The ghost car

In March 1947, in the capital city, the company presented to the press a nice convertible two-seater micro-car, the Volpe, characterised by attractive rounded lines, two and a half metres in length, just over a metre wide and weighing only 135 kg: its appearance was more akin to a toy than a transport vehicle.

We’ve already talked about the Italian car scene in the post-WW2 period, which included the story of the BBC, which brought together Beretta, Benelli and the entrepreneur Castelbarco.

Well, in that period the latter was not the only one setting out to offer a simple and cheap type of car which could power the country. A very similar idea was also proposed by A.L.C.A. or Anonima Lombarda Cabotaggio Aereo, based in Milan and with a branch in Rome, which had built nacelles for aeroplane engines during the war. In March 1947, in the capital city, the company presented to the press a nice convertible two-seater micro-car, the Volpe, characterised by attractive rounded lines, two and a half metres in length, just over a metre wide and weighing only 135 kg: its appearance was more akin to a toy than a transport vehicle. The almost cartoon-like aspect of the small car, which adopted 8-inch wheels, had some interesting technical solutions concealed within, the result of collaboration with Gioacchino Colombo (1903 – 1988), designer of the Alfa Romeo 158 just prior to his joining the newly-founded Ferrari and a student of another great man on the Italian automotive scene: Vittorio Jano (1891 – 1965). Its engine was a rear-mounted 124 cc two-cylinder two-stroke producing 6 bhp at 5500 rpm and featuring forced air cooling, giving the car a claimed maximum speed of 75 km/h. The gearbox, with a steering column-mounted gear-lever and pre-selector, had four forward plus a reverse gear, whilst the brakes were drums.

The A.L.C.A. project was clearly ambitious and slogans announcing the start of marketing the Volpe were numerous; the actor and comedian Ermino Macario was also brought in to promote the virtues of the car. According to the company’s plans the Volpe was also to be sold in Portugal, Morocco and Latin America as well as in Spain, where an agreement was signed with Gemicar Internacional Auto S.L. of Madrid, which led to the formation of Hispano Volpe. Heavy marketing included the entry of five cars in the Mille Miglia that year, three of them fitted with a turbocharged engine and modified with an aerodynamic windscreen and a tail with no hood but incorporating a headrest instead. From this point the credibility of the A.L.C.A. began to waver: in fact no Volpes showed up on the starting grid. This fact, together with the failure to deliver cars which had been ordered and for which about 300,000,000 Lire had been paid, led the Milanese company to be investigated for fraudulent bankruptcy in 1948. Obviously no Volpes ever appeared in Spain either and Gemicar met with the same fate as the Italian company.

Here the story of the Volpe ends, with a few pre-production cars built (about a dozen actually), of which few have survived to this day and those which have belonging to private collections, including that of Corrado Lopresto, and museums, including the Taruffi di Bagnoregio (VT).

Despite the small A.L.C.A. being associated with a scam, it remains an interesting example of a car from the era of Bubble Cars, the most important protagonists of which were the Iso Isetta and the Messerschmitt, and given the virtues of the project it’s sad that this interesting vehicle was only used to cheat rather than for its qualities.

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes

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