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Alfa Romeo Disco Volante – The Flamboyant Alfa

Our Throwback Thursday series has looked at many beautiful Italian cars from yesteryear but few quite as flamboyant as the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante styled by Touring…

Alfa Romeo kicked off production of the 1900 in 1950, while the Alfetta was prepping for a two-year winning streak in F1. This was the groundwork for the creation of a Sports car prototype designed by Touring in 1952, which for its originality and flamboyant design would be known as the “Disco Volante” (Italian for “Flying Saucer”).

For the first time after the war, in the 1950s, Alfa Romeo returned to making cars with four-cylinder engines and, even more importantly, adopting the new industrial approach of mass production. It was the moment of the 1900, a car created to reach out to a broader clientele than the gorgeous 6C 2500, which would stay in production a little longer.

These were also the two years of undisputed victories in the fledgling Formula 1 World Championship with the Alfetta winning race after race and contributed to consolidating the worldwide prestige of the Italian auto maker in a major fashion. So the decision was taken to make a prototype for competing in the two-litre Sports car class.

The 1900 was the first Alfa Romeo with monocoque body shell chassis but a tubular steel chassis with side rails was made for the C52 for racing. The originality of the car which led to it being named “Disco Volante” was the bodywork styled by Touring. The unusual Spider had bulging wings over the wheels which joined seamlessly with the streamline low-slung line, making it look like a sort of spaceship, hence its name. In-depth aerodynamic studies also included the analysis of side currents for the first time.

The racing-worthy numbers of the aerodynamic Spider were impressive: 158 horsepower and just 735 kilograms of weight meant that the Alfa Romeo C52 Disco Volante had a top speed in excess of 220 km/h.

It was all built around the twin-cam engine of the 1900 Sprint, with light alloy crankcase and head, V arrangement, two chain-driven overhead camshafts and two double-barrel carburettors. Power was upped from 100 to 158 hp at 6500 rpm, as a result of raised peak rpm, slightly oversized bore, adjusted compression ratio from 7.7 to 8.7:1, and two double-barrel carburettors.

Longitudinal front engine, four-speed gearbox and rear-wheel drive. Independent quadrilateral transversal front suspension, coil springs and hydraulic shocks, rigid rear axle with upper triangle and lower struts, coil springs and hydraulic shocks. Its remarkably light weight of just 735 kilograms and very streamline aerodynamics propelled the 1900 C52 Disco Volante to a top speed in excess of 220 km/h.

Only five were made in total, namely a Spider, a Coupé, a slimmer “fianchi stretti” (narrow side) version with wings closer to the wheels and two Spiders with 6C 3000 mechanics, delivering 230 HP and clocking a top speed of 240 km/h.

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