Alfa Romeo: the Golden Years!  1935-1985



Was this the birth of the car?    It depends.

The Cugnot vehicle can be regarded as the first auto-mobile in the world, if the definition is broad enough. How should it be defined? By fuel, type of engine, drive system, seating capacity, speed or what?

When Daimler-Benz (makers of Mercedes-Benz cars) says that the automobile was invented in 1886 by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, it's basing its claim on its own definition: a light carriage for personal transport with three or four wheels, powered by a liquid-fueled internal combustion engine. In doing so, the company ignores Daimler's gas-powered motorcycle of 1885.

But even by that definition, the French have a prior claim: Belgian-born Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir, who settled in Paris and became a naturalized French citizen, invented his gas engine in 1858 and patented it in 1860. He used electric spark ignition, but the engine ran on stove gas and had no compression. It was shown to the press in a three-wheeled cart in 1860. A liquid-fuel version, with a primitive carburetor, was built in 1862 and installed in a three-wheeled wagon early in 1863. It is on record that it successfully covered the 18 kilometres from Paris to Joinville-le-Pont and back, securing its place in history as the first spark-ignition petroleum-fuel car to demonstrate its roadworthiness.

But Lenoir did not continue his work on cars. So we (and Daimler-Benz) can make the Lenoir claim void by narrowing the definition further: It doesn't count as a car if you gave up. You must persevere, and your experiments must lead to actual car production. That's what Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler did.

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Birth of the car?

Watt didn't invent the steam engine until 1705, we can guess that this was possibly a model automobile powered by a mechanism like Hero's steam engine-a spinning wheel with jets on the periphery.

Although by the mid-15th century the idea of a self-propelled automobile had been put into practice with the development of experimental car is powered by means of springs, clockworks, and the wind, Nicolas- Joseph Cugnot of France is considered to have built the first true automobile in 1769.

Designed by Cugnot and constructed by M. Brezin, it is also the first automobile to move under its own power for which there is a record. Cugnot's three-wheeled steam-powered automobile carried four persons and was meant to move artillery pieces. It had a top speed of a little more than 3.2 km/h (2 mph) and had to stop every 20 minutes to build up a fresh head of steam.

the architecture, the culture of living, and of course the Alfa Romeo. Radaelli points this out in his treatise on ‘Immortality”. [See story by Radaelli on Immortality]


It has been said that if horses dreamed, their favorite dream would be of horseless carriages that served as a means of transportation, not horses either directly or indirectly.

Let’s go back in time.

Several Italians recorded designs for wind-driven cars. The first was Guido da Vigevano in 1335. It was a windmill-type drive to gears and thus to wheels. Vaturio designed a similar car that was also never built. Later Leonardo da Vinci designed clockwork driven tricycle with tiller steering and a differential mechanism between the rear wheels.

In the early 15th century, the Portuguese arrived in China and the interaction of the two cultures led to a variety of new technologies, including the creation of a wheel that turned under its own power. By the 1600s, small steam-powered engine models were developed, but it was another century before a full-sized engine-powered automobile was created.

A Catholic priest named Father Ferdinan Verbiest is credited to have built a steam-powered car for the Chinese  Emperor Chien Lung in about 1678. There is no informa-tion about the automobile, only the event. Since James

Consider the following definitions:

The word automobile comes, via the French automobile, from the Ancient Greek word αὐτός (autós, "self") and the Latin mobilis ("movable"); meaning a vehicle that moves itself, rather than being pulled or pushed by a separate animal or another vehicle. The alternative name car is believed to originate from the Latin word carrus or carrum ("wheeled vehicle"), or the Middle English word carre ("cart") (from Old North French), or from the Gaulish word karros (a Gallic Chariot).

An automobile, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor. Most definitions of the term specify that automobiles are designed to run primarily on roads, to have seating for one to eight people, to typically have four wheels, and to be constructed principally for the transport of people rather than goods. However, the term automobile is far from precise, because there are many types of vehicles that do similar tasks.

automobile |ˌôtəmōˈbēl| [from the dictionary] noun

a road vehicle, typically with four wheels, powered by an internal combustion engine or electric motor and able to carry a small number of people.

ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from French, from auto- ‘self’ + mobile ‘mobile.’

There are many great civilizations of the world whose cultures have contributed to the world as we know it today. I bought an old book years ago that was written in about 1930. Its title, ironically enough, is “What Civilization Owes to Italy” by James J. Walsh. This book was copyrighted by the StratfordCompany. Amazingly, the book is dedicated to “Benito Mussolini -Il Duce- Leader of Italy from Politics to higher things”. That dedication is significant to Alfa Romeo since Mussolini intervened in Alfa’s fate after Gobbato’s assassination while preventing the FIAT vendetta in 1945.

A quote from Walsh gives some life to the term “Immortality”: “Genius is elusive and the spirit breathes where it will, but the Italians have been more favored than any other people in the development of aesthetic and intellectual culture to such a high degree as left a precious legacy to mankind in the products of its power.  Walsh also tells us that “The story of culture in mankind is a history of cities.” 

Milano has long been known for its innovation, particularly in design. Notwithstanding the arts, every time I have visited Milan and other parts of Italy, I have been awed by