Alfa Romeo has been making delightful cars for a very long time, 110 years in fact, and befitting a company that inspires often blind devotion and passion, it has created a rich back catalogue of concept cars along the way.
The best Alfa Romeo concept cars of all time
Often design, engineering or technology test beds with which explore the future of the automobile, Alfa Romeo’s concepts have often been the product of legendary Italian Carrozzerias such as Pininfarina, Bertone, Touring or ItalDesign and their influence has stretched beyond the Milanese brand. Here are some of our favourites, and there are quite a few...
1914 A.L.F.A. 40/60 HP Aerodinamica by Castagna
The very first of Alfa’s concepts was early enough that the ‘Romeo’ hadn’t yet been added to the acronym for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (or Lombard Automobile Factory Ltd.) which would happen in 1915 after entrepreneur Nicola Romeo took control of the company. The previous year had seen this curious automobile – perfect for the steam punk family that picnics together – roll out of the Carrozzeria Castagna works at the behest of Milanese Count Mario Ricotti.
An early exercise in aerodynamics, its extreme teardrop shape hid a conventional cowl shaped bonnet, which meant the driver sat several feet behind those impressive front windows, making them quite useless in helping to position the car. The streamlined shape did help make the most of the 70PS the car produced from its four-cylinder engine and it was able to reach 86mph which sounds frankly terrifying. A full five-seater, the Count later removed the roof for additional eccentricity.
Alfa Romeo BAT 5, 7 and 9
Despite what their appearance might have you believe, the BAT cars had nothing to do with the Caped Crusader and his nightly efforts to save Gotham City. The name was an acronym of Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica and were produced between 1953 and 1955 by Bertone as research projects into creating cars with the lowest possible drag coefficient. All three cars were penned by Franco Scaglione and used on Alfa Romeo 1900 chassis and powertrains. Their low drag and lightweight allowed them to hit speeds in excess of 125mph.
BAT 5 was unveiled at the 1953 Turin Auto Show and with its faired in wheels front and rear, pontoon-style wings, small cockpit and inward curving fins it achieved a drag coefficient of 0.23. The following year’s BAT 7 was even more extreme with protruding front wings to smooth airflow and even larger rear wings which curved in to the extent they almost touched. It worked, dropping the drag coefficient to 0.19. 1955’s BAT 9 reversed the trend, coming much closer to reality; the Alfa Romeo shield grille even made a reappearance. A lot of the car’s styling cues made their way into the limited production Giulietta Sprint Speciale. The BAT cars were honoured with 2008’s BAT 11 concept, based on the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione.
1964 Alfa Romeo Canguro and 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia 1600 Sport
The Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ was sold as a limited production special to homologate a purpose-built racer based on the 105-series mechanicals. The TZ stood for ‘Tubulare Zagato’ for the car’s designer and its spaceframe chassis. Just over 100 were built but two chassis were provided to Bertone and Pininfarina to each produce a concept. The former created the Canguro (Italian for kangaroo) in 1964 and urged Alfa Romeo to put it into production but was rebuffed. The car was later written-off by the Chevrolet Testudo (or Turtle) in what may be the only crash featuring concept cars named after animals. The Canguro was later rebuilt and voted Best of Show at Ville d’Este Concours d’Elegance in 2005.
The Pininfarina 1600 Sport was the work of Aldo Brovarone, the man behind the Dino 206GT, with which it shares a lot of its styling cues, albeit adapted for a front rather than mid-mounted engine. This also received an award at Ville d’Este Concours d’Elegance, five years after its sister car and in the presence of Brovarone.
1972 Alfa Romeo Alfetta Spider
The early 1970s saw a swathe of new safety regulations come into effect in North America and for a time it was feared that they might cause the demise of the convertible; hence the popularity of the Porsche 911 Targa and Fiat X1/9 at the time. The Alfa Romeo Alfetta Spider by Pininfarina was a styling exercise intended to demonstrate how a replacement for the Duetto Spider could take these safety considerations into account.
Throwing away every element of the Duetto’s rounded ‘cuttlefish’ styling, the Alfetta Spider is an incredibly attractive and well-proportioned car with a distinct Grand Touring vibe. Although the 105-based Alfa Romeo Spider soldiered on for another two decades while the Alfetta never saw production as an Alfa, it’s fairly obvious that the majority of its design would later form the basis for the Lancia Gamma Coupe.
1976 Alfa Romeo New York Taxi
Everyone remembers that time Italdesign made a New York yellow cab based on an Alfa Romeo van, right? It was in response to a brief by the Museum of Metropolitan Art in New York for designs for a future City Taxi. Two American companies produced, bafflingly, steam-powered designs, Volkswagen an electric-hybrid and Volvo a diesel-powered design with a rollercoaster style pulldown restraint bar, which could hold a wheelchair but for some reason not also its occupant simultaneously.
And then there was Italdesign’s concept which used the running gear from an Alfa Romeo F12 van and provided space for five occupants in a car around the size of a modern Ford Fiesta. It also was one of the first uses of sliding doors as we would understand them today. There’s even a very minimalist interpretation of the Alfa Romeo shield grille. Many of the Taxi’s themes would later be expanded on in Italdesign’s Lancia Megagamma prototype which paved the way for modern people carriers. Italdesign revisited the people carrier theme with Alfa Romeo a few years later, creating the very odd looking Capsula concept.
