By 1951 Alfa Romeo had withdrawn its mighty Alfetta 159 from Formula 1 racing, largely due to the costs involved in developing a new car and they decided to concentrate their efforts developing sports cars for amateur drivers in order to keep the sporting profile of the marque.
Road racing in Italy at the time was a battle between the Alfa1900 and the Lancia Aurelia so Alfa Romeo decided to base their design on the 1900 mechanicals and building a new body for them.
The Disco Volante, or in English the Flying Saucer, was largely the baby of Gioachino Colombo and the body styling was by the carrozzeria Touring Superleggera. The chassis was produced by Alfa Romeo and had to have a very close relationship as the body has to fit exactly to the chassis and it was not unheard of for the chairman of Alfa Romeo, Pasquale Gallo to turn up at the Touring Offices in order to discus the finer points of the design.
Initially the engineers used the 1900 engine which they modified to 2000cc and managed to take the power output up to 158 bhp. This was the first model to see the light of day and had the designation Type 1900 C 52 Soucoupe Volante 2000. However, the engineers were already working on a 3 liter 6 cylinder engine, the fitment of which involved extending the wheel base slightly and some minor alterations to the bodywork. Two of these were produced with the designation Soucoupe Volante type 6/C 3000.
In 1953 Colombo left Alfa Romeo and his place was taken by Rudolf Hurska, who was later to design the Alfasud. Hurska was immediately taken with the design and backed the production of the coupe version, together with a narrow bodied spider. To save time, one of the three earlier 2000cc cars was rebodied this gave Alfa Romeo three cars for experimentation. Eventually five cars were produced of which the whereabouts of four are known. Two of the cars, chassis number 1359.00001 and 1359.00003 are in the Alfa Romeo Museumâ€™s collection, 1359.00002 is in the Schlumpf collection and 1361.00011 is now a 3.5 litre 246 bhp car is in Museo dellâ€™automobile carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia. The final car 1362.00012 has disappeared and the history is unknown.
The name Disco Volante comes from the cars very distinctive saucer shape and the fact that around this time there were many sightings of flying saucers around the world and they just had to use it.
The Disco Volante was not raced in 1952, but in 1953 Fangio finished second to Marzottoâ€™s 4.1 litre Ferrari. The Disco Volante crossed the line with a broken left hand steering tie rod which only added to Fangioâ€™s legendary status. Later in the season Alfa Romeo entered three cars into the Le Mans 24 Hour Race, however none of the cars were to finish the race, Fangio dropped out after two hours with a damaged piston, the Sanesi/Carini car retired with broken rear suspension and the Kling/Riess car blew its clutch up. While at Spa-Francorchamps the only car entered went out in a minor accident when Sanesi was driving. The season was brightened up by Fangioâ€™s win at Merano, Italy in chassis 1359.00003 with an average speed of 78.96 mph
|Wheel Base (mm)||2,220|
|Dry Weight (kg)||735|
|Top Speed (km/h)||225|
|Power (bhp)||158 @ 6,500rpm|
|Valves||2 per cylinder inclined at 90 degrees|
|Valve Size||intake 40mm exhaust 34.5mm|
|Carburetion||Horizontal twin choke carburettors|
|Suspension||Double wishbone front, live rear axle|
|Fuel tank (litres)||105|
|Sumo Capacity (litres)||5.5|