Disco Volante. The dream of every Alfista

  • 22 July 2023
  • 2 min read
  • 3 images
Disco Volante. The dream of every Alfista image

Photo credit: MAUTO

The idea of Alfa Romeo leaving Formula 1 after winning the World Championship in 1950 and 1951 with Nino Farina (a relative of Pinin, an intriguing fact) and Manuel Fangio did not sit well with many of the brand’s engineers, who had won everything in its history. In 1950, the Alfa Romeo 1900, a sporty, high-performance sedan, rolled off the company’s first assembly line. Its 2,000cc four-cylinder engine with overhead camshafts and a lightweight alloy block, delivered an impressive 90 horsepower, which was quite impressive for the time.

Alfa Romeo Disco Volante 1952 03Alfa Romeo Disco Volante

Behind this project were seasoned racing engineers: Gioachino Colombo, the mastermind behind Ferrari’s legendary V12 250 engine, and Carlo Chiti, a lifelong devotee of motorsports.

It comes as no surprise, then, that after leaving Formula 1, Alfa Romeo set its sights on sports car racing, using its new 1900 model as a starting point. The racing variant, initially conceived as an open-top model but later also produced as a closed version, utilized the mechanical underpinnings of the Alfa 1900 TI, while the chassis received a fresh design incorporating the proven technique of steel tubing. The racing-tuned engine, equipped with twin carburettors, delivered an impressive 158 horsepower, propelling the first prototype to a top speed of 220 km/h.

Alfa Romeo Disco Volante 1952 06Alfa Romeo Disco Volante

But the magic of the Disco Volante lay elsewhere. Its captivating design, created by Carrozzeria Touring “Superleggera”, was inspired by UFOs and gave it its otherworldly name. The gracefully curved upper and lower sections of the body traced a central line that encompassed the entire model. However, this ingenious and visually stunning concept proved somewhat incompatible with optimal performance: The car’s exceptionally low drag coefficient and the lower part of the body ended up accentuating the airflow effect under the car, making it unstable.

Alfa Romeo Disco Volante 1952 05Alfa Romeo Disco Volante

Out of the five prototypes produced, two were also equipped with a 3,000cc, 6-cylinder engine producing 240 horsepower. One was a coupé, and the other had slightly less pronounced contours. They only served to drive Alfisti crazy with the desire to buy them, especially among Americans. But the decision was resolute: the dream would remain unfulfilled, and the project was ultimately abandoned. One of the surviving examples can be found at Mauto in Turin. If you pay it a visit, you’ll always find it surrounded by romantic enthusiasts.