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100 YEARS OF QUADRIFOGLIO

To celebrate the centennial of the Quadrifoglio, the legendary four-leaf clover symbol identifying Alfa Romeo’s high-performance creations, and the 60th anniversary of Autodelta, the marque’s renowned racing outfit, we brought together the latest Giulia QV and a 40-year-old homebred icon developed with Autodelta assistance which, ironically, never wore the QV badge.

The constant pursuit of excellence first applied to racing and then transferred fully to production cars: this, in a nutshell, is the Alfa Romeo philosophy embedded in the Quadrifoglio, the legendary symbol that has identified the brand’s highest-performance creations since 15 April 1923.

With the centennial celebrations for the revered symbol coinciding with the 100th edition of Driven, it just made sense to combine this milestone and the 60th anniversary of Autodelta with two local commemorations – the Golden Anniversary of the Alfa Romeo Club of South Africa (ARCSA) and the 40th anniversary of the iconic, South Africa-only GTV6 3.0.

A QUICK OVERVIEW

The four-leaf clover symbol appeared for the first time on the RL “Corsa” of the driver Ugo Sivocci at the 1923 Targa Florio in Sicily, considered the most prestigious auto race at the time. Sivocci, a close friend of Enzo Ferrari, had poor luck as a racing driver and was considered l’eterno secondo (Italian for “eternally second”).

Sivocci painted a green four-leaf clover inside a white square on his car as a good luck charm. His improbable win in the Targa Florio – Alfa Romeo’s first international victory – convinced him the quadrifoglio was effective. Sivocci lost his life a few months later in a tragic accident at Monza – in a P1 not adorned with the quadrifoglio. This made a lasting impression on the team, and the four-leaf clover – now on a white triangle to signify Sivocci’s absence – became standard on all Alfa Romeo racing cars.

The good luck symbol adorned the Alfa P2 of Brilli Peri when he won the first “World Car Racing Championship” at Monza in 1925, the first of five world titles won by the marque. In the late 1920s, the Quadrifoglio also distinguished the Alfa Romeo cars from the parent company from the Scuderia Ferrari cars with their Prancing Horse emblem.

In 1950 and 1951, Giuseppe “Nino” Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio won the first two Formula 1 World Championships in the iconic “Alfettas”, the Alfa Romeo 158 and 159. In the 1960s, the Quadrifoglio characterised the TI Super version of the Giulia, and from 1963 it was joined by the blue triangle logo of Autodelta for several decades: From the GTA to the 33 to the two World Championships of the 33 TT 12 (1975) and the 33 SC 12 (1977).

After Alfa Romeo’s less than triumphant return to F1 in 1980, the marque triumphed again in touring car racing with the GTV 6 2.5, followed by DTM triumph in 1993 with the 155 V6 Ti, and a long series of victories with the 156 Superturismo (1998-2004).

PRODUCTION CLOVERLEAFS

The quadrifoglio also started to feature on ordinary Alfa Romeo production cars. Initially (from the 1960s to the 1980s), these high-performance derivatives – such as the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce (also called the GTV) and 1750 GT Veloce – carried the symbol on the bodywork but had no Q reference in their official model names.

From the late 1970s, Quadrifoglio Verde (green four-leaf clover) became the trim level for the sportiest variants, equipped with the most powerful engines. Often abbreviated QV, the Alfasud, Sprint, 33, 75, Spider, 164 and 145, all had Quadrifoglio Verde versions. Golden four-leaf clover badges (Quadrifoglio Oro) also appeared, used to denote the most luxurious variants of models such as the Alfasud, Alfetta, Alfa 6, 90 and 33. 

The initial “Q” also became part of the Alfa Romeo vocabulary, identifying advanced technical solutions such as Q4 all-wheel drive, the Q2 self-locking differential, the Q-System auto transmission and Q-Tronic, but the symbol fell in disuse during the 1990s and early 2000s, only returning in 2008 on the Mito and Giulietta (2010).

GIULIA QV

The 2015 launch of the top-of-the-line Giulia Quadrifoglio as the first model in the new Giulia range, showed new intent from Alfa Romeo to focus on unadulterated performance models. As showpiece for the new generation of vehicles bearing the four-leaf clover, the Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde’s svelte new attire is uncompromisingly assertive.

Standing in front of the new, not yet officially opened Museo della passione dedicated to Alfa Romeo cars on the Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West, the Giulia, in signature Competizione Red with Tri-coat paint finish, looked as mean and menacing as Il Monstro, the two-door SZ from 1989 parked inside the museum but with one difference: it is much more attractive.

