A brief history of Alfa Romeo

We look back through some of the most significant cars in Alfa Romeo's history

Alfa Romeo 164

The Alfa Romeo 164 was the first large executive car from the marque since World War II that could really be termed successful outside its native Italy. Previous efforts in the field, the Alfa Six and Alfa 90, had been let down by derivative looks, despite their wonderful 'Busso' V6 engines. Fortunately, the latter made it under the bonnet of 164, and with Pininfarina styling, looks were certainly on its side. Although developed alongside the Saab 9000, Lancia Thema and Fiat Croma as part of the famous 'Type 4' project, the 164 had a style all of its own inside and out. Drivers loved its keen handling and, of course, the evocative sound of its 3.0-litre V6 – although economical 2.0-litre Twin Spark versions were also available.

Alfa Romeo SZ/RZ

The 1989 Alfa Romeo SZ sports coupe and its 1992 RZ roadster successor are among the most iconic cars the Italian marque has produced in the modern era – and it all comes down to that eye-watering styling, which you'll either love or hate. Whichever camp you fall into, there's no mistaking the six-eyed face of the car that became known as 'Il Mostro' – The Monster. Although built at the famous Zagato factory just down the road from Alfa Romeo, the car's looks were mostly the work of Fiat's design studio, while the mechanical package was derived from the Alfa 75 saloon. Its 3.0-litre 'Busso' V6 provided plenty of power and a sensational soundtrack, while a transaxle gearbox meant the car's weight was evenly placed for fantastic rear-drive handling.

Alfa Romeo 156

The Alfa Romeo 156 is included in our list, as it was arguably the first of the company's recent saloon cars to pay homage to the voluptuous looks Alfa was once famous for, as well as being one of the first saloons to conceal its rear door handles, coupe-style. Introduced in 1996, the 156 was positioned as Alfa Romeo's rival to the BMW 3 Series. Despite it using a front-wheel-drive configuration, reviewers and owners quickly came to praise the 156 for its sharp, fluent handling, although some enthusiasts preferred the more dramatic nature of rear-drive BMWs. However, enthusiasts continue to hanker for the aggressive and very fast 156 GTA, which featured extremely quick steering.

Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione

The 8C 2900 at the beginning our list was certainly worthy of celebration and the 2007 8C Competizione truly worthy to bear if its illustrious forebear. The 8C badge referred to an eight-cylinder engine: a 4.7-litre V8 petrol assembled by and developed with the assistance of Ferrari. The 8C's structure was derived from the Maserati Gran Turismo, and with a voluptuous, retro-tinged body, luxurious interior and official top speed of 181mph, the 8C Competizione quickly came to be seen as a very desirable supercar. It also underlined Alfa Romeo's intent as a serious maker of high-performance cars, a promise delivered by the the compact Alfa Romeo 4C sports car and the Quadrifoglio versions of the Giulia saloon and Stelvio SUV.

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