Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione – Spider
by Ivan Scelsa
“In its darkest period, just a few months prior to that worldwide preview, the Fiat Group was loosing five million Euros a day; it was strangled by debt and was even struggling to impose itself on the Italian domestic market. In short, the analysts saw it as a terminal patient whose days were numbered.”
(Italian / English, side by side) People at that car show and in the weeks after couldn’t write checks fast enough—placing orders for many, many more cars than the company intended to build.
Italy is small, the US is big. Despite that disparity both countries received the same allocation of the coupe (Competizione), 85 of 500 built. The convertible (Spider) was made in even smaller numbers, both selling out on just the strength of the show cars. Italians need no arm-twisting to embrace an Alfa, Americans . . . well, that’s a much more mixed bag. But maybe this book will help, because Ivan Scelsa threads the needle very nicely to establish why Alfa Romeo is a justly famous and competent automaker, and why this modern-era 8C (2008 to 2010) should be counted as a supercar. Never mind that the 8 cylinder model before that, the Montreal launched in 1967 as the firm’s halo car of that era, just never did make a dent in the universe.
This book is now number three in this publisher’s “Supercar” series, all written by different authors but sharing a common format. While the first two cars—Ferrari F40 and Lamborghini Countach—really are indisputably standard bearers in that segment, the 8C, even with its Ferrari and Maserati bits, needs quite a bit more explaining and Scelsa does a fine job in getting the idea across that a car like this is more than its spec sheet.
Whatever limited information about the 8C was in circulation heretofore took the form of magazine features and road tests or the odd auction catalog (prices now are easily double than what they were at launch!) so this book is the first to tie all aspects of the story together with good detail and, more importantly, the sort of big-picture context that is crucial for nuanced understanding.
In the case of the 8C that means a look back at the sporting and competition Alfas of old—legendary cars today—and the need for the company to manage its image and keep it relevant, all the while having its fame and fate meddled with and curtailed by business realities and corporate shenanigans, specifically the incisive 2003/04 developments re General Motors taking a 20% stake in Fiat Auto only to drop those plans, and Alfa Romeo’s return to the US market. Scelsa has written plenty about not only this marque but motoring history in general so he has a properly large frame of reference. Incidentally, as president of the Associazione CinemAlfa which tracks Alfas in movies [among other things] he also has a handle on cultural stirrings and the whole meta-topic of how people relate to cars. A good third of the book deals with such matters before we ever get to the nuts ’n bolts aspects.
Of note, there is a multi-page treatment of German car designer Wolfgang Josef Egger (b. 1963) who began his professional career in 1989 in Alfa’s design department and, after stints at other automakers, returned to Alfa as Chief Designer of, among other notable cars, the 8C. Another detailed discussion involves Italian furniture maker Poltrona Frau and their work on the 8C interior, especially the heat-reflecting Cool leather.
As to photos and the few technical illustrations, many of them come from the archives of the magazine Quattroruote where Foreword writer Carlo Di Giusto is a journalist. On the flat page an 8C in profile reads as short and stubby, see above, and you’d really want to catch one in real life to appreciate its good looks—or take the BBC’s Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson’s word that the Spider is “the world’s most beautiful car.” Likewise the chapter “At the Wheel” just cannot convey how exciting the car is to drive and hear, or how “easy” a supercar this is in all aspects of everyday life.
Copyright 2023, Sabu Advani (Speedreaders.info)