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In the words of their publicity material “The future goes back a long way”, and a visit to Alfa Romeo's Museo Storico certainly bears this out, as they have a great current range of cars, with exciting new projects coming along, but the also company has a rich and varied heritage. Their museum is situated in the aptly named Viale Alfa Romeo, in Varese, just to the north west of Milan, where the company had a production facility, which ceased car production in 2003 and engine manufacture in 2005. It was opened at the end of 1976, with a total floor area of 4800 square metres, and during 2009 was closed for refurbishment, reopening at the end of the year, ready to celebrate the company's centenary in 2010.

The well laid out exhibition areas on multi levels house some 110 cars, 35 engines, 15 aircraft engines and more than 1000 scale model cars. The archives contain over 40000 images and 500 videos, together with a vast library of technical publications and other documents charting the company's long history. Talking of the company's history, the marque's name is mostly associated with elegant high performance sports cars, but over the years it has also produced less glamorous machinery, like tractors, buses and commercial vehicles, together with marine and aircraft engines. It has also been deeply involved in motor sport in many forms throughout its life, notably the pre-war years with the Scuderia Ferrari entered cars driven by the likes of the great Tazio Nuvolari.

In the post-war years the Alfetta 158 model won the inaugural F1 World Championship with Giuseppe Farina, with Juan-Manuel Fangio, doing the same for the company in 1951 in the Alfetta 159 model, before the company concentrated more on production based cars to promote the name. Notably during the sixties there were the TZ, TZ2, GTA and GTAM models, before moving into sports prototypes in the seventies, which yielded the company a number of overall wins, and the championship titles in 1975 and 1977. There was a further foray into F1 between 1979 and 1985, plus an Indy car, and entries and success in numerous touring car championships. Add in concept cars and prototypes, and it can be seen that the marque has a wide gallery with which to form an impressive museum display.

The majority of the cars in the museum are fully operational, and often appear at prestigious events worldwide, like the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in the USA, and the Mille Miglia in Italy. Amongst the pre-war examples on display there is a great selection for enthusiasts of that era, including A 1923 RL Targa Florio, a P2 Grand Prix car and a RL Targa Florio model from 1924, a stunning white Zagato bodied 6C 1750 Gran Sport from 1931, a 1932 Tipo B P3 monoposto and a supremely elegant pale blue 1938 8C 2900 B Lungo Coupé. There is also a real oddity, the 1931 Monoposto Gran Premio “Tipo A”, with its pair of 6 cylinder engine/gearbox units mounted side by side with a linked gear change set-up, and a 1940 Tipo 512 mid flat 12 powered monoposto.

The post war era of production features a trio of the very successful 158 and 159 Alfetta Grand Prix cars, one with the body panels removed, so that the engineering detail and construction can be appreciated and admired. Naturally there is the super smooth Disco Volante, TZ , TZ2, GTA, GTAM and the beautiful Tipo 33 Stradale, along with concept cars like the Pininfarina 33.2 (very similar to their Ferrari P5), Bertone Navajo and the Ital Design Iguana. The successful 33 series of sports racing cars is well represented, with a 1968 33.2 Daytona , a 1975 33 TT 12 and a 1977 33 SC 12, and F1 cars include their own 1985 179 F, plus a Martini liveried Brabham BT45 with Alfa Romeo power unit. Add in a selection of their successful road and racing saloon cars, and numerous other models produced through the years, and it can be seen that this is a marque with a great and diverse history, whose Museo Storico is well worth a visit if you are in the Milan area. Entry is free, and the museum is open between 09.00 - 12.30 and 14.00 - 17.00, Monday to Friday, although it is best to check beforehand at - museostorico@alfaromeo.com <mailto:museostorico@alfaromeo.com> or telephone +39 02 444 29 322. For the Centro Documentazione the contact details are centrodocumentazione@alfaromeo.com and that department's telephone number is +39 02 444 29 115.

Keith Bluemel