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Five things you didn't know about Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo is back. Actually the Italian carmaker came back in 2007, with the limited-production 8C Competizione. Then the the 2015 4C marked the true return of Alfa to our shores after an absence of 20 years.

This week, however, Alfa got its biggest shot in the arm yet with the launch of the US-bound Giulia sedan. The top-trim car will bring 510 horsepower to fight other luxury sports sedans, and got us thinking about the strange, wonderful, and racy origins of the company.

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Alfa is technically A.L.F.A.

It's short for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, or Public Company Lombardy Automotive Factory. Lombary (or Lombardia) is the Italian region of the company's Milan headquarters. Despite its super-Italian image, Alfa was started by French guys. Franco automaker Alexandre Darracq and some investors, to be specific. Romeo was added to the name in 1920, an homage to company director Nicola Romeo.
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The cloverleaf was first used in 1923

Racing driver Ugo Sivocci slapped the logo on his Alfa Romeo RL for the Targa Florio in 1923. It must have worked, as drove to Alfa's first victory in the road race. Sivocci died a year later in a car without the quadrifoglio. Alfa used the 'good luck' token on its performance cars ever after.
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Withouth Alfa Romeo, there would be no Ferrari

Enzo Ferrari started at Alfa as a racing driver and acheived enough success to start Scuderia Ferrari in 1929. Ferrari racing essentially became Alfa's factory team until Enzo's departure in 1939.
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Alfa Romeo has as many Le Mans wins as Ford

The 8C dominated the legendary endurance race in the pre-war 1930's, with four straight overall victories (1931-34). That's more than BMW, McLaren, and Mazda combined, and double the wins of Bugatti.
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Alfa Romeo built the first production variable valve timing engine

First used on the Alfa Romeo Spider when it switched to Bosch injection in the 1980's.The 2.0-liter of the Twin Cam engine used an oil-driven cam phaser that would advance the intake valve timing 25 degrees. It's similar to modern designs but only had an on and off setting.
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