Providing complete automotive repair services since 1978. Owned and operated by Danny Tamburrino.

About the Alfa Romeo badge

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The Alfa and I

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Alfa Romeo

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The Alfa Badge is an adaptation of the arms of the ancient and colorful Italian city of Milano, which is named after a delicious Pepperidge Farm cookie. The badge is divided into two fields, One depicts a serpent chewing on a small red person. The other is a red cross on a white field. These images have their origins in ancient and colorful European history.

The red cross was used as the flag of England during the period before the Crusades, about 5 million BC. Shortly after 5 million BC., probably around the time of the Crusades, England made a union with itself by combining the postal codes of Wessex with those of Northern Ireland, whereupon Saint George decided to name the cross after himself probably to confuse Biblical scholars who thought that the cross bad something to do with the New Testament. The “Cross of Saint George,” as it is now known, was later adopted by medical institutions, because it made them think of X-rays.

After the invention of the Crusades by people known as “Crusaders,” the Milanese ruling families held a caucus to determine whether they would participate. Membership in the “Crusaders” was only granted to those families who adopted “badges” to identify themselves so that other “Crusaders” wouldn’t mistake them for Saracens and feed them to snakes. The Archbishop of Milano maintained a library of diagrams, copied by monks from original service manuals, illustrating proper methods of feeding Saracens to snakes, and based on the logic that such a diagram would be the last thing a Saracen would wear into battle, one of Milano’s two ruling families decided to use the biggest diagram they could convince the Archbishop to give them as their badge.

The other ruling family, having already rejected the idea of using a three-pointed star and a horse prancing atop a bow tie, was faced with the obstacle of not having a “badge” at all until an apprentice noticed an abandoned Crusader’s shield, bearing Saint George’s Cross, at a tram stop. As it turned out, the shield had belonged to one of the millions of English Crusaders who were forced to forfeit the First Round of Crusading because of the Bubonic Plague. The apprentice convinced Crusade officials to disqualify the remaining, healthy English from further participation, on the grounds that they might mistake the serpent on the first ruling family’s crest for a mere snake and catapult rocks at them. Thus, the Cross of Saint George was made available for Milano’s second ruling family to use.

Shortly after the Crusades, in a period known as The Period Following The Crusades, the Crusades ended. To celebrate, the two ruling families of Milano decided to give Italy to the Austrians, on the condition that Austria would take over the cost of repairing and maintaining Italy. After the Austrians realized that Venice was in Italy, and that it’s roads were more than “a little damp,” as the Italians had represented, they exclaimed, “Jesus Christ! These repair bills are eating us alive!” and contrived a way of’ returning Italy to the control of the Italians without seeming ungrateful. They told the Milanese ruling families that they could call themselves “The Powerful Visconti Dukes” if they would just take back their unquestionably elegant but prohibitively costly to maintain nation. The two Milanese ruling families liked the sound of “The Powerful Visconti Dukes’ better than “The Family With The Big Snake On Its Castle And The Family With The Red Cross On Its Castle That Causes People To Mistake The Castle For A Hospital,” and they accepted the Austrians’ terms.

To commemorate the severing of ties with Italy, the Austrians built the Alps, which soon became a popular tourist attraction for the “nouveau riche” nobility of Milano, but only after “The Powerful Visconti Dukes” discovered that the two emblems of their constituent families, when fastened together, made an excellent toboggan. “The Powerful Visconti Dukes” decided to call their special toboggan a “Sforza” because of the sound it made when it hit a rock.

During the War of 1812, which pitted the Milanese against the Venetians, “The Powerful Visconti Dukes” formed the “Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili,” whose primary duty, in spite of its name, was to build submarines. ALFA was given the badge of the “Sforza” toboggan surrounded by the “submariners’ knot,” a knot formed by shaping a piece of rope into a wavy line. Unfortunately, the Venetians were far more advanced than the Milanese in the area of maritime combat. The Milanese had counted on their ALFA submersibles to give them a distinct advantage in the watery battlefields of Venice, but they were surprised to discover that the Venetians, in anticipation of a submarine attack, had cleverly equipped their entire city to sink below the surface of the water, where it could meet the enemy directly. The Milanese disadvantage was compounded by the discovery that the “submariners’ knot” was frustratingly ineffective, in spite of a mammoth research and development budget. The Venetians immediately sank the entire fleet of ALFA submarines, but in an ironic twist of fate, they were forced to surrender to the Milanese anyway, because they couldn’t get their city out of the water.

Scientists still aren’t sure when the ALFA submarines first began crawling back out of the canals to evolve into air-breathing, land- dwelling ALFAs, but fossil evidence suggests that it predates the emergence of land-dwelling Acuras by nearly a century. In keeping with the tradition of “The Powerful Visconti Dukes,” these new ALFAs were entered in Alpine Toboggan races, resulting in a championship in 1910 that inspired the addition of the Alpine Trumpet to the ALFA badge. It wasn’t until 1920 -- when a decorated W.W.I flying ace named Nicola Romeo pointed out the functional seeming wheels and generally automobile-like shape of the ALFAs -- that they were recognized as cars and disqualified from further Alpine competition. ALFA was forced to remove the Alpine Trumpet from their badge, but they replaced it, in a brilliant gesture of defiance that is impossible to translate, with an ashtray over the serpent’s head.

