Celebrities

With faithful DNA, an Italian spider and a refugee who fled the Nazis conquered Hollywood

The Alfa Romeo 1660 Spider was launched in the U.S. in 1966.

Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

Steve McQueen didn't just lust over Fords and Porsches. He was fan of cars both fast and furious. "It is a very forgiving car. Very pretty, too," McQueen said when describing the Alfa Romeo 1600 in the summer of 1966. He'd been invited by Sports Illustrated to try the Italian car, one of the first Alfa Romeo 1600 Spiders that made their way stateside.

That wasn't the only encounter that the Duetto had with Hollywood elite. Its popularity was all predicted, and carefully planned, by Max Edwin Hoffman. Hoffman fled Austria for the United States as Nazism rose as World War II picked up steam. Hoffman was a former race car driver who became a vehicle importer for European cars. But, he was more than that.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider shipment Alfa Romeo readies Giulietta Spiders for shipment to the U.S. in n1955, 11 years before the Duetto would arrive stateside.Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

Companies trusted Hoffman to give advice on the U.S. market. His advice shaped not just the market but also the creation of the cars he would eventually import, including the Duetto. According to the automaker,

"He began asking Alfa Romeo for her in 1954, immediately after the launch of the Giulietta Sprint. He felt it would become the perfect car for the Pacific Coast, convinced that everyone in Hollywood would want one. So confident was he of its success that he said he was willing to buy several hundred, even before he had seen the final designs."

Hoffmann convinced Francesco Quaroni, the head of Alfa Romeo, and Rudolf Hruska, the company's engineer, to develop the project. Two Italian automobile design houses competed against each other to create their vision of the car - Bertone and Pinin Farina. Bertone had an extreme vision that featured Franco Scaglione's "2000 Sportiva" concept with a pointed front, streamlined headlights and rear fins. Pinin Farina's proposal was designed by Franco Martinengo.

1995 Alfa Romeo Duetto prototype A 1955 prototype of the car that would become the Duetto .Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo chose the Pinin Farina design because of its overall elegance and the classic balance of its shapes in keeping with the company's DNA - "The beautiful young lady", as Pinin Farina described it. The design began with a panoramic windshield, descending side windows, equipped door panels, folding roof, external handles, and a fresh interior design.

The spider's version of the car was equipped with the Duetto's 1,290 cc four-cylinder engine. it delivered 65 horsepower and could achieve up to 96 mph.

To make a splash with the U.S. market, Alfa Romeo's team organized a transatlantic luxury cruise liner for the car's launch and they invited some of the most famous celebrities in the worlds of business, sports, and fashion. All told, 1,300 VIPs were on-board including actor Vittorio Gassman, actress Rossella Falk and the soprano Anna Moffo. The Italian cruiseliner sailed from Genoa to New York, with a stopover in Cannes for the annual film festival. During the entire cruise, three examples of the new Spider were displayed on the ship's bridge: one green, one white and one red.

Alfa Romeo Spider 1600 Aboard the Raffaello ship o the Duetto's launch cruise.Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo described the car as flexible, young, and quick.

The same could be said for Muhammad Ali, who rattled off the phrase "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can't hit what his eyes can't see. Now you see me, now you don't. George thinks he will, but I know he won't," as he talked to reporters ahead of The Rumble in the Jungle where he fought George Forman in 1974. He memorialized the words by customizing the license plate on his Duetto to read "Ali Bee".

Seven years earlier Dustin Hoffman filmed "The Graduate" where he drove a Duetto full speed to the music of Simon & Garfunkel. The 1960 Fellini film "La Dolce Vida" starred Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, and a Duetto. It was Alain Delon's car in "The Eclipse".

Flexible, young, quick and beautiful, the Duetto was adored by the cinema. Fellini gave her a role in "La Dolce Vita", Antonioni chose her as Alain Delon's car in "L'Éclipse".

Alfa Romeo Duetto 1990 The Alfa Romeo spider's run lasted several decades. Shown here is a 1990 model.Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo would end up producing four generations of the Duetto. More than 124,000 models were produced over 28 years making it the longest living car in Alfa Romeo's history.