We tested a similar Giulia QV Race Edition in April 2017. Back then, we remarked that, while the Alfa may have lost some Italian design finesse by exchanging Versace for a more regimented Lagerfeld, and flowing Armani for sharp Hugo Boss, it gained confidence and poise. 

We also observed that Alfa Romeo had returned to the original Giulia blueprint with the QV. Only, now it is powered by a bespoke Ferrari-developed full aluminium 2.9-litre six-cylinder bi-turbo petrol engine delivering a whopping 375 kW and a maximum twisting force of 600 Nm for a claimed top speed of 307 km/h, and zero to 100 km/h acceleration in 3.9 seconds.

The lusty engine mimicking more Wagner and Beethoven than Verdi or Puccini, we added, and these traits made the QV quite exceptional, as all inputs and guidance felt natural and uncomplicated. “It feels as if the QV is doing the lively, lithe Monferrina dance rather than the involved Schuhplattler”, we commented.

 A WORTHY QV CAR 

All this bears testimony to the high degree of development and engineering input going into these high-performance derivatives to ensure they are worthy of the hallowed Quadrifoglio badge. Yet, standing next to the Giulia was an iconic, locally developed model that, while surely deserving of the emblem, never wore the four-leaf clover.

Splendid in white, complete with black and red detailing, signature power bulge with NACA duct and wire-pattern alloy wheels, the pristine 40-year-old example at Lourensford is one of the earliest GTV 6 3.0 units built for homologation purposes – out of an officially stated number of 212 – and completely original (except for the front spoiler, which is supposed to be grey).

The legacy of the celebrated GTV 6 3.0 has been chronicled in detail over the years – it won on its first outing in the Group One racing championship in September 1983 (and many races after that), and was touted as the fastest road car in South Africa (with a top speed of 225 km/h), and the fastest production Alfa in the world at the time.

It can also lay claim to something the Giulia QV cannot (although the GTA and GTAm derivatives can) – a link to Autodelta, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The story goes that during a media trip to Italy, Roger McCleery, the then PR man for Alfa Romeo South Africa, saw some 3.0-litre engine castings lying around the Autodelta workshops.

When he enquired about them, it transpired Autodelta had plans to increase the engine size of the Type 116 Alfetta-based GTV but shelved it since the bigger engine would attract higher taxes in Europe. Needing a faster race car to take on the BMW 535i’s in Group One, Alfa South Africa reached an agreement with Autodelta to deliver the parts needed (crankshafts, pistons, sleeves, cylinder head castings and bigger valves) for the capacity upgrade.

The blocks and cylinder heads were machined in South Africa with assistance from Autodelta, but engine development and tuning – using Dell’Orto carburettors rather than the 2.5’s fuel injection system – was done inhouse by Sampie Bosman, technical guru of the local Alfa racing team, and his crew at his workshop in Booysens Reserve, Johannesburg.

Initially, maximum power went up from 116 to 128 kW, with torque increasing from 213 to 222 Nm, and with further development, it went as high as 145 kW in later models. Lower profile Pirelli tyres were fitted, the suspension was lowered, and weight was reduced from 1,210 to 1,138 kg. 

Interestingly, according to Bosman (who attended the recent 50th anniversary of ARCSA, together with McCleery and GTV driver Arnold Chatz), the unique front spoiler was measured to be 25 mm higher than the average street pavement, and that recognisable bonnet scoop led to a redesign of the air induction system as it tended to feed water to the engine when it rained. 

LAST WORD

So, while it never did wear the coveted Quadrifoglio (or, for that matter, the Autodelta logo), the racing success and pure performance of the 3.0 GTV 6 established its credentials with Alfisti globally. Now, with fewer than 90 remaining, they are highly sought after by collectors worldwide, and one was recently auctioned for R1.1 million.

There is also talk of a return of the sporty GTV moniker, most likely a four-door coupé based on the dedicated STLA Large electric vehicle architecture, with hybrid and all-electric drivetrains. Hopefully, this new GTV will spawn a Quadrifoglio version as well.

We thank Paul Williams from the Alfa Romeo Owners Association of South Africa, Neil Venter from Rola Motors, Somerset West, and Lynton Lomas from the ‘Museo della passione’ at Lourensford Wine Estate for their assistance with the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV and GTV 6 3.0.  

Report by FERDI DE VOS | Images © RYAN ABBOTT / ALFA ROMEO SOUTH AFRICA

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