Origin Story: Alfa-Romeo – Part III

08. © Alfa-Romeo (Type 750) Giulietta Spider by Carrozzeria Pininfarina S.p.A. - Donga Tshabalala - ENLISTED by Donga Tshabalala
The Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Spider was the direct result of the influence of a single individual who made the car a success in the United States of America.

The history of the designers, engineers and institutions that kept Alfa-Romeo alive is as extensive as the history of the Italian manufacturer itself. The existence of these individuals and organizations has and continues to demonstrate the power that is pervasive among a group of people who choose to coordinate their skills with the aim of achieving a single vision – a power that Alfa-Romeo needed to survive the tragedies they endured from the 1930s through to the 1950s. Orazio Satta Puliga was one such individual who entered Alfa-Romeo at the time – his work involving the development of engines for both aviation and racing applications. The role he occupied was one that he had been co-opted into by Wifredo Pelayo Ricart Medina – more commonly known as Wifredo Ricart. Wifredo Ricart was a Spanish designer and engineer of note at the time, and he was responsible for bringing Orazio Satta Puliga to the Alfa-Romeo design department. The Great Depression guaranteed that Alfa-Romeo would remain in dire financial straits, until the implementation of the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) – Institute for Industrial Reconversion (IRI) – an institution that had developed a method of extending its influence to the companies it assisted by appointing sub-holdings in respect to the industries that it supported. In terms of Italian companies involved in mechanical engineering, the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) – Institute for Industrial Reconversion (IRI) created Finmeccanica as the sub-division of its parent organization – a holding company that took control of engineering enterprises within the borders of Italy – enterprises that included Alfa-Romeo. Finmeccanica was an organization that appointed a number of individuals to conduct consulting work on the companies that existed under its control – individuals such as Giuseppe Luraghi and Rudolf Hruska, and these were just some of the people who would progress to assist Alfa-Romeo in its revival after World War II.

09. © Giuseppe Luraghi - Donga Tshabalala - ENLISTED by Donga Tshabalala
Giuseppe Eugenio Luraghi was an Italian who lived his life exercising skill in two different spheres – one being that of engineering, and the other being that of the writing of novels and poems. The engineering work he became involved in saw him work with the likes of Pirelli, Alfa-Romeo and Finmeccanica, while his writings resulted in him becoming the president of Arnoldo Mondalori Editore – a publishing house in Milan.

 

10. © Rudolf Hruska - Donga Tshabalala - ENLISTED by Donga Tshabalala
Rudolf Hruska was a designer and engineer of Austrian origin who has been celebrated for his work at Alfa-Romeo. The portfolio of organizations that he has collaborated with is extensive, and includes, but is not limited to the likes of Porsche and Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino – more commonly known as FIAT.

At the end of World War II, the aeronautical division of Alfa-Romeo experienced a degree of dormancy that had only been seen prior to The Great Depression. The murder of Ugo Gobbato had taken place under the pretext of him having collaborated with Germans and Italian Fascists – a murder that had coincided so perfectly with the final days of World War II that it had almost symbolized the end of an era for Alfa-Romeo. As the necessity to produce aircraft engines for military applications became less of a priority, Alfa-Romeo began with the process of slowly demilitarizing itself by diverting its attention to the more civilian task of producing vehicles – an activity which had then been viewed as being more peaceful than contributing to wars. At this point, the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale, CLN – the National Liberation Committee, in English – had been in its third year of existence. Founded on September 9, 1943, the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale, CLN – the National Liberation Committee – was an organization that had been created on the back of the invasion of Germany into Italy and the capitulation of Italy to the Allied Powers of World War II. The aim of the organization was to oppose fascism, and it led the governments of Italy from the liberation of Rome in June 1944 until the first post-war general election in 1946, during which time it had appointed Pasquale Gallo to oversee the Herculean task of resurrecting Alfa-Romeo from the ruins it had been allowed to languish in following the bombings of 1943 and 1944.

The nomination of Pasquale Gallo as the chairman of Alfa-Romeo in 1945 saw the emergence of Orazio Satta Puliga as the head of the design department of the Italian manufacturer in 1946 with the intention of relaunching the brand. Following the devastation of World War II on Italy and the murder of Ugo Gobbato, Wifredo Ricart left Alfa-Romeo behind and returned to his native Spain, where he created Pegaso – a vehicle manufacturer founded in 1946. At this stage, the production of vehicles at Alfa-Romeo was somewhat tentative with the financial situation of the company even requiring that Alfa-Romeo manufacture home appliances. The Italian manufacturer even realized that catering to the whims of a wealthy few would no longer serve them. Alfa-Romeo had attracted wealthy customers by producing largely bespoke luxury vehicles using artisanal skills – skills that made their vehicles both prohibitively expensive and impossible to manufacture in large numbers. As such, the illustrious image that Alfa-Romeo created for itself with their luxury vehicles had connotations of class and elitism that they could not sustain post World War II, resulting in a more industrialized approach being adopted – an approach that turned Alfa-Romeo into a mass-producer of affordable vehicles that had racing pedigree.

11. © Wifredo Ricart - Donga Tshabalala - ENLISTED by Donga Tshabalala
Wifredo Pelayo Ricart Medina – more commonly known as Wifredo Ricart – was a Spanish designer and engineer of note. The career path he chose saw him moving between Spain and Italy – Italy being the country where he was located following his employment at Alfa-Romeo. After the devastation of World War II on Italy and the murder of Ugo Gobbato, Wifredo Ricart left Alfa-Romeo behind and returned to his native Spain, where he created Pegaso – a vehicle manufacturer founded in 1946.

