Vintage & Classics

Gazelles and Panthers roamed the streets in post-World War II Italy

Alfa Romeo and the Italian police have a 70-year history, which includes this model, the Giulietta.

Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

In the fifth episode of "Storie Alda Romeo", the company reveals how, for over 70 years, police officers in Italy have used the company's cars to perform essential job functions. Starting in the 1950s, Alfas were used as call-out vehicles, patrol models in U.S. terms, and became known as the "volanti".

Cars used by the State Police were nicknamed "Panthers" and those of the Carabinieri (military police) earned the nickname "Gazelles". Both terms were flattering and served as metaphors for the vehicles' power and agility.

The first Panther

1900, Police

Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

Built in 1952, the first Panther was an Alfa Romeo 1900. The Gazelles began production a few years later.

The Alfa Romeo 1900 marked a lot of firsts for its maker. It was the first Alfa to have a self-supporting body and the first left-hand drive model. The car came with a four-cylinder engine, abandoning the six- and eight-cylinder power plants that had proved popular with buyers. The engine was powered by a single carburetor and delivered 80 horsepower (that was a good amount back then).

The 1900 was the first Alfa to be produced on an assembly line, which dropped the production time of one vehicle from 240 hours to 100. Many modern factories have been able to cut this time down to 48 to 72 hours.

It was agile and fast. The car was launched to the public with the slogan "The family car that wins races". It proved popular with buyers. Alfa sold more 1900s alone than the total number of Alfa Romeos it had sold up until the 1900 was produced.

Success in variety

Portello factory, 1900 production

Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo attributes much of the 1900's success to product cycle management that is replicated time and time again in the modern market by companies worldwide. Alfa introduced several high-performance variants of the 1900 including the 1900 TI, 1900 C Sprint and Super Sprint, and the 1900 Super, winning important international competitions within their category.

Continued coachbuilder collaboration

BAT  Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica

Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

Even as the 1900 grew in popularity with the average buyer, the Alfa Romeo continued working with coach builders to launch concept cars, like the Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica (BAT) on 1900 mechanics. The BAT was created by Bertone and designed by Franco Scaglione.

The Matta

1900 M "Matta"

Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

The same engine as the one used in the 1900 was also adopted by the Alfa Romeo 1900 M, which is better known as the "Matta". Alfa made two different versions of the Matta from 1951 to 1954, one for civilians and one for military personnel.

It was a 4x4 that achieved 64 horsepower from its four-cylinder engine, which was paired with a four-speed manual gearbox.

In a similar vein as the Willys-Overland MB cum CJ-2A, several variants were produced for the agriculture, firefighting, and road maintenance industries.

The first Gazelle

Giulietta ti, Police

Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta was the first Gazelle, which was designed as a patrol vehicle. It came equipped with a radio system so officers could stay in touch with headquarters. Even in most modern police vehicles, radios are a aftermarket accessory.

The Giulietta was shorter, narrower, and lighter than the 1900 and offered buyers a modern exterior that gave owners high levels of comfortability in the cabin. Its aluminum engine delivered 65 horsepower and the car had a maximum speed of 102.5 mph.

The car was a near instant success. It became known as "Italy's sweetheart" and sold over 177,000 units.

At the 1954 Turin Motorshow, a coupe version of the Giulietta debuted. Called the Giulietta Sprint, the model was designed by Bertone to be a low-lying, compact, agile car.

Enter: Giulia

Giulia, Police

Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

As popular as Giulietta was, the Giulia was even more so.

The reasons for its popularity started at the front and rear, where, instead of beg but for style, they were designed to be shock-absorbent. This combined with a rigid passenger compartment to give drivers the comfort of knowing that they were in a safe (for its time) car. Many of these innovations were not yet compulsory.

Under the car's hood was a 1.6-litre twin cam engine. It had one one of the lowest coefficients of drag of its time, only 0.34. Alfa Romeo's marketing department capitalized on this, promoting the car as being "designed by the wind".

Sales of the vehicle were beyond expetation. The company sold over 570,000 sales, more than triple those of Giulietta.

