Alfa Romeo 158

From Alfa Romeo press: The outbreak of World War II quashed Alfa Romeo's ambitious plans . As with most Italian industries, Alfa converted to war production and its plants were bombed by the Allies; (the Portello plant ceased operations entirely following damage sustained on 20 October 1944). Work resumed the following April after the peace treaty was signed, but the workshops had been damaged and there were no components for making aircraft engines, coaches or cars. So the 8000 Portello plant workers made electric cookers, metal furniture, doors, windows and shutters - in other words, the materials needed to rebuild a broken country.

Auto manufacturing was resumed only in 1946. Pre-war 6C 2500s rolled out of the factory and 158s salvaged from the war debris raced on tracks. New versions (Freccia d'oro and Villa d'Este), and the fitment of an innovative steering wheel-mounted gear shift, soon arrived. The 1900, the first Alfa with a monocoque bodyshell, was designed by Orazio Satta Puliga (who had joined the company in 1938) in 1950, and the first assembly line was opened at the Portello plant.

Racing wins multiplied. The supremacy of the Alfa 158 in Grands Prix was absolute, and Nino Farina won the Formula One World Championship in 1950. The following year was legendary Juan Manuel Fangio's turn: he won the second Championship behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo 159 fitted with the most powerful 1500 engine ever made, which delivered 425 HP and a top speed of over 300 km/h.

Immediately afterwards, Alfa took the decision to retire from Grand Prix competition but kept on competing in the Sport category with the 1900 Disco Volante, a flying-saucer shaped car capable of reaching a top speed of 225 km/h.

Meanwhile, the company concentrated on the production of standard cars, industrial vehicles, aircraft and naval engines, and diesel engines for industrial applications. Following the IRI reorganisation in 1948, Alfa became a Finmeccanica sub-holding.

Gallery: Alfa Romeo 158