Lancia Alfa



Lancia Alfa
Lancia Alfa (Mathijs Geert)
The Lancia company was founded in 1906. Despite the near-disaster of a fire in the factory early in 1907, the first Lancia car, or rather the first chassis, was produced less than a year later. In September 1907 Vincenzo Lancia himself was able to take the new car for its first test drive in the hills near Turin. In January of 1908 the car was displayed at the Turin show both, as a running chassis and a Double Phaeton produced by the Locat & Torretta company.

The nomenclature of the early cars is confusing. The car was originally referred to as the 12HP or "18-24 hp", but was retroactively renamed the 'Alfa' in 1919. This began the long tradition of naming Lancia cars after letters of the Greek alphabet. It is perhaps a tribute to the company's long history that since the seventies letters have had to be reused !

The mechanical design of the Alfa reflected the ideas that Vincenzo Lancia had been pondering for some time. The chassis was simple and light, with a high-revving engine initially running at 1450 rpm, around 250 rpm higher than most cars of the period. The engine was fed by Lancia's own two-stage carburettor, which would continue to be used until the appearance of the Kappa in 1919. The gearbox had four speeds, and a propeller shaft was used instead of the more traditional chain drive. Just like the rest of the body, the front axle was made from pressed steel and the steering box used a worm screw.

The engine had four cylinders set out in pairs, with a displacement of 2543 cc. Initially delivering 24 hp at 1450 rpm, this was later increased to 28 bhp at 1800 rpm. One novel design feature was a camshaft-driven oil pump which supplied oil to the bearings with a rate that depended on engine speed.

With a chassis weight of 710 kg, the top speed of the car was around 90 km/hr. 108 Alfas were produced in the small workshop on the corner of Via Ormea and Via Donizetti in Turin between 1907 and 1909. At the time, this was a great success, and several were exported to Great Britain where they were appreciated for the unconventional technical and construction features. At least one car had even made its way to New York by 1908.

Vincenzo himself demonstrated the Alfa's capabilities in competition, in April 1908 winning class victories in 10km and 20km runs at an average speed of over 87 km/h. A number of special 'Corsa' models were built specially for competition, with a shorter wheelbase and modified engines. Most engines had larger valves fitted, but one also had an extended stroke, giving a capacity of about three liters.

Maintainer: Andrew Cliffe
Last update: 1st April 2001