The company was founded in Naples in 1906, as the 'SocietÓ Anonima Italiana Darracq'. It was only in 1910, after it's ruin, that it took up residence in Milan as the 'Anonima Lomdarda Fabbrica Automobili' and represented this city against Turin and Fiat. Even 'Fiat' could be seen as an acronym, because in Latin it means: 'He, she or it will be'. Of course 'Alfa' as Alpha, the first letter in the Greek alphabet, was even more a stroke of genius.
In the beginning they were still linked with Darracq, but with their own constructions. The technical and designer abilities of the brand name had been confirmed several times in the course of its history. Even in the present day (2014) situation, which is not particularly rosy, it is rumoured that even the VW-concern is putting out it's feelers in that direction. Alfa has never had to be concerned about their reputation as being an innovative brand name.
Those who write about Alfa should also mention Giuseppe Merosi. The destiny of the company is too closely tied to Merosi's own for it to be ignored, at least in the first 13 years, until the arrival of Vittorio Jano. As the son of middle-class parents he enjoyed an education as a technical authority.
Is it simply a coincidence, that some of these founder-personalities are relatively big people, something that sticks out, particularly in Italy. This is not only the case with Merosi, but e.g., also Enzo Ferrari, who we'll deal with later. In addition, Merosi also had a passion for cycling, his sportsmanship was comparable with that of a lot of young men, e.g., also the Opel brothers.
On the way to Alfa, he was part of the Bassi & Merosi company, who assembled and sold bicycles from England. He did not however stay in the joint company but entered the services of Orio & Marchand, where he rose up to the position of chief designer. From 1906 onwards, after a year with Fiat, he worked with Bianchi. The company was known by most people for bicycle- and motorcycle racing, although, even at this time they already manufactured motor cars.
The first four-wheeler already appeared before the turn of the century. It was based on the available bicycle- and motorcycle technology. After 1906, Merosi extended the production of automobiles to three types of chassis with various wheelbases and drive-trains. At the time of his withdrawal, there were already four-cylinders with four-speed gearboxes and cardan shafts. They were manufactured in a newly built factory.
In the meantime, the motor car department at Bianchi had developed into the third largest producer in Italy and into a Fiat competitor. After the death of Edoardo Bianchi, Autobianchi was taken over in 1955 by Fiat, this brought interesting variations of the Fiat compact car, both in the design as well as the basic technology onto the market.
The Alfa company went through a boom, in 1911 they took part with a racing car (picture 2), in the Targa Florio, which had only been going on for 5 years. In 1914, quite revolutionary at that time, the first Alfa Engine with twin-overhead cams appeared. The cubic capacity was increased and together with the RPM, so did the performance. Indeed, 1914 was also the year when the first world war began.
In 1915, when Italy also went into the war, Alfa went bankrupt. Their salvation came in the shape of Nicola Romeo, who had studied mechanical- and electrical engineering. His mining machine company was flourishing and he made sure that Alfa received state orders and, was thus involved in the wartime production. From 1918 onwards, the company was called 'Alfa Romeo', The first car to carry the new name, was the 20/30 in 1921.
They were hoping for an increase in prosperity through racing successes. Merosi created the 'P1', a two-liter with a compressor. It was to have made its maiden appearance on the new racetrack in Monza. Unfortunately the driver, Ugo Sivocci was fatally injured in an accident during training. This caused the company to withdraw their car. In addition, the P1 turned out to be not quite competitive.
Sivocci was a friend of Ferrari and was brought into Alfa from CMN at the beginning of 1921. Both were previously employed there as racing- or test drivers. Enzo Ferrari served Alfa Romeo well, largely because he was good at establishing contacts and could also persuade people. Thus Luigi Bazzi's change to Alfa was probably also his doing.
The most spectacular change of sides that was attributed to him, was Vittorio Jano, this however, is not quite correct. He was one of the most important engineers at Fiat and his work at Alfa in 1923/24 brought about the breakthrough to absolutely competitive racing cars. Indeed, a consequence of this change, were the respective reimbursements including the providing of an apartment in Milan, which could probably only have been negotiated by people having a leading
function like Giorgio Rimini or even by Nicola Romeo himself.
Enzo Ferrari, due to his connections to Turin, may have procured the first contact. He was a wanderer between the worlds anyhow. Sometimes he was an official driver for Alfa, other times he took part in smaller races without factory participation, in which he was mostly more successful than when in a works team. What was his job for the rest of the time, a car salesman? Whatever the case may be, he was never the racing director at Alfa.
In Modena he founded a small company called the 'Enzo Ferrari & Company' and described this as the 'Carozzeria Emilia', indeed, car-bodies were never developed here. Whatever the case may be, the arrival of Jano proved to be a godsend for the company. The P2 avoided the possible weak points, which Jano knew about from the competing Fiat engine, the 805s. It was a straight eight-cylinder with two compressors, one for each group of four cylinders. 12/14