1983 Alfa Romeo Zeta 6 and Delfino
The 1983 Geneva Motor Show saw Alfa Romeo once again invite competing Carrozzeria’s to create designs to be displayed on its stand. In this case the two concepts were Bertone’s Delfino and Zagato’s Zeta 6. Both were based on the running gear of the GTV6 and presented very different ideas of what an Alfa Romeo grand tourer of the ‘80s should look like. The Zeta 6 was, let’s face it, a slightly clumsy looking Porsche 928, which by then was five years old. Swap the badges and you would be forgiven for thinking it a Porsche proposal for a little brother to their big coupe.
Bertone’s Delfino took the opposite approach, actually taking the GTV’s wedgy styling to greater extremes. In keeping with Bertone’s design language of the time was a trapezoidal glasshouse, strong horizontal character lines along and across the front and back of the car and concealed headlamps. The Delfino is reminiscent of Bertone’s later design for the Citroën BX and the limited-run Aston Martin V8 Zagato, which was created by, suprisingly, Zagato. Perhaps the company was taking notes at Geneva.
1986 Alfa Romeo Vivace
Appearing in the first year of Fiat’s ownership of Alfa Romeo, the brace of concepts by Pininfarina seemed to point to a new direction for the company and certainly a softening of the angular styling language as epitomised by the Alfetta series. There certainly are hints of the forthcoming Alfa Romeo 164 which appeared the following year.
The two-tone bodywork with its rising beltline, shield grille integrated into a smooth bonnet and rear light strip are all elements later seen in the large Alfa Romeo saloon, undoubtedly the best looking of the quarter made up of Lancia Thema, Saab 9000 and Fiat Chroma. The idea of a coupe and convertible sharing such closely related, wedge-profiled body lines would also re-emerge in the 916-series Alfa Romeo GTV and Spider which debuted in 1994.
1996 Alfa Romeo Nuvola
The Alfa Romeo Nuvola was intended as a demonstration of how the art of coachbuilding could be revived for modern times; Alfa Romeo would supply a state of the art space frame chassis which Carrozzeria could then clothe in their own fibreglass or aluminium bodywork. Power was supplied by a twin-turbo version of the ‘Busso’ V6, driving all four-wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox.
Remarkably, the Nuvola was the work of a group of student designers working under Walter De Silva at Alfa Romeo’s Centro Stile, or in-house design shop. Its name means cloud in Italian but also references famed racing driver Tazio Nuvolari who won both Grands Prix and Le Mans for Alfa Romeo in the interwar period.
1997 Alfa Romeo Scighera
The 1990s was not a subtle time so we should be grateful that the aluminium and carbon-fibre Italdesign Scighera was presented in a subtle silver rather than teal. That is possibly the only area of restraint it shows; very surprisingly the Scighera – meaning ‘mist’ – was apparently based on the Alfa Romeo 164 saloon. That car’s 3.0-litre Busso V6 was twin-turbocharged and turned around so it sat behind the cabin with the gearbox placed between the driver and passenger who were surrounded by many cows’ worth of Connolly leather.
The windscreen harks back to Alfa Romeo racers of the 1960s while the doors opened separately from the gullwing side windows. A huge rear clamshell incorporated an excessive rear wing which featured an integrated brake light across its entire width while the bonnet featured an integrated buttress wing for front downforce. Italdesign actually wanted to take the Scighera racing, if anything, with its fixed rear wing the racing prototype actually looks less outlandish.
2006 Alfa Romeo Diva
Possibly the least bonkers Sbarro project ever, the Alfa Romeo Diva was a joint venture between the Swiss design house, Alfa Romeo Centro Stile and Fiat Group’s Elasis research centre. It predates the Alfa Romeo 4C by several years but previews many of the approaches taken with that car including carbon-fibre construction aimed at reducing weight, multi-LED headlights and a mid-mounted existing production engine. In this case it was the stalwart V6 Busso, in its final 3.2-litre form, mounted in the middle of a heavily modified Alfa Rome 159 chassis and driving the rear wheels.
Styling paid clear homage to the 33 Stradale including the butterfly doors, side air intakes, mesh vent panels and cut off tail although the Formula 1 style integrated front wing adds a modern twist. Shown at the Geneva Motor Show, the interior of the Lotus Elise-sized car was a curious let down, looking too much like an unfinished racer rather than the fine hand crafted elements offered by the 33 Stradale.
2010 Alfa Romeo 2uettottanta
If there is any car on this list that makes us want to yell ‘why didn’t you build it?’ it’s Pininfarina’s update of the classic 1966 Alfa Romeo ‘Duetto’ Spider as can be seen from the car’s gentle curves and scalloped sides. The car’s odd name is a portmanteau of the numeral ‘2’ representing the number of seats, ‘Duetto’ which means ‘duet’ in Italian and ‘Ottanta’ or ‘80’, celebrating Pininfarina’s eight decades as a Carrozzeria.
Pininfarina even claimed that the car was practically production ready when it was unveiled at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. Roughly the same size as an MX-5 – but oh so much more desirable – the 2uettottanta used the turbocharged 1.7-litre four-cylinder engine from the Giulietta Cloverleaf and yet to be released Alfa Romeo 4C, driving the rear wheels through a double-clutch transmission. With Alfa working on the 4C, the budget to develop the 2uettottanta just wasn’t there but just think what might have been.
Which is your favourite Alfa Romeo concept car?
Join our motorsport community
Get closer to motorsport at Goodwood! Join the GRRC Fellowship to be first in the queue for event tickets, to attend the GRRC-only Members' Meeting and to enjoy year-round, exclusive benefits.
Sign up for Motorsport news
Stay in the know with our newsletters that contain all the latest news, stories and event information.