Società Italiana Automobili Darracq was set up in 1906, at first in Naples, but soon moving to Milan, to the Portello district, then on the outskirts of the city. The initial enthusiasm and great ambitions were temporarily dampened in 1909, with the arrival of a severe economic crisis. Cavalier Ugo Stella, managing director of the company, promoted the setting up of a new company in an attempt to improve the factory’s fortunes.
On 24 June 1910, the new company name, A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili) was officially registered. At that time, Giuseppe Merosi had already prepared the project for the model that was to become the brand’s first historical car: the 24 HP. Yet despite the success of the early vehicles, A.L.F.A. was unable to take off from the financial point of view.
At the onset of World War I, failure to obtain an order from the government brought about the early winding up of the company, which was entrusted to the Banca Italiana di Sconto (BIS).
In the meantime, a young entrepreneur from Naples named Nicola Romeo, also backed BIS, had set up a company called Ing. Nicola Romeo & C, and had built a small factory very close to Portello, obtaining an important order in 1915 for the production of shells. The Romeo workshop, however, was not large enough to produce this order, while not far away were the A.L.F.A. premises that had shortly before been put into liquidation.
BIS took over the shares of A.L.F.A. and entrusted its management to Nicola Romeo & C. Business grew relentlessly and, in February 1918, the investors decided to make the company public.
Its name became Società Anonima Italiana Nicola Romeo & C., that is Alfa Romeo. During the war, car production had not even been taken into consideration by Romeo and Merosi had been moved to the railway carriage plant in Naples. Only at the end of 1919, after the war had ended, did car production resume, initially with the assembly of parts in stock, then with the design of new models. It was the beginning of a new era.
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