Famous police cars

Giulia, "Carabinieri"

Photo courtesy of Alfa Romeo

The Alfa Romeo Giulia Super was one of the most popular Alfas ever produced and one of the most famous Italian police cars ever produced. Other police cars from the Alfa lineup include the Alfasud, Alfa 75, and Alfetta Alfasud, Alfa 75156. Today, first responders drive the modern Giulia.

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Toyota patented a dog-walking robot.

Toyota

Pets are one of life's great pleasures, but there's no disputing that they're a ton of work. Cleaning, vet visits, and walks are just the beginning, so it's always interesting to see the products that promise to make pet ownership more manageable. Toyota, the world's largest automaker, filed a patent for a self-driving dog-walking robot that looks nearly as advanced as many cars today.

Toyota Dog Walk RobotLogic helps the bot determine when to clean up a mess. Toyota

The main structure appears to be a platform with various attachments, and though the intention is for the machine to walk the dog for you, there's space for a person to ride. The vehicle is completely autonomous and does not require a person to guide it on walks. Sensors keep the robot from running over the dog and maintain speed.The patent paperwork includes several decision trees and logic for how the vehicle responds in various dog walking scenarios. One uses the vehicle's sensors to gauge the dog's distance from the robot. If the dog wanders too far, the machine can lock the leash and adjust its speed to maintain proper distance. It's the same sort of "thinking" done by autonomous cars on the road, just adjusted for scooping poop and leash management.

Speaking of number-two, dogs tend to poop when they walk, so Toyota had to prepare the robot for some poop scooping. In its decision-making process, Toyota added logic that asks, "Is it detected that the dog has pooped?" If the answer is yes, the machine is then instructed to "Execute collection process." A camera helps determine when the pooping has happened so the machine can do its job. If the dog pees, there's a water sprayer with an onboard tank to rinse the ground.

If your dog is anything like some of ours, it's likely you don't make through more than a few walks without some antics. Our lazy pups frequently get tired of walking and decide it's time for a mid-sidewalk nap, but Toyota's dog walker isn't going to tolerate any of that. The platform features paw sensors that can sense the dog's position and even let it do some driving.

Toyota Dog Walk RobotThe bot will scoop poop and wash away pee during a walk.

Toyota's patent filing is fun to think about and imagine what could be, but it's still just a patent. The automaker could turn its idea into a line of puppy walkers sold at dealers across the country or file it away as a thought exercise, never to be seen again. Either way, Toyota's got an exciting year ahead of it with the GR Corolla release and bZ4X hitting the streets, and there are rumors of a Crown SUV coming to the automaker's lineup.

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The 3.0-liter twin-turbo engine delivers big power numbers.

Stellantis

The old saying that there's "no replacement for displacement" isn't quite as accurate as it once was. Turbochargers and the latest engine designs have made it possible to extract major power from smaller, more efficient power plants. Stellantis' latest announcement proves this point, as its new Hurricane inline-six-cylinder engine will generate big power numbers from a relatively modest 3.0 liters and two turbos.

Stellantis says two variants will be available. The standard output version produces more than 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, while a high output variant delivers more than 500 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. The twin-turbo inline-six delivers that power with up to 15 percent better fuel efficiency.

Stellantis Hurricane Inline-SixIt's not yet clear which vehicles will get the engine.Stellantis

The new engine comes as Stellantis works to position itself for an electrified future. The automaker stated a goal of 50 percent a 50 percent battery electric vehicle mix by 2030, but notes that gas engines will still play a major role in its vehicle line for years to come. "The Hurricane twin-turbo is a no-compromise engine that delivers better fuel economy and an important reduction in greenhouse gases without asking our customers to give up performance," said Micky Bly, Stellantis head of propulsion systems.

At this point, it's unclear which vehicles will get the new engine, but Stellantis' brands are packed with opportunities. Dodge, whose Hellcat-powered muscle cars could be a good candidate, and then there's Jeep, with a line of off-road-ready SUVs that could greatly benefit from such an engine. The Hurricane's projected high output of 500 horsepower puts it behind the Hellcat engines power output, but it's still strong enough to make a seriously quick vehicle.

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