he story of Alfa Romeo’s famous quadrifoglio verde (four-leaf clover) symbol dates back to the early days of motoring and motor racing — and a small Italian car maker, Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali (CMN). At the same time, 1919, Enzo Ferrari was struggling to find work, and apparently only a few steps away from committing suicide. Luckily for Ferrari — and for automotive history — the tide turned for him when he fortuitously met up with Ugo Sivocci, an auto mechanic and pioneer racing driver then working for CMN. When an opening at CMN became available, Sivocci made sure his new friend got the job — and, as a result, Ferrari found himself employed as a race driver. In that same year, Ferrari competed on the Targa Florio in a CMN car.
Ferrari found a new position at Alfa Romeo in 1920 and, returning the favour, he recommended Sivocci to his new employer. Together with Guiseppe Campari and Alberto Ascari, both men became part of Alfa Romeo’s inaugural works racing team.
Although noted as being a quick driver, Sivocci always seemed to suffer from bad luck, and victory usually proved elusive. Keen to change that, for the 1923 Targa Florio Sivocci painted a four-leaf clover on the nose of his Alfa Romeo RL, hoping that the lucky shamrock would improve his odds of winning the race. It featured within a white diamond — its four points representing the four Alfa Romeo works drivers — and many believe that Sivocci ‘borrowed’ the green cloverleaf symbol from that used by the World War I vintage 10th Caproni Bomber Squadron. Indeed, to this day, the quadrifoglio verde is still a part of the Italian Air Force’s coat of arms.
Back to 1923 and the dusty mountain roads of Sicily, where Sivocci’s decision to emblazon his car with the cloverleaf paid off — the previously unlucky driver scoring a famous victory, the first for Alfa Romeo at this famous road race.
Sadly, Sivocci was unable to further capitalize on this success, and died while testing Alfa’s new P1 race car at Monza that same year. Ironically, he hadn’t got around to painting his lucky fourleaf clover onto his Alfa Romeo P1 — it was this incident that put into place Alfa Romeo’s subsequent superstitious reliance on the four-leaf clover. As an aside, Sivocci usually raced with the number 17 on his cars, and this number was permanently retired for all Italian racing cars following his death.
From that point on, Alfa Romeo adopted the quadrifoglio verde for its racing cars — although the
symbol now appeared within a triangle, the fourth point of the original diamond being removed to symbolize Sivocci’s demise. In that form, the famous logo continues to provide a link to Alfa Romeo’s glorious past, and is still used on the more sporting versions of the Italian automaker’s cars.
Originally launched in September 1976, the Sprint adopted the front-wheel running gear of the Alfasud with a stylish, fastback saloon body designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Like the Alfasud, the new Sprint was built at Alfa Romeo’s Pomigliano d’arco factory in southern Italy.
Initially, the Sprint was powered by a fresh, 1286cc version of the Alfasud’s 1186cc four-cylinder boxer engine. It proved popular for its sparkling performance, good economy and excellent handling. Alfa went to town on the Sprint in 1978 and came up with a series of updates — improving the car’s overall look and also bringing in more power via new 1.3 and 1.5-litre engines — the older 1286cc motor now becoming an exclusive fitment for the standard Alfasud saloon. With the top 1490cc engine boasting 63kw, better performance gave the Sprint even more sporting appeal.
On the car’s exterior, Alfa followed what was becoming a late ’ 70s fashion by replacing chrome