Concept cars are back, with a name full of imaginative appeal: “Nuvola” (“Cloud” in Italian). This is the name given to the concept car which occupies pride of position on the Alfa Romeo stand at the 1996 Paris Motor Show.
Alfa Romeo Nuvola Concept not only oozes style, it also conveys a whole different approach to car construction. In fact the car is based on a load-bearing, mechanised chassis, as in the early days of car manufacture.
This architecture allows different bodies to be built onto the same base in order to offer a wide-ranging response to users, who are increasingly attracted by niche models.
The first styling idea has come from the Alfa Romeo Style Centre which proposes a car certain to stir the emotions. This is an extreme version of a coupé with two bucket seats, which is svelte and aggressive. The car measures 4286 mm in length and 1859 in width. The wheelbase is 2600 mm while the track is 1577 mm at the front and 1602 mm at the rear.
The smooth body lines suggest tautly muscled, thoroughbred wings and side panels.
Overall, the Alfa Romeo Nuvola Concept displays a few pleasing retro touches (reminiscent of the 8c 2900, the 6c 2500 “Villa d’Este”, the Giulietta Sprint Speciale and the 1900 Sprint) set against the backdrop of extremely up-to-date styling, honed to a perfect finish.
The slender, horizontal tail-lights, for example, adopt state-of-the-art light-emitting diode technology. Big Michelin 235/40 ZR tyres are fitted on 18 inch wheels with a tread motif designed exclusively for Alfa Romeo. The bumpers are incorporated in the body (where they seem to vanish altogether) for a clutter-free line.
The true appeal of this prototype lies in its return to the principle of a load-bearing chassis complete with mechanicals. Alfa Romeo could homologate its chassis in the future and make it available to body shops as a base for different bodies. These true custom-built or limited series cars satisfy the increasing demand for vehicle personalisation demonstrated by the success of niche models such as coupés, spiders, cabriolets, station wagons and MPVs.
This configuration can be used as a foundation for a host of different shapes (coupés, 2+2 coupés, sport wagons, cabriolets, spiders and speedsters) and different materials can also be employed. Resulting vehicles would be easy to homologate because the chassis and mechanicals have already been guaranteed by the Manufacturer itself (in the past, homologation problems brought about the demise of the custom-built car market). Any interesting models deemed to be in keeping with the Alfa Romeo spirit could end up bearing an Alfa badge and be marketed through the sales network.
A return to the past naturally does not mean a return to the classic chassis with rails and crossmembers. It means a return to the layout used on the very first cars but re-interpreted to allow for new technologies. The extremely sporty body proposed by Alfa Romeo Style Centredesigners conceals a computer-designed grid-shaped spaceframe chassis built by welding together high strength steel sections. The solution ensures great lightness, high torsional rigidity, excellent driving comfort and maximum protection for occupants in case of impact. This type of structure may be built using simple, inexpensive technologies such as spot welding and also lends itself to easy modification with little investment.
The Alfa Romeo Nuvola Concept is more than a mere concept car or styling exercise. It is an engineering model that can be used to examine the possibility of offering a quick, inexpensive response to changing market needs for new niche and off-road vehicles. It is the ideal forerunner of a new generation of limited series sports cars, which could differ greatly from one another. It is no mere chance that the model has been designed using the working and engineering methods employed when developing standard-production models.
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