Last revised: 26-1-2009

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AutoRAI 2003: the concept cars

Alfa_Romeo_Scighera_by_Ital_Design_1997The Alfa Romeo Scighera was one of the oldest show cars present this year. But this design by Fabrizio Giugiaro, son of the well-known designer and founder of the ItalDesign studio Giorgetto Giugiaro, looks timeless. It's a mid-engined super sports car aimed to connect Alfa's modern technology to their famous racing past. At the time of its introduction at the Geneva Auto Show in 1997 the board of the Fiat Group, of which Alfa Romeo is a part, weren't impressed by it and more or less neglected the car., but in the way time works this was all to change, as you'll see further on.
The name of this car refers to a type of fog and in this case indicates secrecy and stealth. Originally it was presented in full red Alfa Romeo racing livery, but later its paint job was changed to this more sedate metallic grey, reminiscent of its ancestor, ItalDesign's BMW Nazca of 1991.

Alfa_Romeo_Scighera_by_Ital_Design_1997The Scighera is not just some show car, it's actually fully registered for road use. Even a limited scale production was considered for some time by ItalDesign. It's powered by Alfa's 3-litre V6 from the 164 sedan model, which is boosted to produce some 400 hp by a twin-turbo system. To get this amount of power on the road it features the four wheel drive technology from the Lancia Delta Integrale (which was also offered on the Alfa 155) and a 6-speed sequential transmission. At a vehicle weight of 1200 kg it must be a bomb to drive.
To ensure a limited vehicle weight the chassis frame is constructed from aluminum-carbon fibre composite material and the body is made from aluminum. If it gets hot under the dome like glass roof the side panels can be removed to let some air in. For easy access the roof panels fold upwards when the doors are opened.

It's an amazing car to look at, but it must have cost a fortune to build and to be honest: I liked the original Nazca better.

Alfa_Romeo_Brera_by_Ital_Design_2002The Brera is a more recent attempt by ItalDesign at designing an Alfa Romeo sports car, and it looks to be a more viable one too. It was first shown at the 2002 Geneva Auto Show and remarkably its characteristics are not that much different from the Scighera, they're only more realistic in execution. The Brera is also constructed from lightweight materials, with a body made entirely from carbon fiber, and features 400 hp with all-wheel drive and sequential transmission as well. Only in this case a 4.2-litre V8 of Maserati origin, placed in front of the passengers compartment, is used to obtain a 402 hp power output.
It seems that ItalDesign is very committed to giving Alfa their sporting heritage back and after getting a shoe in at the Fiat Group by designing the Maserati coupe and spider the Giugiaros seized the opportunity to make another attempt at an Alfa sports car. And this time they found an open door at Alfa for this project. While the Fiat Group is in dire straights at this moment and looking frantically to expand their market, Alfa Romeo is committed to return on the US market. To make a big entry and to establish a selling point of stylish sportiness a model emphatic conveying these aspects is very much needed. And that's where Alfa and ItalDesign found each other.

Alfa_Romeo_Brera_by_Ital_Design_2002This time the design is credited to Giugiaro senior and the exterior is not so much timeless as it is modern contemporary. It has the "blob" like appearance as shown by a number of concepts by other manufacturers/designers, apparently the current fashion for 2+2 GT cars. But its razor sharp front-end design, the creases on the sides and the pointy rear makes this design stand out in a positive manner. The long, aggressive nose makes no secret of the road-devouring potential of this car, and its width (1.9 m) combined with its low height (1.3 m) makes it seem to have a rock-solid road holding.

What impressed me most about the Brera was not its exterior design, but its interior. What is it with Italian designers that they can make utilitarian objects like buttons, switches and levers look so desirable? The interior is both wonderfully classic as it is uniquely modern. I love it.

Alfa Romeo is contemplating to start a limited production of 1.000 Breras, slightly adapted to mass production at more or less affordable prices. That reminds me of the Alfa Romeo SZ, Alfa's previous attempt to revive times of old. Still, it would make an enticing addition to the current range of Alfa Romeo models.
Added 2006: now we know that the Brera concept has in fact spawned two production models, the Brera coupe and the Spider cabriolet. The production coupe looks remarkably like the concept, though it has been completely redesigned. Unfortunately the interior design of the concept has not been carried over. The Spider, without the bulgy roof, looks even better than the coupe.

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