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The History of Alfa Romeo

A 1960's Giulietta - yeah baby!

Alfa Romeo has been thrilling drivers since 1910. Founded in Italy originally as ‘ALFA’, (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili)the genesis of the brand lay in Cavalier Ugo Stella’s decision to take over a French car factory on the outskirts of Milan. Within 12 months, the company’s inaugural car – the 24 HP - was turning heads at events like the Targa Florio endurance race. Within 10 years their cars dominated the European motorsport scene. The HP 24 went on to transform into the ALFA 20-30 HP and between both models, 680 vehicles were produced.

Early Days

As with many of their contemporaries, the onset of the First World War interrupted vehicle production. In 1915 Nicola Romeo, an engineer and entrepreneur, took over the business and re-positioned the factory to produce military hardware for the war effort. Munitions, aircraft engines and other components based on the company's existing car engines were produced in the factory which had a vastly increased footprint.

After the war, Romeo invested his profits and acquired locomotive and railway carriage plants in Saronno, Rome and Naples which were assimilated under the ALFA name.

Car production resumed at the factory one year after the war ended, in 1919. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo with the launch of the Torpedo 20-30 HP, which went on to find prominence as a race car with the brand continuing to successfully produce road and race cars throughout the 1920’s. It was during this time that none other than Enzo Ferrari became a racing driver for ALFA. He had successes at several events including his most satisfying at Pescara.

By the 1930’s however the political landscape was changing in Italy. The rise of Mussolini allowed Fascism to take a hold of the country. It was at this point that Nicola Romeo left the company – and the government took over. The brand became, in effect, a national emblem.

During this time its reputation as a maker of envy-inspiring automobiles was established. The 8C 2300 for example was widely hailed as one of the finest touring cars in the world, and notched up notable success in contests such as the Mille Miglia and the Le Mans 24-hour. But it all came to an abrupt halt when, in 1944, an aerial bombing raid razed the factory and temporarily stopped production.

Once the Second World War was over, production resumed at the factory. This was an era of ongoing sporting success in Grand Prix events, as well as great creativity resulting in the release, in 1954, of the Giulietta. This was a remarkable and beautiful car release as both coupé and convertible versions were available and it became a firm favourite of the Italian people. By the early 1960’s over 100,000 Giuliettas had been made and the brands success was cemented worldwide with the introduction of the Giulia saloon in 1962.

Transition

At the start of the 1970’s, Alfa Romeo changed the automotive world by launching the Alfasud. This front-wheel-drive hatchback delivered a sports-car driving experience to complement its dynamic appearance. It signalled the arrival of the modern-day Alfa Romeo – a practical, everyday car that was extraordinary in performance and design. This extended through the second-generation Giulietta, introduced in 1977, and the first-ever turbo-diesel Alfa Romeo (the Alfetta 2000 TD) in 1979, as well as the wedge-shaped saloons of the Eighties, including the 33, the 75 and the 164.

In 1986, Alfa Romeo, still owned by the Italian government, was sold to the Fiat Group.

As the millenium arrived, Alfa Romeo updated its model range with cars that heralded cutting edge design. The 155 introduced in 1992, secured the Italian Superturismo title in the same year and the British Touring Car Championship 2 years later. This was followed by the Car-of-the-Year-winning 156 in 1998, the GT in 2003 and, most significant of all, the stunning 8C sports car in 2007.

Updated in 2010, the Giulietta in the form of a beautiful five-door hatch, was launched. In 2015 the Giulia made its world debut in Milan with CEO Sergio Marchionne saying that the car would be: “retaking its rightful position in the market. It will once again be one of the leading symbols of Italian engineering and style, an icon of Italy's technological excellence and creative spirit.”

Future

The brand values of this legendary car maker are best summed up in its strap line ‘some make, we create.'

Since its formation 106 years ago, the award-winning Alfa Romeo name has become legendary. It evokes a unique passion for motoring and has strived to build and develop the brand from a niche to one which is capable of challenging luxury vehicle makers.

Now its owner, Fiat Chrysler, plans to spend 5 billion euros on Alfa Romeo’s overhaul to tap into the cachet that lingers from cars like the Duetto Spider driven by Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 film “The Graduate.” With an ambitious plan to roll out eight new models by 2018, including two SUVs, Alfa Romeo is aiming for sales of 400,000 cars – a fivefold increase.

The brand is held in high regard by many. Possibly summed up best by Enzo Ferrari..." I still have, for Alfa, the tenderness of a first love. The pure affection of a child for his mother."

By TraceyMcBain