Love and Betrayal - Story of an Alfa Romeo

The victorious Lancia and the struggling Alfa Romeo

During the late ‘80s and the early ‘90s Lancia was dominating the WRC. Thanks to the Delta HF Integrale, Lancia won the WRC’s Constrctor’s Championship six times in a row, from 1987 all the way to 1992, plus four Driver’s Championships (Juha Kankkunen (1987-1991) and Miki Biasion (1988-1989)), a record still unbeaten today.

Meanwhile another Italian brand with a strong racing heritage, Alfa Romeo, was going through difficult times.

The old 75 Turbo kept getting beaten by the more modern BMW M3 E30 Sport in the Italian Superturismo Championship and Alfa Romeo wanted revenge.

To add insult to injury, their newest model, the 155, which was lauched in 1992 and replaced the glorious, although severely outdated 75 (which was based on the Giulietta, itself based on the 1972 Alfetta), was hated by the vast majority of old-time Alfisti, due to the fact it was little more than a rebadged and rebodied Fiat Tempra and, as a consequence, it abandoned the traditional FR (Front engine, Rear wheel drive) layout in favour of a cheaper and more modern FF (Front engine, Front wheel drive) layout.

As a result, Alfa Romeo decided to create a racing version of the 155 saloon, but turning it into a racing missile was going to be difficult: the FF layout is good for producion road cars, but problematic for racing.
The first step into creating a successful racing 155 was the introduction of a special all-wheel-drive road model, the Q4, which inherited all if its mechanical components (engine, transmission, gearbox, etc…) from the Lancia Delta HF Integrale.

Goodbye, Lancia. Hello, Alfa Romeo!

On December 18, 1991, Fiat officially announced the withdrawal of Lancia from the WRC, and the successful Lancia Corse team, led by engineer Sergio Limone, was moved to Alfa Romeo’s racing division Alfa Rorse, led by Giorgio Pianta, tasked with turning the 155 Q4 into a racing missile.

Gran Turismo Alleggerita

The result of Limone’s team’s hard work was the Alfa Romeo 155 GTA Superturismo. This new machine was designed quickly at the end of 1991, before the official launch of the 155 road car, with the objective of taking part and winning the 1992 Italian Superturismo Championship.

The 155 GTA was very different from the normal 155: it made an extensive use of carbonfibre and other lightweight materials, it had flared wheel arches and a wing and the 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-4 engine was tuned up to 400 hp. Other than that, the weight distribution had been heavily revisited and the chassis’s torsional rigidity was significantly improved.

The 155 GTA goes racing!

The GTA is deployed for the 1992 Italian Superturismo Championship. The bet is all the more daring: Alfa has to win, and fast.
A team of four GTAs is set up: two managed by Alfa and Scuderia Martini and entrusted to pilots from the recent past in F1 such as Alessandro Nannini and Nicola Larini; and two from the Jolly Club, sponsored by Totip and driven by the experts Giorgio Francia and Antonio Tamburini.
Already in the first race, in Monza on March 21-22, the Alfas, still in technical development debt, show their muscles with exciting performances. Two GTAs occupy the front row qualifying at an average lap of 191 km/h: for a comparison, the previous Sunday, in a Granturismo race, a Ferrari F40 made the pole with an average of just 171 km/h.

From then on, the 1992 Superturismo Championship is a triumphant march for the GTAs: Larini wins the title in front of the other three Alfas with the new official BMW M3 Sport Evolutions, in fifth and sixth place with former F1 drivers Gabriele Tarquini and Emanuele Pirro.

And so, the 155 GTA Superturismo reached the end if its short, but successful career: from 1993 onwards, turbocharged cars are banned from the Italian Superturismo Championship.
The 1992 Superturismo victory was, however, nothing more than a warm-up for Alfa Romeo’s true objective: the 1993 DTM Championship. But that’s another story…

GTA Stradale, the Holy Grail of modern cars

Following Alfa’s win at the 1992 Superturismo, Limone and the Alfa Corse team built a prototype for a road-going 155 GTA, dubbed the Alfa Romeo 155 GTA Stradale.

The GTA Stradale borrowed its 2.0-litre turbocharged 16v inline-4 engine from the Lancia Delta HF Integrale, but it is unknown how much hp it has. Unlike on the standard Q4s, the real axle on the GTA is also derived from the Delta.
The GTA was also equipped with an electronic active suspension system that could be adjusted from inside the cabin.

Limone and his team hoped to convince Fiat and Alfa Romeo to build a limited run of road-going GTAs as a celebration of Alfa’s victory, but that was doomed to stay a dream.

Since the production of a street car was not necessary to homologate the race car, and due to the fact it would’ve required the creation of a new assembly line, Fiat deemed the GTA Stradale to be unnecessary, too expensive to build and not profitable. And thus, the entire project was scrapped.

The Red Unicorn

Luckily, though, the only prototype made, still in an unfinished development state, was sold before it could get destroyed. It then remained unused until it became an EMS vehicle for the Monza racetrack in 1994, and then disappeared.

