17 Jun 2020
“Storie Alfa Romeo” Ninth episode – The 8C Competizione Dual-purpose supercar: homage to tradition with one eye on the future
- The 8C Competizione marked both a return to Alfa Romeo’s roots and a laboratory for the future.
- The motoring world admire Alfa Romeo’s new jewel: “It's called 8C, and I think it's simply the most beautiful car ever built," Jeremy Clarkson, on the BBC, said.
- The 8C Competizione summarized the essence of Alfa Romeo: “8C” evokes the "eight cylinder" models of the 1930s and the "Competizione" of the 1950s, winner at Le Mans and the Mille Miglia.
- Brand history acting as stylistic inspiration: 8C celebrated the generous Alfa volumes, the clean lines and all the distinctive features of the Brand.
- The 8C Competizione became a natural reference for models that came later, including large series cars such as MiTo and Giulietta as well as the small series 4C, a compact technological and sensual supercar.
- The 8C attracted 1,400 orders from all over the world in a few weeks, and the 500 numbered copies expected were all sold long before being built.
Between past and future
The 8C Competizione: a return to the roots and a laboratory for the future. It was created in the middle of a profound process of reorganization in the automotive sector as it prepared to face the new millennium... and it became the banner around which Alfa Romeo would redefine its identity and values - a stylistic and technical point of departure for future product planning.
In early 2006, Sergio Marchionne gave the signal to launch the industrialization and series production of a "concept car" that had aroused so much excitement at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show. Wolfgang Egger's Alfa Romeo Centro Stile and company design facilities redefined the original design in just eight months. Presented in its definitive version at the 2006 Paris Motor Show, the 8C collected 1,400 orders from all over the world in a few weeks, and the 500 numbered copies planned were sold out well before being produced.
The Essence of Alfa Romeo
The story of the 8C Competizione starts from its name: "8C" refers to the eight-cylinder cars designed by Vittorio Jano, cars which in the 1930s won races all over the world (four wins in a row at Le Mans, and three at the Mille Miglia); "Competizione", on the other hand, was the name of the 6C 2500 that Juan Manuel Fangio drove in the 1950 Mille Miglia.
Created to synthesize and relaunch the quintessence of Alfa Romeo, the 8C echoed technical themes dear to the brand since the beginning:
- Lightness, enhanced by the "dual frame" and by the use of aluminum, titanium, carbon and composite materials.
- Weight balance between front and rear, obtained with the “transaxle” system (longitudinal front wheel drive and rear-axle gearbox).
- Driving precision, further refined through the use of suspension systems with double transverse arms on both axles.
The 8C boasted a generous engine (a 4.7-liter V8 delivering 450 HP), but above all it marked a return to the rear-axle gearbox, which had been missing from Alfa road models since the early 1990s. The result was a car with an optimal weight/power ratio, able to reach 100 km/h from stationary in 4.2 seconds.
A homage to the history of car design
And then there was the little matter of style. "It's called 8C, and I think it's simply the most beautiful car ever built": this was how the BBC "Top Gear" presenter described it. The almost swollen bonnet seemed to bite the asphalt. Its profile was soft and sinuous. A horizontal cut unites the wheel arches, joining them to the "muscular" shape of the rear mudguard. The rear window was wrapped by the uprights, which extended backwards until they tapered on the tail.
It resembled a quiz on quotations from brand history. Its "eyes" came from the 33 Stradale, slightly higher than the bonnet line; its rear recalled that of the '61 Giulietta SZ, the first "truncated tail" in motoring history; the circular rear lights were a tribute to the Giulia TZ, another queen of racetracks. The 8C played fascinating games with the past, as though Alfa Romeo Centro Stile was paying tribute to a whole era of car design.
Creativity and Science
From the 1930s, designers and coachbuilders had begun to improve aerodynamic penetration, as the key to making their racing cars more competitive. The first step was to smoothly incorporate external elements, such as mudguards and headlights, within the bodywork profile. Then they developed increasingly softer, more connected and streamlined shapes.
This was a challenge to stimulate the imaginations of great designers - convinced, naturally, that everything that is beautiful must also be efficient. Unleashing their creativity and skills, they built some of the most beautiful and successful cars ever made. And many of them were Alfa Romeo models.
The 8C Competizione took cars from that period as its inspiration, and celebrated them through the boldness of its volumes, its clean lines and its cheeky focus on distinctive brand features from the past.
The Alfa Romeo trilobo
The front view of an Alfa Romeo is unmistakable: everyone instantly recognizes the central shield and the two horizontal air intakes on either side. This combination (perhaps the most famous "face" in the world of motorcars) is called the "trilobo", and was identified in the 1930s.
Before then, there was little space for style: a car’s "muzzle" consisted of a radiator flanked by headlights, and (sometimes) protected by a grate from the gravel on the road. But as soon as shapes began to soften, the Alfa Romeo shield appeared - and when it became too small to cool increasingly powerful engines, the two lateral air intakes made their debut, which enthusiasts immediately renamed "the mustache".
The trilobo, previously modest, was officially adopted as a brand symbol starting with the 6C 2500 Freccia d'Oro. Like all symbols, it evolved over time, reflecting tastes and fashions - but always remained unique and unmistakable. It was sinuous and imposing on the 1900, thinner on Giulietta. It was aerodynamic and tense on Giulia, angular and almost perfectly equilateral in the 1970s and ‘80s. It was minimalist and stylized in the 1990s, but with the 156 and 8C it returned to its natural leading role, which it has since maintained in all subsequent models.
The legacy of the 8C Competizione
The 8C Competizione summarized the most classic canons of Alfa Romeo style, and became a natural inspiration for all later models, even for large series models such as MiTo and Giulietta. But the 8C also had a close relative: a "younger sister", the 4C, a compact technological and sensual supercar - clearly related to the 8C, but without having to bear the burden of being a limited edition.
With the 4C, Alfa Romeo returned to the compact sports market by offering cutting-edge materials and technological solutions, combined with maximum lightness and extraordinary dynamic qualities.
Alfa Romeo designers decided not to maximize the power, instead keeping the weight down: just over 1,000 kilos in running order, for a weight/power ratio of less than 4 kg / HP. Two values that guaranteed maximum agility and thrilling performance.
Polyester and fiberglass elements were also used, to achieve the desired lightness. But the most innovative component was the cradle-like monocoque frame, completely in carbon fiber and made with technology derived from Formula 1. The material, composed of unidirectional fibers, was pre-impregnated with a special resin before being subjected to a process known as "cooking": with this treatment, the cradle could be made in a single piece, without assembly, and was able to perfectly perform its structural tasks despite a weight of only 65 kilos.
The 4C engine too was ultra-light: a 1750 cc four-cylinder in-line engine, entirely made of aluminum, generating up to 240 HP. To ensure optimal weight distribution, it was placed in a transversal rear position. The gearbox used a double dry-clutch system.
Its suspension systems were notably sporty: double overlapping front triangle, with spring-shock absorber assembly fixed directly to the monocoque, and an evolution of the classic McPherson system on the rear axle.
The 4C achieved a top speed of over 255 km/h, with astonishing acceleration: from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds.
Turin, June 17, 2020