In 1950, Finmeccanica – the engineering division of parent company Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) – Institute for Industrial Reconversion (IRI) – took over Alfa-Romeo with Giuseppe Luraghi at the helm. In 1951, Orazio Satta Puliga became the central director of Alfa-Romeo where he was later joined by Rudolf Hruska to develop new vehicles. In the mid-1950s, the influence of Alfa-Romeo spread beyond continental Europe – owing to the contribution of an Austrian-born man living in the United States of America by the name of Maximillian Edwin Hoffman. Maximillian Edwin Hoffman – more commonly known as Max Hoffman – became well-known to the upper-class world of the United States of America as an importer of European luxury vehicles. The presence of Max Hoffman in North America was attributed to World War II, and he – being of Jewish ancestry – fled from The Third Reich of Nazi Germany. In the 1950s, the United States of America served as the largest vehicle market in the world, and Max Hoffman was instrumental in the development of several luxury cars that he was also responsible for bringing to North America – cars such as the famous Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing. In the case of Alfa-Romeo, Max Hoffman suggested that they produce an open-top-version of the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta – their more successful vehicle model following the end of World War II – and he would sell it in the United States of America. As such, Alfa-Romeo commissioned Carrozzeria Pininfarina S.p.A. – more commonly known as Pininfarina – to design the new variant of the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta. Dubbed the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Spider – “Spider” being the term that Alfa-Romeo chose to use to refer to the convertible iteration of their vehicle – its sale in the United States of America opened the floodgates to more profits for the Italian manufacturer. The success of the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Spider saw even greater sales of Alfa-Romeo vehicles in North America after the Italian manufacturer established their own dealer network in the year 1961. The establishment of the dealer network occurred at a time when Alfa-Romeo was undergoing intense development with a balance sheet that was healthier than ever.

12. © Max Hoffman - Donga Tshabalala - ENLISTED by Donga Tshabalala
Maximillian Edwin Hoffman – more commonly known as Max Hoffman – became well-known to the upper-class world of the United States of America as an importer of European luxury vehicles. Max Hoffman was born in Austria and later immigrated to North America – fearing that his Jewish ancestry would result in his persecution from The Third Reich of Nazi Germany. He was instrumental in the development of several luxury cars that included the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Spider, prior to Alfa-Romeo establishing their own dealer network in North America in the year 1961.
13. © Mercedes-Benz (W198) 300 SL Gullwing - Donga Tshabalala - ENLISTED by Donga Tshabalala
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing grew out of the inspiration of Max Hoffman who – at the time – was the authorized importer of Mercedes-Benz vehicles into the United States of America. The vehicle was based on a racing car that had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana. The car became a major success in North America, with more units of it sold outside the borders of Europe than in its home market.

14. © Alfa-Romeo (Type 750) Giulietta Spider by Carrozzeria Pininfarina S.p.A. - Donga Tshabalala - ENLISTED by Donga Tshabalala

15. © Alfa-Romeo (Type 750) Giulietta Spider by Carrozzeria Pininfarina S.p.A. - Donga Tshabalala - ENLISTED by Donga Tshabalala
The Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Spider – much like the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing – began its life as the idea of Max Hoffman who perceived the need for such a car in the United States of America. Unlike the original Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Sprint that it was based on, the Giulietta Spider was designed by Pininfarina, and sold in North America where it became a major success.

In 1960, Giuseppe Luraghi – the head of Finmeccanica – became the newly-appointed chairman of Alfa-Romeo. The 1960s also saw Alfa-Romeo introduce its manufacturing operations to other countries with the intention of producing cars for additional markets that were dominated by right-hand-drive vehicles. The result of this were manufacturing facilities in South Africa, located in Brits in the then Transvaal Province of the country. Meanwhile, Alfa-Romeo began with the construction and launching of a number of new facilities located in Pomigliano d’Arco in Naples, Arese in Milan and a test track in Balocco – northeast of Turin. In May of 1968, there were a series of student protests that began in France with the occupation of the Sorbonne – one of the most prestigious universities in Europe. The protests amongst students began as an outcry against consumerism, traditional institutions and capitalism – subsequently leading to protests amongst workers in France, which influenced the Autunno caldoHot Autumn – events in Italy. The Autunno caldoHot Autumn – events were a series of strikes amongst Italian workers that were inspired by the French events of May 1968 – events that sparked civil unrest in Italy as people working for industrial corporations demanded better pay and working conditions. As a result of the strikes, absenteeism rates amongst Alfa-Romeo workers increased, decreasing the productivity of the Italian manufacturer, which placed the company in the dire financial straits that its history had been plagued with. It seemed then that the success of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s had become a distant memory. 1974 seemed to be an echo of the financial situation that Alfa-Romeo had found itself in at the time as the leadership of Giuseppe Luraghi came to an end, followed by the retirement of Orazio Satta Puliga, who died from brain cancer.

16. © Orazio Satta Puliga - Donga Tshabalala - ENLISTED by Donga Tshabalala
Orazio Satta Puliga was an Italian designer and engineer celebrated for his work at Alfa-Romeo. He became the Head of Design at the Italian manufacturer following the departure of Wifredo Ricart, who returned to his native Spain. He later became the Central Director and Vice President of Alfa-Romeo prior to his death in the year 1974 – a death caused by brain cancer.

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