May 05 2014

Mystery Foto #66 Solved: 1914 A.L.F.A. 40/60 HP Aerodinamica Prototype

This week's Mystery Foto featured a very unique early automobile.

Answers to the Mystery Foto questions:

-Identify the manufacturer of the automobile

A.L.F.A.  -acronym for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (translated to Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company.)

-Identify the car and its year

1914 A.L.F.A. 40/60 HP Aerodinamica Prototype. Italian Count Mario Ricotti of Milan commissioned Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Castagna to build the protoype, which resembled the airships of the era. 

-What is significant about the car's design?

It is considered one of the first aerodynamic automobiles ever built. It reportedly reached speeds of 86 mph.

-How was the manufacturer linked to the Vanderbilt Cup Races?

Although A.L.F.A .is widely deemed as 100% Italian, its start was linked to the French company that won the 1905 and 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Races. The company was originally founded as Societa Anonima Italiana Darracq (S.A.I.D.) by French automobile industry entrepreneur Alexandre Darracq with help from Italian investors in 1906.

In August 1915 the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo with the Torpedo 20-30 HP the first car to be so badged. Tazio Nuvolari won the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup Race in an Alfa Romeo12C-36.


Congrats to Steve Lucas, Tim Ivers, Greg O., Randy Reed , Simon Favre and Steve McKelvie for correctly identifying the car.


Howard Kroplick

The bodywork was made from riveted aluminum paneling. The elongated windshield consisted of three pieces of curved glass. With the engine and radiator inside the body contours, the driver had to sit three feet behind the windshield. Vision was further impeded by the side windows and the absense of a rear window.

Count Ricotti later changed the body with a partial removal of the roof.

11979 Replica

In 1979, the Alfa Romeo Museum Historical built a full scale replica. Sadly, the museum "closed for renovation" in Febrauary 2011.

Serge Bellu (French car historian):

"Seemingly an escapee from a Jules Verne novel, this extraordinary vehicle had a streamlined fuselage like that of an aircraft, pierced with large portholes."


May 02 2014 Steve Lucas 3:16 PM

That strange looking car is a 1914 A.L.F.A. 40/60 HP Castagna Siluro Ricotti. I believe it was the first car with an all aluminum, fully enclosed body. Another unique feature was that it had 3 doors, 2 on the left and one on right side. This was the early years of the Alfa-Romeo company that was formed by a group of Italian investors who had picked up the pieces of a susidiary of Darracq, a manufacturer which, only a few years earlier, was the winner of both the 1905 and 1906 Vanderbilt Cup Races.

May 02 2014 Ted 10:51 PM

I checked out Lane Motor Museum, thought maybe I would get lucky, no such luck

May 03 2014 Tim Ivers 11:36 AM

1914 Alpha 40/60 “Aerodinamica” designed by Merosi go Aphasia Romeo, who designed
later vehicles which competed in Vanderbilt Cup races.

May 03 2014 Greg O. 4:08 PM

Another fun one to research and learn.

-Identify the manufacturer of the automobile

(Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, English: Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company) In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo

-Identify the car and its year

1914 A.L.F.A. 40/60 Hp Aerodinamica Prototype

-What is significant about the car’s design?

It’s aerodynamic shape helped gave it faster top speed. It’s ‘body’ amounted to the equivalent of a metal ‘ballon’ over a standard ALFA 40/60.
There’s some great exterior/interior pictures of the replica on a very interesting website here;

-How was the manufacturer linked to the Vanderbilt Cup Races?

The 1936 the Vanderbilt Cup Race was won by Tazio Nuvolari in the #8 Alfa Romeo

May 04 2014 Randy Reed 12:48 PM

The chassis for this car was built by A.L.F.A. in Italy. It was the 40-60 hp model of 6 liters capacity built from 1913 to 1922. The engine produced 70 hp @ 2,200 rpm. An open roadster bodied car achieved 75 mph. This body was designed and built by Castagna in Italy in 1914 for Count Marco Ricotti of Milan. The car was called the Siluro Ricotti. It was one of the first aerodynamically designed automobile bodies for a road car and achieved a speed of 86 mph. It was altered in 1915 to an open body retaining the windshield, lower body, fenders and tail section. An Alfa Romeo 12C-36 won the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup driven by Tazio Nuvolari. A replica of the Siluro Ricotti was built in the 70’s and is now in the Alfa Romeo museum.

May 04 2014 Steve McKelvie 7:36 PM

Hi Howard,
Mystery Photo 66 is of a car built by Alfa Romeo.  The model is known as the Alfa Romeo Aerodinamica and was built in 1914.  The design features are the aerodynamic shape, the use of lightweight aluminum body panels, and the use of curved glass, especially for the windshields.  It is also interesting that it is a multi seat car, but it only had one door.  As far as the relationship with the manufacturer and the Vanderbilt Cup races, I would note that Tazio Nuvolari won the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup race in an Alfa Romeo 12C-36.

Steve McKelvie

May 04 2014 frank femenias 11:14 PM

Don’t have a clue but based on those wooden wheels, it must’ve landed on the planet early 1900’s. Possibly an early attempt of a mobile observation bus for viewing the races? There was the Thermos truck but this shape nearly matches the pods from ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’. You got me.

May 04 2014 Simon Favre 11:37 PM

This is the “Ricotti Alfa” It started as a 1913 40/60 HP Alfa Romeo. In 1914, it was turned into an Aerodinamica by Carrozzeria Castagna at the request of count Marco Ricotti. It was capable of 86 MPH due to its aerodynamic shape. An Alfa Romeo driven by Tazio Nuvolari won the 1936 Vanderbilt Cup.

May 05 2014 Ted 12:48 AM

I’m not having any luck with this one, even with the hint that Greg gave me. The only thing I can say is that I notice the car has the same type tires and wooden rims as the Vanderbilt Cup cars do and that it a very uniquely designed car

May 05 2014 Ted 11:16 PM

Ha Greg, you really outdid yourself on this one, along with Simon with the website. Thanks again for trying to help me, I must have done something wrong on my search.

May 06 2014 frank femenias 1:47 AM

Very interesting early auto design concepts going on here. With the horseless carriage in play, I can see advanced auto engineering already in process and moving forward, and it’s only 1914. Thanks Howard for clarifying with all the information!

May 16 2019 GM 5:12 PM

I saw one of these at a vintage automotive museum exhibit in Montreal back in 1990.

Jan 11 2020 J.R. 4:36 AM

I was lost, at “very unique.”

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