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Alfa Romeo Nuvola (I.DE.A) (1996)

The Nuvola was a four-wheel-drive concept car with its lines firmly rooted in the sports Alfa Romeos of the 1930s. But it would be doing this stunning design an injustice to regard it as mere pastiche, because its curvaceous lines possessed a vitality that is quintessentially late-20th century.

The Nuvola was the work of Walter de Silva, who was responsible for styling of Alfa Romeo’s acclaimed GTV/Spider, and is very much more than a visually impressive concept. It was also an attempt by the company to evaluate the feasibility of producing a space-frame platform that would allow bespoke coachbuilders to provide a variety of body styles, just as they had done between the wars. This latter-day strategy would mean that Alfa Romeo could swiftly respond to changing market requirements and provide niche sector cars at reasonable cost.

Sketchy Start

Work on the Nuvola began in February 1996 and was completed in time for it to be unveiled at the Paris Motor Show eight months later. The original sketch was undertaken by de Silva and his ideas were transformed by Wolfgang Egger, a young German stylist, and his italian assistant, Filippo Perini. Power came from a twin-turbocharged 2.5 litre V6 engine, that is destined to appear in the four-wheel-drive version of Alfa Romeo’s 166. In the Nuvola it was longtudinally, rather than transversely, mounted and coupled to a six-speed gearbox. The all-independent suspension was a double wishbones.

If these mechanicals were relatively conventional, the coupe bodywork was not. Its pre-war spirit was underlined by the use of big 457 mm (18 in) wheels. At the front the traditional Alfa Romeo grille was flanked by twin headlights and indicators recessed into the separate wings in the manner of de Silva’s Spider. At the rear were state-of-the-art light-emmiting diode lamps.

The cockpit revealed strong nostalgic echoes of the original, but also incorporated modern elements based on that of the GTV/Spider. When the Nuvola made its Paris debut there was excited speculation that it might preface a prestigious coupe. Industry observes pointed out that GTV’s lines were anticipated by Alfa Romeo’s Proteo four-wheel-drive concept car that appeared at the 1991 Geneva Show, just three years before the definitive model.

Racing Hero

But why Nuvola? The name derives from Italy’s greatest ever racing driver, Tazio Nuvolari, who scored some of his most memorable victories at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo. Originally the car was to have been called the Tazio, but the town of Modena, which was Nuvolari’s birthplace, objected, so Nuvola was chosen as a compromise.

Wood, Jonathan (1997) Concept Cars, Paragon, ISBN 0-75252-084-9.