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Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder by Touring Superleggera
Touring turns ninety and celebrates this important anniversary at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show with a brand new car. A bold interpretation of the open top car, fully devoted to the pleasure of riding with wind tousling one's hair. The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder is a two-seater open top car, based on the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione Spider. It is built for discerning customers in just seven examples, more than half of which have been sold already. The model being showcased at Geneva is the first of the series.
The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder is inspired by the 1952 Alfa Romeo C52 also present on the Touring stand courtesy of Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile "Giovanni Agnelli" of Turin. The Museo will host a retrospective exhibition encompassing the whole history of Touring in autumn 2016. On its way to the 1953 New York motor show, the C52 had already gained the Disco Volante nickname, Italian for 'Flying Saucer'.
Once again, Touring had sparked the public's imagination with a groundbreaking shape on what was the eve of space age. As usual with Touring Superleggera, the lines and volumes were dictated by a strict functional requirement: the new car had to be "insensitive to wind". The Disco Volante was to become the best example of Touring's founder, Felice Bianchi Anderloni's philosophy: "Weight is the enemy, air resistance the obstacle".
Using Alfa Romeo 1900 C elements, the car received a new tubular chassis, and a lightweight, striking and efficient aluminium body. The public embraced the Disco Volante and its revolutionary streamlined contours, though the car's impact went far further: the bodywork was so innovative that it influenced for decades numerous celebrated sports cars. Chosen by Alfa Romeo to mark its centenary celebration with a bronze sculpture now displayed in Milan, the C52 Disco Volante is one of the most significant models in automotive history.
This is the first open top production car in Touring's recent history. As such it had to be a bold design statement which starts to outline Touring's future design language. The 1952 car was revolutionary. The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder is as astonishing and exciting as a coach built car should be.
The windscreen is low, sharp edged, without a visible top frame. This gives lightness and a more dynamic look to the car. The uninterrupted razor sharp edge continues through the side windows and fairings, encircling the whole car with a seamless and exciting trait. The fairings' design certainly draws inspiration from the old Disco Volante and the aerodynamic approach which it expressed. In the present Spyder this concept is made extreme.
The fairings are not a discrete element, rather they elongate the horizontal line of the windscreen, giving a surprising "streamlined" effect to the car. The Spyder maintains most traits that made the Disco Volante an icon. The stylish covered front wheels give a sense of speed and sportiness, whilst the uncovered rear wheels highlight the more muscular details, giving the car a real sense of power. Just as every Touring car should be, the lines are essential.
Volumes and surfaces take the leading role. Just as every Touring car should be, the Spyder is timeless. In line with Touring's philosophy of personal commissioning, all details are dictated by the customer's taste. The exterior paint chosen for the first unit is "Blu Ceruleo" (sky-blue in English).
Where indeed does a Disco Volante come from? Shades of natural beige and black were chosen for the hides, whilst contrasting elements painted in the body colour provide continuity between exterior and interior, as appropriate in an open car. The briefing for this car was not to impair the pleasure of driving even in poor weather. The Anniversary car must be as fit for the Grande Corniche as it is for the Cotswolds.
Touring therefore decided to apply an innovative twin carbon roof allowing the car to have all the protection of a true coupé. This design allows for other advantages too: beauty, lightness and practicality. Louis de Fabribeckers: "Personally I would have a very hard time choosing the configuration I enjoy most between open top or carbon roof. Both have their own essence without compromising on style".
With each roof weighing a bare 3.5 Kg, it is designed to be comfortably stored in the boot, whilst still leaving room for a real luggage set. Substantial weight is removed from the upper part of the vehicle, conceding great advantages both to handling and performance. The term "Spider" is widely used for a two-seat open top car, but the term "Spyder" does not exist in the English dictionary. In the Sixties though the Italian car designers felt the misspelled term would be more exotic and appealing.
Touring deliberately choose to respect the "Italian touch" as a homage to the Italian coachbuilders' tradition. Every new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder component is CAD-designed and documented. The meticulous engineering process run with the support of Alfa Romeo's engineering team covers feasibility, safety, homologation, aerodynamics and structural analysis through the use of the most advanced IT tools and simulations. Sound insulation is paramount for riding pleasure at high speed with an open roof.
Computational Fluid Dynamics helped achieve outstanding acoustic comfort in cabin, with noise level limited to 24-50dB at 180 Km/h in the driver and passenger zone. CFD studies were also performed to enhance airflow and ensure optimal downforce in the rear section. Since torsional stiffness is of critical importance, an intensive study with FEM calculations was carried out in cooperation with Alfa Romeo to design the new single-piece windscreen frame and the cross roll-bar piece.
Together with the roof, they are made from structural carbon fibre. The ensemble provides crucial torsional stiffness advantages and saves weight in the upper section of the car, where it is most beneficial for performance. Faithful to its philosophy of personalisation, Touring provides a bespoke set-up of suspensions to match each customer's preference. The Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione Spider was chosen as donor car for its light and stiff structure and its outstanding dynamic properties.
It forms the perfect basis for the coach-built bodywork of the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder, which integrally conserves the rolling chassis and drive train. The Alfa Romeo 8C's steel space-frame and other structural elements are retained to guarantee torsion stiffness, high performance and quality standards. The frame parts and the central carbon cell remain unchanged. Elements of the underpinning and the body, such as the engine bay and firewall, the cowl, the locks and hinges have been retained too, just as the dashboard, the instruments, the pedals and the steering wheel.
Parts like doorframes and the c-pillar have been modified to match the new shape. The layout of the front-central mounted engine, the transaxle transmission and the rear-wheel drive offer an optimal weight distribution of 49-51% between the front and rear axles. To ensure excellent handling the front and rear double-wishbone suspension scheme is combined with hub carriers made of forged aluminium and additional trailing arms for the rear suspension. The lightweight and compact 4.7 litre V8 engine delivers 450HP and 480Nm peak torque.
It is coupled with a six-speed sequential transaxle gearbox with electronic control and paddle-shift gear selection. Combined with a limited-slip differential and a state-of-the-art carbon-ceramic braking system including large diameter, ventilated discs, the package ensures a precise, dynamic and proactive drive. The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 4,5 seconds and has a top speed of approximately 292 Km/h (181 mph).