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Alfa Romeo's new headquarters is open for business.

Photo courtesy of Stellantis

Alfa Romeo, one of the many brands in the Stellantis portfolio, has opened its new headquarters. The historically Italian automaker will remain in Italy near its sister brands Maserati and Fiat.

The location of its new headquarters, called Centro Stile, is in Turin. The new headquarters is a redeveloped portion of the company's original Mirafiori plant.The plant first opened in 1939 and was, for a time, the largest Italian industrial complex. It was heavily damaged during World War II before being rebuilt to double its original size. Around 29 million vehicles have been produced at the plant since then, including the Maserati Levante.

The renovated space includes an open concept design with shared work spaces that are designed to facilitate teamwork and improve daily interaction between the Alfa Romeo design team and other aspects of the company's business unit.

Alfa Romeo's new Centro Stile

Photo courtesy of Stellantis

Decorators have added to the space with tokens representing the history of the brand and employees have added personal effects related to their professional experiences. The idea is to have a space that intermingles history with personal involvement and future ambitions.

Alfa Romeo is at a unique turning point in its history. The company currently produces the Giulia sedan and Stelvio SUV for sale globally. They were expected to unveil the Alfa Romeo Tonale compact crossover this summer but it has been pushed back, allegedly because Alfa's new CEO, Jean-Phillippe Imparato, was not happy with the direction it's headed. Another crossover, smaller than the Tonale and possibly named the Brennero, will debut in 2023.

The company is currently adapting its platform strategy to align with emissions standards and goals established with European countries as well as China and the U.S., among others. This includes ditching the platform that the current Giulia rides on for a new set of electrified architecture underpinnings in four different sizes.

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The newest Bentley Continental GT has broken cover.

Photo courtesy of Bentley Motors

The recipe for the 2022 Bentley Continental ST Speed Convertible is pretty simple on its face. Take a Continental GT, make is a Speed, cut the roof off. Thanks to technological innovations, it's actually not that simple.

The third-generation Continental GT Speed Convertible features Bentley's 6.0-liter W12 engine that delivers 650 brake horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque that work to haul the car from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. Bentley has installed an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission in the car. The luxury car is capable of reaching a top speed of 208 mph.

Bentley has given the model standard all-wheel steering, carbon ceramic brakes, Speed sport sills, dark tint grilles, Dark Tint radiator matrix, a Jewel fuel and oil filler cap, and Speed badging. There are three 22-inch wheel options (Dark Tint, Black Gloss, or Bright Silver) and seven roof colors available, including tweed. Eight interior roof finishers are available.

Photo courtesy of Bentley Motors

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The Z-fold convertible roof system has been improved so that less noise permeates it in this generation than in the last. The new drophead car is as quiet as the previous generation Continental GT Coupe. The roof can be deployed in 19 seconds and with the car traveling at speeds of up to 30 mph.

The cabin of the car also gets Speed badging, as well as an Alcantara steering wheel and a color split trim in Hide and Alcantara. Customers can further choose from 15 main and 11 secondary hide choices.

Piano Black veneer is standard in the Speed, with Crown Cut, Dark Stain Burr Walnut, and Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus offered as no-cost options. Open-pore Dark Stain Burr Walnut veneer, Crown Cut Walnut and Koa are also available. A new technical finish for the center console is available: Dark Tint Engine Turned Aluminum.

A neck warmer (which is both warmer and quieter than in the previous generation model), is integrated into the heated and vented Comfort Seats.

"The new Speed is the most driver-focused Continental GT Convertible available and unique in its ability to offer extremely refined, all-season open-top Grand Touring with the added edge of astonishing performance and dynamism," said Chris Craft, Member of the Board for Sales and Marketing at Bentley Motors. "Combined with exquisite, handcrafted interior details, the Continental GT Speed Convertible exemplifies all Bentley knows about creating the world's most stylish and elegant cars for roof-down motoring."

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