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Speed and Cars

Speed and cars have always been strictly connected for me.

When we were small kids, the first and most important parameter with which we judged and compared different cars was their maximum speed. We would look inside every parked car looking for the highest number at the end of its speedometer's scale. I still remember my utter disillusion when I learned later that it did not correspond to the actual maximum speed of a car ! I would often encourage my father to overtake cars in front of us and when it was possible he would, just to make me happy. He wasn't particularly passionate about cars but he taught me to drive early and he would patiently support my interests.

I remember the sad feeling of oppression and grave limitation of personal freedom when the first speed limits were introduced following the oil crisis in 1973.

When I was 13 and my father with my older brother went for a longer trip (to Italy), I was given the duty of starting the engine of our family car “every now and then” and letting it idle for some minutes, just to keep it efficient. I eagerly accepted this pleasant responsibility. The vague “every now and then” soon become every other day if not daily. With conviction that not only the engine but also other organs of the car would benefit from an exercise, I gradually extended my routine to climb the ramp out of the garage and later to go out of the courtyard onto a narrow street in front of our house. Next I would go backwards, every time a little more, down the street. Soon I would go down till the bottom of the street and drive back up, going through the gears. Every time I was trying to shift a little bit faster and on higher revs, with a glance on the speedometer before braking, every time a bit later and a bit harder before reentering the garage... It felt so good !

Little later I would gladly offer myself to accompany my father on otherwise boring visits to my grandparents living in another city and as a reward I would be given an opportunity to drive on parts of the return trip with little traffic. It was a win-win situation, everybody was happy.

At the time I got my driver's license, a day after my 16th birthday (I've already mentioned my father was supporting my passion...) I was able to adjust the ignition timing and valve clearance. I would perform it more often than necessary because I liked it and because it was a perfect excuse to perform a “necessary” road-test after !

I had my preferred “test-track": nothing more than a long stretch of road with no crossings or houses around.

I would drive it first normally, to check if there was any police car with a radar or any other unpredictable danger factor and to get the oil temperature right. Then back, at full throttle ! I bet you are all familiar with that addictive, sublime pleasure of driving most any car at full speed... And the fulfilling satisfaction of listening to the ticking sounds of the hot engine cooling down, mixed with growing smell of brake pads once back in the garage... And it doesn't matter that all those emotions were granted by cars that wouldn't even reach 60 HP...

I have never managed to realize one of my childhood dreams to drive a real race car in a real race but I've always enjoyed a fast open road driving, something that's becoming more and more difficult to do in safety but fortunately still possible and for that reason even more precious on those few occasions.

As a car user, I have always considered speed as one of important practical characteristics of a car which, in principle, should get you from A to B in safety in shortest time possible... But if it's able to give you pleasure in doing it, so much the better !

As a car designer, I was lucky enough to work for the Centro Stile of Alfa Romeo, a make that in its long and rich history, was able to blend better than anyone else, the practicality with speed.

There were a lot of more practical, usually quite mundane cars and there were some faster cars but none could offer you a thoroughbred race car technology in unaffordable and every-day usable car. And that was true for the entire production range, not only for some exceptional, highly tuned limited edition specials. So you can imagine my excitement but also a sense of responsibility to preserve the continuity in this noble Tradition.

Regarding myself a designer rather than a stylist, I wanted every new Alfa as efficient as possible, where every formal and aesthetic solution would result from a real technical requirement. I wouldn't be satisfied to just stay within the limits, I wanted to reach and possibly extend them because that's the only way to progress, just as you do when you design a race car!

After all, for me a real Alfa Romeo has always been just that: A race car “civilized” just enough for a practical but spirited road-use.


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