After the Second World War, Alfa Romeo had drastically revised their line-up. In a matter of years, production shifted from the most expensive car available to small family saloons. What did not change were the beautifully designed DOHC engines, which still shared many principles with the Vittorio Jano designed engines of the 1930s. After dominating the first two years (1950 and 1951) of Formula 1, the Milanese manufacturer withdrew from high profile racing.
Using the 1900 Saloon engine, Alfa Romeo engineers designed a small sportscar racer. Known as the 'Disco Volante' (flying saucer), the small prototype racer incorporated a spaceframe chassis. In total only six cars were constructed, all with slightly different Touring designed bodywork. With the three litre, six cylinder 6C 3000 CM, Alfa Romeo made a brief and successful appearance in various sportscar races.
In an attempt to relive the glory days of the 1930s, Alfa Romeo engineers set out to design a two-litre 'supercar', which could be driven on the roads and raced by the manufacturer's customers. The basis of the new car was the spaceframe chassis, also used in the Disco Volante. Power came from a two-litre version of the 1900 engine, fitted with hemispherical combustion chambers. Like many contemporary Formula 1 racers, it was fitted with a DeDion axle at the rear.
Bertone's Franco Scaglione was commissioned to design a lightweight body to fit the extremely short 'Sportiva' chassis. Scaglione came with a very innovative design, which incorporated a very low air-intake. He penned up both a Spyder and a Coupe design. Many of the design cues were later also found in his design for the Giulietta Cabriolet prototype, which unfortunately was never produced.
Eventually only four examples were constructed, two spyders and two coupes. Rare road-tests showed that the Sportiva would have been a very capable road racer, only surpassed at the time by the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL and Ferrari 340. Of the many beautiful cars designed by Franco Scaglione, he later admitted the Sportiva Coupe to be his favourite.
Pictured is s/n AR19005-00003, which is owned by the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo. It is seen here at the Alfa Romeo stand at Retromobile 2004.