What's In A Name: Alfa Romeo's Most Beautiful Car Is Named After Aliens

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We're talking about flying saucers here.

Alfa Romeo is known for making some of the most provocative, prettiest and timeless cars ever. It doesn’t matter whether you like the automaker or not, but you have to admit that every car that comes out of Alfa Romeo’s factory makes you feel something inside. Whether that’s lust, hatred, or want, every Alfa makes an enthusiast weak in the knees. The Disco Volante and Volante Spider are two prime examples of how beautiful the automaker's cars really are. Just look at these things!

While the name Disco Volante may seem misplaced, it fits the car perfectly. The ‘50s were a tumultuous time for the world. The world was recovering from World War II, color TV was just introduced and the first Playboy magazine came out. That’s a lot of stuff within the first few years. But it only got more interesting. For Alfa Romeo, the 1950s were a rough time. While the company had just won the 1951 Formula One World Championship, post-war cash shortages within the company led to its withdrawal from the sport. However, the competition department was allowed to stay intact because of the promise it made to create an image-boosting race car to take on the 1952 Le Mans and Millie Miglia.

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Using the 1900 Berlina road car as a template, Alfa Romeo built the C52. The competition department utilized the Berlina’s 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine and increased the bore size, while adding an aluminum block. The engine now put out 158 hp and was placed into the Berlina’s tubular frame. The final product was the C52 that could get to 140 mph flat out. But what really stood out about the C52 was its gorgeous body work. Coachbuilt by Carrozeria Touring, the C52’s curvy, wind-tunnel tested body gave the classic an extremely low drag coefficient of 0.25 Cd—less than that of a Tesla Model S. Besides being extremely efficient at cutting through the air, the bodywork also inspired the internal moniker of Disco Volante, Italian for "Flying Saucer."

The unofficial name caught on as public interest in space exploration and extra-terrestrial sightings peaked in the late ‘50s. Needless to say, the original C52 stood out like a flying saucer with its beautiful exterior, which was a good thing as some say it went on to influence the widely loved Jaguar E-Type. The C52 may have been breathtaking, but, according to the car’s lead designer, Carlo Felice Bianchi Anderloni, only four or five were ever built. If Alfa Romeo built more examples, there’s no doubt that it would have the same illustrious status as the E-Type. It may have a funny name, but the Disco Volante led the way for some of the greatest cars in the world.

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