Anyone who's ever been involved with automobile design knows that the cars we see in the showrooms amount to just a fraction of all the tireless research and development work that goes on behind the scenes. Still, the stuff that ends on an automaker's cutting room floor makes for some truly fascinating "what if" scenarios, especially if that automaker is everyone's favorite: Alfa Romeo.
One of the most tantalizing yet lesser-known of these "might have been" stories took place in the late 1980s: the market for exotic cars was red hot, while the Fiat takeover and the successful launch of the 164 saloon had finally brought to Arese some much-needed financial stability.
That's when a small group of Alfa Romeo powertrain and bodywork engineers got the enviable task of studying an advanced high-performance coupé known internally as "10C."
The codename was a direct reference to its powerplant: no less than a 4067cc, naturally-aspirated, 72° V10, all new and unrelated to the unit used on the 164 Procar project, placed at the front and mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
The latter was to be bolted directly to the engine the traditional way, therefore doing away with the "transaxle" layout that had characterized most of Arese's output until then.
Everything about the Alfa Romeo "10C" was bespoke, a world away from anything the company had either in production or in the pipeline. It was an uncompromising rear-wheel-drive two-seater whose target Cd was below 0.31 and featured an innovative body structure made largely from aluminum to reduce weight.
The Alfa V10 prototype engine already produced around 340 HP during its first runs on Arese's benches, a figure that could have been increased further with the necessary development. The chassis and suspensions by then had been fully designed too, and the stylists had just begun working on the car's shape.
But it was not to be.
By the decade's end, with the world's economy heading into recession and the market for high-end sports cars tanking, the Alfa Romeo "10C" project was canceled before any prototype chassis was constructed.
Because of that, precious little information exists about it, most of which comes courtesy of the late Alfa Romeo engineer Domenico Chirico, who'd been one of the top engineers on the Alfasud project and went on to head the company's powertrain development between 1976 and 1988.
He mentioned the still-born coupé "10C" in his book "L'Alfa e le sue auto," a fascinating chronicle of four decades of Alfa Romeo engineering published in 2007. Unfortunately, the book didn't get much circulation in period, and it has since become quite sought-after by Italian Alfa Romeo fans.