Luck of the Italians: Alfa Romeo and the Story of Quadrifoglio
The Irish have their four leaf clover. The Italians then, have the quadrifoglio, which served a good luck charm in the 1920s for a driver whose luck was ever against him. In 1920 Alfa Romeo hired a promising driver named Ugo Sivocci to drive for him as part of a three-man works team, along with Antonio Ascari and Enzo Ferrari. Sivocci was one of those fellows who was born to be around vehicles. He began as a bicycle racer in the early 20th century, then switched to mechanics after WW1. Ferrari, who was one of his closest friend, recommended him to Romeo. Technically Sivocci’s driving was superb. However, each time he raced, the fates were against him. Mechanical trouble, track conditions, etc., always intervened, banishing him to second or third place.
When the Targa Florio came around in 1923, Sivocci was desperate for a way to change his luck. He decided to take a leap of faith and paint a white square with a green quadrifoglio (Italian for four-leaf clover) on the grille of his vehicle. The change wrought by the good luck charm was nothing short of miraculous. Sivocci began to dominate the racing circuit, winning one competition after another. Each time the lucky clover was painted on his vehicle. PHOTOS: See more of the 1934 Alfa Romeo P3 A few months later Sivocci test drove a new car, the P1, at Monza. There was no quadrifoglio painted on it. Sivocci didn’t survive to see the sun set that day. Tragically, the P1 went off a bend, carrying the gifted driver to his death. In honor of the man whose appeal to superstition changed his fortunes, Alfa Romeo racing cars have featured the Italian version of the cloverleaf since 1923. It’s normally placed on the vehicle’s side panels, just behind the front wheels. There’s one difference between the modern versions and the original, however. The white square Sivocci relied on was replaced with a triangle, in honor of the driver whose luck changed just a little too late.