Alfa Romeos are all about driving, so one hardly ever imagines being seated anywhere else than at the front. But there are some Alfas in which you’d better avoid sitting in the back altogether.
Like the brand-new Giulia Radiomobile, of which a fleet of 1.770 units will be deployed all over Italy for the control of the territory.
Although this specific variant of the Giulia retains the standard two-liters turbo engine and 8-speed automatic transmission, it also comes with some very specific features.
Chiefly among those are the variable message panel, two flashing lights and an adjustable searchlight, LED flashing lights on the rear-view mirrors, armored windshield, shatterproof side and rear windows, and two electromechanical weapons holders. On top of it all, I might add that the Giulia looks pretty damn good in the Carabinieri livery, characterized by its traditionally elegant dark blue with red accents.
These new cars join the two Giulia Quadrifoglio that have been in use for exceptional duties, like transportation of donated organs for urgent transplants, since 2016.
The Giulia is the last of a long lineage of Alfa Romeo models to join the Carabinieri’s fleet, continuing a tradition that dates back to the 1950s, celebrated in the “Alfa Romeo in Divisa” section of the Alfa Romeo museum, inaugurated in June 2020 on the brand’s 110th birthday.
The Carabinieri’s emergency response cars are traditionally called “Gazzelle,” the Italian for “gazelle,” an animal representing speed, agility, and stamina. Among the first Alfas employed for such use, there was the iconic and much-loved Giulia.
The Giulia Super from 1968, belonging to the Carabinieri’s heritage fleet, like all the other cars present in the exhibition, is a real beauty. However, what strikes me most about it is how little it differs from the regular Giulia we know and love. Apart from the livery and the radio equipment inside, there’s none of the sophistication we’ve come to expect on current patrol cars. Even the upholstery looks like Alfa’s then-usual “TexAlfa” vinyl. The exhibition also has another Giulia, which surprised me, as I had no idea the Carabinieri ever got these Giulia-based panel wagons, known as the Giulia Super Speciale or “Combinata.” As far as I know, three different coachbuilders, over time, built a total of around 600 of these cars, and I’m glad this one has survived for us to admire, still wearing the olive green livery that was then superseded by the current dark blue.
The Carabinieri took delivery of their first batch of Alfettas in 1973, but this 1979 one is a rather unique example of the breed.
The 1970s are known in Italy as the “years of lead” for a reason, which created a healthy demand for armored cars from wealthy individuals and public institutions alike. To those customers, Alfa Romeo offered this model, known as “Alfetta Protetta.” Sold directly from the company at about four times the price of a standard Alfetta saloon, each one started life as a regular Alfetta off Arese’s production line, which Alfa then sent to one of the few specialized companies that carried out the very labor-intensive transformation. The Carabinieri mainly used the 1979 example on display for escort duties, and, judging by its condition, no criminal ever put its ballistic protection properties to the test.
The Carabinieri remained loyal to Alfa Romeo even when, in 1984, the trusty Alfetta was replaced by the underwhelming Alfa 90.
The 90 was, at its core, a heavily restyled Alfetta: not a bad car but just an uncompetitive one, unable to fulfill the luxury executive car promise that Alfa’s marketing made at the time. The example on display is a very late model, an Alfa 90 1.8 Super from 1987, the year in which production of this model ended, after just three years on the market and less than 60.000 units made.
The Carabinieri found their ride of choice with the much more successful 75, sticking to the 1.8 liters saloon from 1987 until the end of production in 1992, starting from the carburetted ones then switching to the later fuel-injected models, like this beautiful survivor from 1992. This model is the one that starts bringing memories to me, as 75s were the patrol cars I used to see on the roads when I was little, tires screeching and their rear end squatting under heavy acceleration.
Unfortunately, the 155 and the models that followed it aren’t part of this exhibition, so they’ll be a story for another time.