Over the years, several collectors owned and sold the only street-legal GTA in the world privately, until a man named Franco, who spends most of his free time providing assistance to the 155 DTM and GTA Superturismo, bought it paying an absurdly high price for a 155, in a time when no one considered or even remembered it.

Franco kept the GTA Stradale hidden for more than ten years, keeping it away from sector magazines and refusing absurd offers to give his Red Unicorn’s modings to collectors, simply because he didn’t want to risk building a commercial scaffolding around it, only useful to those who want to earn or speculate.

Not having the slightest intention to part with it, any advertising was superfluous for him. The only interest Franco had was to tell a good story through who he thought was appropriate to do it.
It seemed like the GTA Stradale was going to stay hidden in Franco’s barn for the rest of its life, never to see the light of day again, until Franco contacted a special person in which he had recognized the purity and intellectual honesty he was looking for. His name was Davide Cironi.

And so they met...

In 2016 Franco contacted Davide Cironi, an Italian automotive journalist and owner of website and YouTube channel Drive Experience, telling him about the GTA Stradale.
Quite predictably, Franco and Davide immediately became friends, and Franco promised to hurry to restore it to feature it in a video as soon as possible. Perhaps not surprisingly, Davide also fell in love with the red Alfa, with which he has since had a fairly intimate relationship.

Sadly, when the restoration was underway, things took an unexpected turn and Franco had to sell his beloved GTA.
Franco phoned Davide, asking him to help him find a new and deserving owner for the Alfa, someone who would not only use it to speculate and earn. Davide respectfully replied “yes”, without asking anything else.

Finding a new owner

Davide immediately started contacting several people he knew.

The first friend that came to his mind owns a worldwide recognized collection and has innumerable one-offs, prototypes, etc…
He seemed to be perfect the perfect new owner for the 155 GTA Stradale, but unfortunately the amount of money requested did not seem appropriate to him and therefore nothing was done.

Davide then called another friend, from Turin, the city where the GTA Stradale was conceived, and he liked the idea that it would return to where it was born.

Franco explained to Davide’s friends from Turin (with whom Davide had shared many good experiences in the past) the history of the car and its specifications. The deal was sealed by a handshake and a promise:

No journalist other than Davide would have driven the car.

Restoring the Unicorn

Once the 155 had arrived in Turin it immediately underwent the final phases of its restoration: the carbon wnig was remade, several body parts were adjusted and the engine, which had stayed still for many years, was fine-tuned.
At last, the restoration was finally complete and the GTA was ready to be featured on Drive Experience.
The new owners were so impatient that Davide had to cancel all of his previous commitments and go to Turin and film the video to satisfy them.

As Davide explains in the test, the 155 GTA Stradale didn’t undergo the development and the tests it needed to be produced, even in limited units. That, however, doesn’t stop it from being fun and engaging to drive.

After finally shooting the video way back in April 2018, Davide returned to his hometown of L’Aquila in Abruzzo, Italy, filled with all the joy and happiness anyone would feel after driving a car like the GTA Stradale.

What Davide didn’t know, however, was that a bad surprise was waiting right behind the corner…

A painful Betrayal...

Shortly after returning home, Davide found out the painful truth: his friends from Turin, whom he and Franco had sold the 155 GTA to, thinking they would take good care of it, turned out to be nothing but mere greedy, heartless speculators.

Turns out the whole operation was done only in anticipation of putting the GTA up for auction. To add insult to injury, Italian car magazine Ruoteclassiche was secretly granted the poor Alfa on trial by the new owners and wrote an article about it where they also drove the one-off 155 on the very same roads where Davide Cironi’s video was shot, in hopes of further promoting the imminent sale.

As a consequence, everyone started talking about the poor Alfa, and many articles, both from Italian and international car magazines, started appearing on the web, sometimes even citing wrong information about the car.

Naturally, Davide and especially Franco were furious about the fate of the GTA. Being betrayed like this by people you once believed to be friends is one of the most painful feelings a person could possibly experience, a true stab to the heart.

The Fate of the GTA

The car was supposed to be auctioned off at a Bonhams action in October 2018, with an estimated value of €200.000, but an anonymous Italian private collector bought it before the auction began, even paying the penalties. Its currents whereabouts are unknown.

Davide Cironi waited for people to stop talking about the GTA and, as a result, the video of his test of the Red Unicorn was not uploaded to his YouTube channel until February 2019, almost a year after it was shot. An article was published, at the same time, on

Despite the fact that various magazines made photoshoots featuring the car, i’ve decided to only use photos taken by Davide Cironi and his crew as a sign of respect for their hard work.
I do not own any of the images/videos featured in this article, all of them belong to their rightful owners

Thank you for reading this article! -LamboV10


Mr. Kei (A Random Corolla) (ZoomZoomer32) (Käfer für i

Purtroppo non ho visto la notifica del tag prima. Fa davvero male vedere come Franco e Davide sono stati trattati. Non mi aspettavo proprio che Ruoteclassiche facesse una cosa del genere…

03/15/2020 - 22:38 |
0 | 0

Vero, fa davvero male. Purtroppo capita spesso che gente così si approfitti in questo modo di quelli come Davide…

03/16/2020 - 07:01 |
0 | 0

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