile, the Triumph's engine comes across more than somewhat agricultural. Moving on, the Alfa's suspension and body design put the TR-2's to shame.

So why do these rather crude, cute, but not really attractive automobiles fare so much better in the "used collector's car market" than Alfas?

The fact one can buy virtually any part needed to restore them and for some individuals, their ease of maintenance, is a plus. And yes, that cuteness can be attractive to some.

On the other hand, older Ferraris often change hands for astronomical sums. Their V-12 engine is not for the faint-of-heat mechanic to consider rebuilding - not to mention the customer to pay for.

So where does this put Alfas? They're neither cute and simple like Triumphs, Bug-eyes, and Beetles, nor are they exotics in the Ferrari tradition.

Alfas are closer to the tradition of Jaguars, Lotus', Porsche's, and BMW's.

One can make a good case why Alfa Romeo's should be the dominant automobile in the collector car market -Jaguar lack of reliability; Lotus' "plastic bodies" and "bought out" engines; Porsche's incredible rebuild costs, combined with their inherent oversteering; and BMW's rather thin lineup of collectable cars - after the 507, 2002tii, and M-1 coupe what comes to mind? Oh sorry, the Isetta.

There is certainly no lack of interest in the Alfa, not to mention dedication by a relatively large group of die-hard enthusiasts. Many of them feel the movie The Graduate was about an Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider and some people. Should one doubt the interest in older Alfa's, simply go to the World Wide Web, key in "Alfa Romeo" and you will find over 30,000 sites dedicated to the marque.

 TWO OBVIOUS QUESTIONS COME TO MIND:

First, if there are so many enthusiasts, why are the older Alfas undervalued? And secondly, with that many web sites, what makes AlfaCyberSite so unique?

While difficult to document, some of the following conclusions are fairly obvious to one who closely follows the marque. In the past some Alfa Romeo owners have viewed their cars as expendable. They will run them as long as the costs don't become too prohibitive, then either sell or in worse case scenarios, turn them into parts cars. Because of the relatively low cost of purchasing many Alfas, they can fall in the hands of people who have no compunctions about modifying their cars to supposedly make them better or at least, more reliable.

This is not meant as a dissertation as to why Alfas should be kept original...however, virtually any collectible car either kept in or restored to original condition is worth more than one which has been modified.

Before continuing, simply keeping an Alfa (or any enthusiast's car) running is most admirable. Also, the 1300 cc engine looks quite similar to the 1600 cc, which looks similar to the 1700 cc, which looks similar to the 2000 cc engine. It's not hard to see the temptation of going to a larger engine, especially when parts for the smaller engines are becoming harder and harder to come by.

There are other factors in wanting to "upgrade" an Alfa. Just as someone who owns an historic race car and chooses to restore it as raced at Le Mans in 1964, for instance, there is a wide spectrum of so-called "correctness".

What about rebuilding an Alfa to European specs, rather than American? Or upgrading to disc brakes rather than drum? Certainly if a car is actually driven, rather than sitting in a garage for the rest of it's life, there is logic to making it more "livable" in today's driving environment. And certainly many Alfisti believe in driving their cars and enjoying them to fullest.

Yet this over-exuberance to be "one with their car" can work against an Alfa owner. When it comes time to sell, the value is depreciated by these modifications, which results in a downward spiral in value and desirability.

Compare this to the Porsche. What is being considered here are 356's and older 911's. Let's start by saying 30,000 Alfa web sites seems impressive, however, it pales in comparison to Porsche's well over 300,000.

Speedsters change hands regularly for up to (and often over) $50,000. It's not that there aren't Alfa's which have this value, it's that the Speedster was an entry level vehicle for Porsche in the US in the 50's. Because of the dedication and appreciation by owner's of these vehicles, most have been sympathetically restored and maintained, creating a win-win situation.

Compare this to a 50's Alfa Spider 750 Normale. The top price is $12,000. It would not be unusual to find one with aftermarket wheels, a later type top, perhaps unoriginal seats, an attempt to make it into a Veloce, and sporting a modern radio.

It's rather ironic that Porsche, with its major flaw of having the engine hanging over the back axle, has developed a virtual cult following of individuals dedicated to keeping their automobiles pure. And at the same time, you have a group of individuals who equally appreciate their Alfas, enjoy them to the fullest, yet are often penalized for making and keeping them drivable.

AlfaCyberSite is dedicated to both preservationists and those looking for that extra something. Appreciating the marque and owning and caring for an example (and often examples), indicates you want to preserve, while enjoying the heritage.

 AlfaCyberSite will, in turn, be here to help you.

 


AlfaCyberSite Site Map | ACS Home Page


Copyright © 1999 - 2002, AlfaCyberSite. All Rights Reserved.