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Exclusive interview with Mr. Ercole Spada
By Archivio storico dell'Alfa 155
ALFA ROMEO 155 STORY
The Alfa 155 project was born to replace the Alfa 75 model in the Alfa Romeo range after the acquisition of the brand by the FIAT group.
At that time, I was the Design Manager at the I.DE.A Institute, where I had completed the designing of a full family of cars branded FIAT and LANCIA that had to feature the same structure, i.e. same floor, same windshield, same door openings and same fireproof bulkhead (these cars were Lancia Dedra, Lancia Dedra stationwagon, Fiat Tipo, Fiat Tempra and Fiat Tempra stationwagon).
At the end of 1983 the Lancia Dedra model had already been approved already, but for marketing reasons it was decided to speed up the Fiat Tipo2 project (later to become Fiat Tipo), which was to replace Fiat Ritmo; these two models were presented in 1988 (Tipo) and in 1989 (Dedra).
This complex programme of unification had strongly been wanted by the managing director of Fiat: engineer Vittorio Ghidella, who found himself faced with the challenge of renovation of the Alfa Romeo range after the acquisition from Fiat in 1986. After launching the Alfa 164, which was ready to go onto production, it appeared to be logical to use the technical experience and the common parts that had been made for the new Fiat-Lancia models to quickly market the replacement model for the Alfa 75.
I had already finished and approved the Tipo3 model at the I.DE.A Institute. The car was then marketed with the name Tempra in 1990, and engineer Ghidella suggested me to transform this vehicle into an Alfa Romeo car, with its historical emblem on the front. This car was not to have any other Alfa Romeo family-feeling around, and so I managed to convince the managing director of the Fiat-Alfa group to produce a more Alfa Romeo-like model, still exploiting the available common parts that would be slightly modified to be more in line with the Alfa Romeo brand.
So, using the same structure and door openings of the Fiat model, with a variation in the moulding process I obtained the typical line featuring in the previous 164 and 75 models. Another typical element that was "stolen" from the Alfa 75 was the slanting diverging line of the headlamps and obviously a nice re-interpretation of the well-known Alfa Romeo emblem. I also suggested to apply the Alfa Romeo nameplate in italics on the front grille, but I don’t know why it hadn't been done.
Another typical element of shape was the height of the rear of the car. This was not a choice agreed by everybody, but, together with the slightly longer front, gave the car a very advantageous aerodynamic coefficient.
The approved model was submitted to Alfa Romeo for the production. The look of the interior was decided at that stage, as well as the range of colours and the name, whose origin is unknown to me.
While the Alfa 155 project was still in progress, in 1990 the Fiat Tempra model was presented and – eventually – in 1992 the Alfa Romeo 155 was launched.
After this date I do not know anything about the later developments of the model until 1993, when I cooperated with Mr. Zagato to develop the TI.Z model, which featured enlarged wheelhouses, a rear spoiler and a new front.
Another version that was prepared at that time was the two-door AR 155, which I made using the door openings and doors of the two-door Fiat Tempra that I had previously designed for Fiat Brazil. These two versions attracted Alfa Romeo’s interest, but it took so long to make a decision that the out-of-production time arrived earlier than the decision to produce them.
The later restyling operations and modifications never dramatically changed the model's features, that remained strongly unique. The stationwagon version repressed a bit the typical sportscar spirit of this model, a sporty vocation that was expressed at its highest peak by the Alfa 155 DTM model.
2010-02-11 Ercole Spada