Alfa Romeo Avio

Alfa Romeo Avio

  • John Stone
  • -
  • Nov, 09 , 23

I very closely associate Alfa Romeo with cars, particularly sports cars. Through the arrival of a new book on Alfa Romeo, I learned that Alfa has been producing aircraft engines since 1910 and continues to do so today.

Before and during the First World War, Alfa experimented with automotive engines in aircraft before focusing on the production of licensed foreign engine designs, particularly from Bristol and Armstrong-Siddeley in Britain. In 1932, Alfa unveiled its first purpose-built, in-house aircraft engine, the D2. The Italian economy was in extremely rough shape at this time, and the company went bankrupt in 1933.

From 1933 to 1945 Alfa was state-owned, and the government-installed managing director, Ugo Gobbato, focused efforts on the production of aircraft engines for the Regia Aeronautica. This was sound business sense considering the Italian consumer car market had flatlined and the country was at war from 1935 onward. Alfa Romeo Avio was officially created in 1941 under the direction of Gobbato. During the wartime years, more than three-quarters of the firm’s revenue came from the sale of aircraft engines. These included domestic designs but licensed copies of foreign engines such as the Bristol Jupiter and the Daimler-Benz DB 600-series.

Alfa Romeo Avio had factories both in Milan and Naples; both were bombed and largely destroyed in 1943. Ugo Gobbato was assassinated in April 1945. Alfa Romeo Avio gradually reemerged in the postwar era, primarily focusing on the maintenance of the various foreign aircraft engines in use in Italy. Alfa Romeo sold off its last shares of Alfa Romeo Avio in the 1980s to a larger aerospace conglomerate, which has been known by several names in recent decades, currently operating as “Avio S.p.A.”

All of this was an excuse to talk about our new car books! First there is Alfa Romeo: An Illustrated History, 1910–2020. Rather than telling the history of the brand in linear fashion, the book informs readers through self-contained chapters on various fun and interesting aspects of the brand history, such as wedge-shaped designs, engine innovations, and Alfa Romeo Avio.

Next is Inside Formula 1: Behind-the-Scenes Photography, 1950–2022 by Daniel Reinhard. Reinhard has been one of the leading F1 photographers since the 1980s, and interestingly, it is a role largely inherited from his father, Sepp, who began shooting Grand Prixes in the 1950s. This work combines the best of both Daniel and Sepp, with entertaining text accompanying the photos, including various “behind-the-scenes” tidbits thanks to their rare access to the drivers, teams, and cars.

The former two titles are in stock and available now. McLaren: The Road Cars, 2010–2024 by Kyle Fortune will not be in stock for another month or two. We just received advance copies, and they are the talk of the office. This is the first detailed history of McLaren Automotive; the author enjoyed extensive access to the company archives along with staff from various departments. The book has several hundred photos, extensive text with everything from specs and tables to driving impressions, and even a foreword by Jay Leno!

I hope you didn’t mind this automotive diversion. We will return to standard military history programming in the next newsletter.

Also, we are now on YouTube! Check out our channel. More videos coming very soon.

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