Alfa Romeo's long history is littered with broken dreams: tantalizingly beautiful vehicles that, for one reason or another, never became a production reality. One such vehicle is the 2000 Sportiva from 1954: perhaps the sexiest automobile that Alfa Romeo never made.
Things have rarely been quiet at Alfa Romeo, and the early 1950s were a particularly tumultuous time in the company's history.
The then state-owned company was transforming itself from a boutique manufacturer of hand-made thoroughbreds into a larger entity capable of building cars by the thousands, ready to capture the upper end of Italy's booming automobile market.
The intense financial and technical efforts needed to set up large-scale production of the new 1900 sedan led the company to leave Formula 1 after winning two championships in a row, which proved a bitter pill to swallow for Alfa's proud engineers, who had racing in their blood.
Back on track
However, racing in the GT and sports prototype categories wasn't entirely off the table, especially if such models could be made from components evolved from those of the production 1900 sedan.
Therefore, Alfa Romeo's engineers, headed by Orazio Satta and Giuseppe Busso, started from the twin-cam inline-four engine of the 1900 sedan, whose cylinders' bore was increased to bring the engine's displacement closer to the 2000cc class limit. Fed by two large double-choke side-draft carburetors, the 1997cc engine produced 138 HP at a heady 6500 Rpm and was also equipped with dry-sump lubrication.
Mated to a four-speed manual gearbox sending power to the rear axle, the engine was positioned behind the front axle into a steel trellis frame. The front suspensions were independent, while the rear featured a de Dion axle equipped with a Watt's linkage. Brakes were drums all around, with the rear ones located "inboard," close to the differential to lower unsprung weight.
The task of clothing this chassis and running gear with a light aluminum skin fell on the Turinese coachbuilder Bertone, which was tasked with creating two prototypes, one spider and one coupé, which became the Alfa Romeo 1900 Sport Spider and the 2000 Sportiva, respectively.
The lines for both cars were penned by the legendary Franco Scaglione in his prime, and the end result speaks for itself.
The 1900 Sport Spider's streamlined body is smooth as a pebble, with a gently tapering tail and an elegant, downward-facing air intake featuring the Alfa Romeo shield and its two classic side lobes.
But it's with the coupé that Franco Scaglione outdid himself, creating a shape of genuinely outstanding beauty, a pure object of desire.
While the 1900 Spider was essentially an all-out racing car, devoid of any weather protection and with little consideration for practicality, the 2000 Sportiva was intended as more of a Gran Turismo, capable of similar performance but offering a minimum degree of comfort for road use.
The front end, characterized by a delightfully stylized oval grille, is low and taut. The long hood has an inverted "V" section with a central rib that descends towards the grille, while the plexiglass lenses that cover the headlights complete the aerodynamic profile of the two fenders. Besides the grille, we find two finned intakes directing fresh air toward the front brakes.
The teardrop-shaped cabin is airy, with a steeply curved windshield and sliding plexiglass side windows. The rear end design, with its large rounded rear window and tall tailfins, is a more extreme version of the design theme that Scaglione also implemented on the Giulietta Sprint, which he designed roughly at the same time.
The subtle chrome strips front and rear cannot really be called "bumpers" but rather "ornaments," as they are clearly not meant to resist even the slightest hit but just to look good. And boy, if they do.
Although Alfa Romeo toyed with the idea of a limited production of the 2000 Sportiva, going so far as displaying it in the Turin Motor Show as late as 1956, it was not to be.
The Milanese company, by then, already had its hands full trying to keep up with the strong demand for the new Giulietta and could not spare the resources needed to go ahead with the 2000 Sportiva, of which only two examples were ultimately built.
The 2000 Sportiva gathered dust in a corner of Alfa Romeo's experimental department for over a decade until it got to play an unexpected role during the development of the Alfetta.
Fitted with more modern wheels and tires, it was used to benchmark its De-Dion rear axle against some alternative layouts proposed for the future Alfetta's rear suspension.
The old coupè apparently performed so well that Alfa's engineers went for a De Dion axle of similar design for the Alfetta, and, as they say, the rest is history!
The silver coupè in this footage and the red 1900 Spider belong to the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese, near Milan. A second 2000 Sportiva, finished in the classic Alfa red, resides in a private collection instead.
Both cars are in excellent shape and, despite their inestimable historical value, are surprisingly often wheeled out from the museum's walls for high-profile events such as the 1000 Miglia.
If you want to learn more about Franco Scaglione, here's the article you need...