Alfa Romeo has been around for over a century now, and like its contemporaries has seen its share of ups and downs. But what makes the Alfa special is the fact that it's had a history in automobile motorsport excellence seldom ever seen. Since its inception this little known car manufacturer has competed successfully in many different categories of motorsport, including Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sports car racing, touring car racing, and rallies. So you may ask, what does Alfa Romeo bring to the Automobile Industry? After all, not many people have heard of this manufacturer or seen many of its cars. Well the simple answer is 'engineering excellence'. Engineering excellence that's come after years of trial and learning at all motorsport stages.
To the delight of many motoring enthusiast, Alfa Romeo recently introduced the 4C. Before explaining what the 4C is let's first understand what this car isn't. The 4C isn't a high performance supercar. You won't find any of the V8 or V12 engines loaded with superchargers here, essentially none of the stuff that a Bugatti Veyron or a Ferrari 458 is made of. What you do get is a lightweight giant killer. The 4C has a power to weight ratio of 3.85kg/bhp taking it from 0-100 km/h in a staggering 5 seconds. Putting cars way above its spec list to shame. So how does it achieve great performance while being minimalistic and simple? We will discover the secrets behind Alfa's lightweight engineering, in this article.
Lightweight Vehicle Architecture:
To keep the 4C ultra light, Alfa engineers utilized technologies and materials derived from Formula 1 and supercars. They began by designing a monocoque chassis made entirely of carbon fiber. Using the "Pre Preg" technology, where composite fibers are bonded together with components to make them ultra durable. Alfa went a step further and incorporated carbon fiber that runs in the same unilateral direction enabling it to be five times stronger. Around the monocoque chassis they used lightweight aluminium for the front and rear cell structures. This brilliance in engineering made the car lighter by up to 20%.
The exterior of the 4C is made entirely of SMC (Sheet Moulding Compound), the engineers used this low-density, high-strength composite material which is 20% lighter and far stronger than steel for the cars body. The bumpers and rear spoiler are injected with PUR-RIM (injected polyurethane) further saving weight by an additional 20%.
Another engineering marvel was the 4C's windshield and side windows. By using thinner lightweight glass the engineers were able to optimise the weight saving by an additional 15%. Finally two sports seats made entirely of carbon fiber and fibreglass composite offer the advantage of increased weight saving and agile drivability.
In keeping with the 4C's ultra-lightweight design and desire for maximum manoeuvrability and road feel, the conventional power steering system is completely done away with. Replacing the power steering is a manual steering system, which keeps the driver in-touch with the road at all times. And thanks to the overall lightweight nature of the car, the appropriate steering-wheel load is maintained.
Alfa Romeo forever
Everything about the 4C feels like it's been made keeping weight as the primary consideration. From its design to the feature that it has on offer, everything has a number. And unlike other cars this number in most cases is reflective of the weight of that specific part in question. So have they been successful in building a lightweight sports car. At an overall weight of just 1100kgs, I think they have.
Alfa Romeo's engineers are working hard at keeping the Alfa name alive. And with the introduction of the 4C they may have hit upon another winner. Now whether the 4C will be a market success, that is something that only time can tell. However one thing's for sure, Alfa has proved that they are the best of what is left in the purest of automobile engineering. And hopefully for all the auto enthusiast, they will stay that way for years to come.