Any car enthusiast worth their salt will know the Alfa Romeo brand, but do you know how they got to be one of the world's most important car manufacturers? Founded one hundred years ago in Milan, the Alfa Romeo brand has recently celebrated its centenary on June 24th 2010. It all began in 1906 when the French car firm Alexandre Darracq decided to join forces with Italian investors and create the Societa Anonima Italiana Darraca (SAID), the roots of the famous brand. Initially the company planned to manufacture their vehicles in Naples, but the site was changed to Milan and a factory was established there instead. A new company began as an offshoot of the business and the manufacturers created the Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, which would become known as A.L.F.A. The 24 HP was the first break out into the market, designed by Giuseppe Merosi.
With World War I drawing resources elsewhere, the ALFA factory submitted to a cessation in production for three years, recommencing in 1919. Italian entrepreneur and engineer Nicola Romeo became the new director in 1915 and oversaw the war effort, producing munitions in place of motor vehicles. When car production started up once more, Romeo changed the company title to Alfa Romeo and released the first model under this new brand: the Torpedo 20-30. The car company entered a golden age, producing high-class racing cars as well as consumer road vehicles. However, in 1928 Nicola left the firm and Alfa struggled to retain its position.
In 1932, with government assistance, the Alfa Romeo brand was rescued and they took control of the company's direction. Under the government of Mussolini, Alfa Romeo became the national car manufacturer but in World War II the factory was badly hit by bombers. Previous production of luxury cars turned into mass-production of popular models. But following the war, Alfa Romeo managed to retain pole position as a leading vehicle at the Grand Prix. In the 1960s it developed the GTA (Gran Turismo Allegerita) which won the Sports Car Club of America's Trans-Am championship. Despite falling into further financial struggles in the 1970s, the Fiat Group created a new company to manage the production of Alfa Romeo under the Alfa Lancia Industriale S.p.A. Since February 2007 the company has been part of this group, but part of the Fiat cohort since 1986.