Carrozzeria's modern reinterpretation of the 1952 Alfa Romeo Disco Volante
By David Szondy
March 25, 2012
Hollywood isn’t the only industry fascinated with remakes, reimagining and sequels these days. The motor world has its share of revivals and updates too. Case in point, Italian car maker Alfa Romeo and the Milan-based coachbuilding firm Carrozzeria Touring have teamed to unveil their latest collaboration: the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante 2012. Created as part of Alfa Romeo's centenary celebration, the Disco Volante 2012 dips back into the past to draw inspiration from one of the true classics of 20th century motoring, the 1952 Alfa Romeo C52 Disco Volante. However, where the original was a concept series with a run of only four, the 2012 version will be offered for sale later this year as a very limited series two-seater coupé that, in the words of Alfa Romeo, blend the ingredients of “innovation, emotion and aerodynamic properties into a timeless and essential shape”.
Mention the words “Disco Volante” to a car enthusiast and have your hanky ready because they're certain to go weak at the knees and start drooling. Italian for “flying saucer,” it was a true classic and an incredible influence on future car design. By itself, it practically defined the Italian sports car. Small wonder it’s been immortalized in bronze at the Fiera Milano trade fair grounds.
C52 Disco VolanteFew would argue that the original Disco Volante was a perfect car. In many ways, it was pretty ghastly. It was so cramped that it seemed to be designed for Munchkins and getting in and out of it left you without any dignity - if you could manage it at all. Then there was the fact that the engine made the cockpit so hot that it turned it into a mobile leg sauna. Or that, though designed as a racing car, it never even made it to the starting line.
But it was, and is, a mind-bogglingly beautiful machine - a kind of low-slung UFO on wheels with an oval cross section and graceful curves broken by bulges like something off of a fighter plane. The embodiment of Touring’s founder Felice Bianchi Anderloni’s moto: “Il peso è il nemico, la resistenza dell'aria è l'ostacolo" (weight is the enemy, air resistance the obstacle), the Disco Volante weighed in at only 1653.5 lbs (750 kg) and featured an aluminum shell that was not only streamlined for even flow of air going front to back, but for cross winds as well.
Though based on the Alfa Romeo 1900, the C52 Disco Volante was so heavily redesigned that it was practically a whole new car. Its two liter straight-four aluminum engine with two twin-choke Weber carburetors put out 158 bhp. This was bolted into a state of the art tubular spaceframe chassis for more rigidity with front wishbones and rear live axle and it was all wrapped in that fantastic, round aluminum body with its large overhangs and full under-body. Put it all together and you get 140 mph (225 kph) of pure beauty.
The C52 Disco Volante may not have won any races and may have been a bit too aerodynamic with its tendency to lift at both ends, but it went on to inspire a whole new class of sports car including, it’s said, the Jaguar E-Type. This made it a very hard act to follow and with the Disco Volante 2012, Alfa Romeo doesn’t make the mistake of trying to catch lightning in a bottle twice. The new version isn’t so much an updating as a the latest in an evolution that strongly reflects its original ancestor.
The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante 2012The new take aggressively retains the overall teardrop shape, yet with a rounded glass roof that seems almost domestic. The front goes for the same dramatic impact as the C52, but it’s bulkier and its integrated bonnet and wings looks less like the front end of a flying saucer than the business end of a knife. The rear is pronounced and decidedly muscular providing an air of power rather than lightness. However, the 2012’s heritage is obvious in the details, such as its pronounced waistline, the partly covered wheels, the prolonged rear lines and the limited front overhang. It’s all very Italian and small wonder that Alfa Romeo uses words like “extrovert” and “tempting” to describe it.
The rolling chassis is based on the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione providing a light, rigid structure on which the body work and drive train are integrated. A steel space frame provides further weight reduction and improved torsional stiffness. There are also front and rear double-wishbone suspension combined with hub carriers of forged aluminum and additional trailing arms for the rear suspension.
Under the bonnet is a 4.7 liter V8 engine with a 6-speed, electroactuated sequential flappy-paddle gearbox with automatic mode that yanks out the teeth with 450 bhp and an estimated top speed of 181 mph (292 kph), while it’s estimated to do 0 to 60 mph (100 kph) in 4.2 seconds.
The Disco Volante 2012 was unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show and delivery is expected to be in around eight months. No price has been set, but expect it to be in the nose-bleeding region.
Source: Alfa Romeo