• Matteo Licata

Burning Heart

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

The Alfa Romeo Museum dedicated last Sunday to a very special theme: firefighting at the famous Balocco test track, from the 1980s to the present day.

The day had two very special hosts: a heavily modified 164 and Mr. Rigolone, a retired firefighter that served at Balocco for thirty years...

Alfa Romeo Museo
Mr. Rigolone proudly poses with the 164 he used to drive on the Balocco race track. Dream job!

The Museo Alfa Romeo of Arese, near Milan, better known as "automotive paradise" is hosting this year a series of events called "Backstage": each month they'll take a vehicle from their "reserve collection" and tell its story.

On the 17th of February, the "star" has been a very special 164: a 3.0 V6 Q4 transformed by the Reparto Esperienze of the Arese plant for firefighting duty on the Balocco test track. Thankfully saved from being scrapped after its years of service were over, it's in perfect running condition.

His "saviour" was also present to the event: Mr. Rigolone, firefighter at Balocco for more than thirty years, he understandably loved this special 164 and made sure it would get a place in the company museum, being the last of a very special kind of Alfa Romeos...

Gianfranco Rigolone
Left: Lorenzo Ardizio, curator of the Museum. Right: Gianfranco Rigolone, telling the story of firefighting at Balocco...

For those who don't know what Balocco is (shame on you!), here's a video reminder...

Alfa Romeo had three firefighters constantly on duty at the track, and over the years their equipment included some curious "utes" made from production saloons, the first of that special breed being a 1750 (then modified into a 2000), then an Alfetta 2000, an Alfa 6 and a Giulietta 1300.

Alfa Romeo Balocco
The most stylish firefighters ever?

After these cars came a 164 3.0 modified by Marazzi, a coachbuilder better known for armored vehicles... That did not make a great job: the bodyshell cracked under the heavy equipment and tough track use of the car, which was then scrapped.

Gianfranco Rigolone
The 164 "chopped" by Marazzi didn't make the cut (pun intended!)

Priceless were the various anecdotes about all the Formula One drivers Mr. Rigolone met during its years at Alfa Romeo... His passion for the brand evident at all moments.

Then, a gift for him: the staff of the museum took "his" old 164 and let him loose on the "pistino" that's been built nearby the Museum during its renovation... One could clearly see his happiness!

In the end, a beautiful day that once again showed just how much passion the Alfa Romeo brand is capable of generating among car enthusiasts: the "pull" this brand has is unbelievable...

You all know I've worked on the Giulietta, but I so badly want to design again for Alfa Romeo... Klaus Busse, can you hear me?

Matteo Licata Designer
My signature on the Museum's guestbook