Posted on: Jun 10, 2012
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Italian Exotic Icons: Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione


Perhaps one of the greatest Alfa Romeo's of all time.
In 2007, Alfa Romeo brought out a car which defied convention in an entirely different way. The Lamborghini Miura had been a bold design statement, one which was unheard of at the time. But it was not long after this that the Miura became the template for Italian high-performance machines. After a few decades of wedge-shaped Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis, the 8C Competizione was a unique thing in its niche.

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Sure, there have been non-wedge cars from the big boys of Italian performance, but these have been bigger, softer GT cars. The 8C is a two-seat pure sports car with a shape and design style not seen in Italy since the sixties. What is remarkable about the 8C is that it turns heads, but not because it's outlandish in any way, it does so simply by being beautiful. Even the interior is elegant and classically Italian, without all of that fussy F1 equipment that Ferrari sticks into all of their cars these days. This beauty isn't too surprising, since it was styled to hark back to cars Alfa was building in the fifties and sixties.
This was a time before cars were designed to look so aggressive and/or aerodynamic, but were simple, elegant and restrained. Well, that and the fact that it's an Alfa Romeo, it's a company which enjoys the reputation of consistently churning out beautiful cars, although it must be said that this is an exceptional beautiful car, even for Alfa Romeo. The 8C is an interesting kind of retro. It is clearly a sixties-style sports car, and the grille and cloverleaf on the fender are signature pieces, but the rest of the styling isn't meant to mimic any specific car. It's a sort of new sixties model. The name of the car, however, is meant to call to mind a specific Alfa.
The "8C" in the name has been applied to Alfas before, but it simply refers to the eight-cylinder (or "cilindro", if you prefer the Italian) engine, and it is not these Alfas which we are supposed to connect to the current one. The "Competizione" is the heritage part of the name, and is somewhat wrongly applied here. The word simply means "competition", but the 8C Competizione is not a race car, and neither does a racing version even exist. The word found its way into the name for the car by way of the 1948 6C 2500 Competizione. This was a race car based largely on prewar Alfas, and is symbolic of Alfa Romeo's strong motorsports heritage.
The car was driven by the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio in the 1950 Mille Miglia, surely one of the prouder moments in the company's history. So it is this car which Alfa Romeo would like you to think of when you hear the name of the 8C Competizione, which seems reasonable. The 4.7-liter V8 in the 8C is borrowed from a Maserati, but is largely Ferrari-derived, being closely related to the engine out of the Ferrari F430. It produces 450 horsepower, which makes the lightweight (built largely out of carbon fiber) car quick enough to hit 62mph in 4.2 seconds.
"Top Gear's" Jeremy Clarkson made much of the handling, saying that the car was nearly impossible to control, but this was largely exaggerated for dramatic effect, so as to greater emphasize how beautiful the car is. The truth is that 8C handles fine. There are cars which handle better, but Clarkson's allegations went a bit far. Of course, this in no way made it difficult for Alfa Romeo to sell every 8C they produced. Nearly every review of the 8C included a mention of the brakes, which are one of the finest examples of the breed in existence. Just 500 hardtop copies of the 8C Competizione were built, along with another 500 of the Spider.
This adds exclusivity to the list of the 8C's attributes. Although the first 8C didn't make it to the US until 2009, we got more units than any country other than Italy. These were the first, tentative moves on Alfa's part to re-enter the US market, although it's a move which has been starting to drag on for a bit too long. The 8C Competizione is not likely to start a swing back toward this style of supercar design. When a supercar doesn't look outrageous, it's quite a big gamble for a carmaker to try and sell it on beauty alone. Alfa Romeo is a brand which is able to do this, but even other Italian brands don't have quite as much invested in aesthetics.
History will probably view the 8C as we do, a standout of unique beauty in a world of cars which are trying to do something completely different. The 8C is rarest of all things, a supercar which is also subtle.

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by Jacob Joseph
Italian Exotic Icons: Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione
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