Cult Cars Road Tests

Cult Cars 12: The Alfa Romeo 8C

Time 13 years ago

alfa8c2ALFA Romeo stands at international motor shows are famous for one thing. The girls.

Seriously, they are almost entirely staffed by supermodels.

It is common for some journos to head straight over there, camera in hand (yes, we said camera) to get shots of ‘the latest model’. Ugh. It’s an ugly site at times, surrounding all this beauty.

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However, back in 2003, once the crowds of nylon jackets parted, onlookers were left with two objects of beauty – a supermodel… sitting in a supermodel. Frankfurt played host to one of the most beautiful cars in the world. The Alfa 8C Competizione. Which, four years later, made production virtually unchanged.

This car is an absolute stunner, and no mistake. Is it any wonder Alfa designers were so heavily influenced by it when designing the new MINI-challenging MiTo? The sensuous curves are drawn in a delicate, yet sensuous, way that few thought was still possible on modern cars. It’s just gorgeous.

Look at that smoothly rounded nose, and the flowing sides curving gently round inch-perfect hips. Can you believe it really is a production car? One of 500, which potentially could be one of the 41 UK-bound cars that could be exposed to the drizzle of a grim Croydon afternoon.

No, we can’t either. Yet the full carbon fibre bodyshell really is there for the taking, if you’ve got circa £140,000 spare. For this reason alone, it’s a bona fide cult car. However, there’s far more to it than just that. Take what’s underneath, for example.

There, you have, no less, a Maserati GranTurismo platform, suitably tweaked for a car bearing the Competizione badge. This is a name steeped in Mille Miglia history. James Martin may not have finished, but Alfas with this moniker did back in the 1950s.

Mind you, the 8C name goes even further back – to the 1930s, and road, rally plus track racing stardom. 8C means eight cylinders. Back then, it was a mammoth straight-eight.

Today, it’s a 4.7-litre V8 that’s built by Ferrari and also found in the Maserati. With 450bhp at a wailing 7,000rpm, it’s not short of a horse or two – 62mph arrives in 4.2 seconds, and the top speed of this Alfa Romeo is 181mph.

Yes, 181mph. Or, rather, not. Apparently, the chief engineer said it would go even faster than that…

A six-speed F1-style gearbox controls all this, with a limited-slip differential supplying the requisite power-oversteer sideways action.

Why anyone would choose black or yellow, instead of the other colour – Competizione Red – is beyond us. This is the hue that’s also gracing all those MiTos you’re seeing in the ads and on the launch circuit, and for good reason. Alfa can even paint other models in it. If, you have (literally) thousands to spare.

Of more interest to us would be the Spider version – pictured, fittingly, on page three.
Basically a roofless version of the 8C, it’s a teeny bit slower, but almost as gorgeous, and has two key benefits. You can hear more of that delicious engine and it means Alfa’s committed to selling another 500.

And if you need any more proof that it’s a cult car, know this: The maker famously ran ads in the Sunday newspapers apologising for the fact the 8C was sold out – there’s not many cars out there that you can say that about…

Girls of the Geneva Motor Show

Alfa 8C

Price: £140,000

Engine: 4.7-litre, V8

Power: 450bhp, 480Nm

0-60mph:  4.2s

Max:  181mph

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James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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