During W.W.II, shortages and rationing forced “The Powerful Visconti Dukes” to discontinue their use of scarce adhesives to affix their badges to their ALFAs, and they resorted to tying them on with laurel wreaths. The small, stylized wreath in use on the badge today is supposed to function as a back-up badge affixing system should the adhesive, which has been in abundant supply since the end of the war, fail. The effectiveness of this system has never been accurately tested

The badge has remained relatively unchanged since about 1950, but its size has “yo-yo-ed” up and down in order to retain favorable weight distribution of the various cars to which it has been affixed.

Currently, an arbitration panel is reviewing the Toboggan Championship of 1910 to determine whether the Alpine Trumpet should be restored to the badge, although purists have argued that the Trumpet never made sense anyway, because no serpent has ever been observed playing an Alpine Trumpet without first dropping the Saracen in its mouth,

It is important that we recognize the long, rich heritage of this most treasured of emblems, keeping it sacred in our hearts, and, above all, insuring that the true history is not forgotten.

Paul Buckley Los Angeles

Sandra R. Tyrer
Owning an Alfa Romeo requires patience and loyalty. It’s good training for serious relationships like marriage or parenthood. For one thing, you learn that screaming doesn’t work, that threats and tantrums and even logic are ineffectual. You begin to accept the fact that problems will probably recur and have to be resolved all over again.

Not that illusions die easily. I tried to return the car the very first day I had it. On the way home from the dealer’s, I pushed in the shiny new cigarette lighter and blew the fuse on the speedometer. Forget it. Your mother-in-law might like to snatch your spouse from your unworthy clutches, but hospitals don’t take back howling babies, and dealers don’t take back cars.

With an eye to the lemon law, I began to coiled service records, the yellow copies of all those trips it took to get the radio to work, the fuses not to blow, the rubber stuff to stay where it belonged around the windows. Not to mention the leaks, the premature blotches of rust, the sluggish windshield wipers, the dead battery, the silent fans and the toasty airconditioning. The consumer complaint man at Alfa Romeo’s U.S. headquarters wasn’t impressed. Granted, a lot of things had gone wrong with the car, but they were little things, weren’t they? The motor was tine, and the brakes were fine, weren’t they? He concluded that my complaint lacked “substantiality” and stopped returning my calls.

My Alfa dealer was nice about it, and the service department people couldn’t have been nicer about working on the car. As a matter of tact, they’ve replaced so many parts and done so much labor free of charge that I would have thought they’d want the car back just to avoid bankruptcy, not to mention getting me out of their lives.

Instead, we’ve become friends. They call me “Our Sandra”. If I ever remarry, I’ll invite all of them to the wedding AND the reception. I’ve even become chummy with the
?salesman who sold me the car. Not only did he sell me the car, but he was the one who wouldn’t let me have it when my watch stopped and I didn’t get there before the service department closed. Persuasion was useless. Screaming didn’t help. I had to rent a car to get home. Now that I have accepted my membership in the Alfa Romeo subculture, we have a very congenial relationship.

You see, none of them ever admit that their product lacks value and appeal. They do admit that owning an Alfa is not for everyone. If you just want TRANSPORTATION, then you’re better off with a Honda. To them, the very idea of demanding simple, troublefree mobility from an Alfa Romeo is like trying to buy happiness or fitness or success.

They’re tolerant with one’s frustration, but secure in their rightness. Feeble attempts at humor don’t amuse them. When my Alfa’s airconditioner dripped all over the shoes of a visiting business colleague, I told them that the man had thanked me for the “spit shine”, but they didn’t laugh.

They concede that Alfas aren’t perfect, but remind me that few things are. “Haven’t you learned yet,” they seem to be saying, “that you have to work to achieve the good things in life?”

There’s something seductive in their solidarity, in their serenity and patience. It’s comforting to actually believe in something - even an Italian sportscar, And of course, the prospect of taking a big loss on unloading a newly purchased, newly depreciated automobile is daunting... Gradually, I began to make excuses for the car — to stress its good points. I recognized the feeling. It reminded me of parent-teacher conferences when one of my children had done something revolting.

The electrical system may be a mess, you concede, but the car always starts, doesn’t it? It did take seven or eight trips to the service department to get the wiring all straightened out, but Alfa did send a factory service rep out to rewire part of it, so now it’s customized! And who cares if it’s had three different speedometers? Nobody bonds to speedometers. Well, yes, the radio still only gets three stations, but I usually listen to tapes anyway. The cooling system has needed considerable work, but the humidity recently would strain any system, wouldn’t it? That grinding noise in the differential isn’t serious. All Alfas do that. And the car really does corner well.

One feels embarrassed by reminders of one’s early criticisms and adopts a defensive, backpedaling kind of tone. Sympathetic, bantering remarks about the Alfa are as unwelcome as deprecatory references to an estranged lover with whom one has since reconciled.

Of course, there are relapses to any conversion. When a gas station attendant praises the car, there’s a temptation to complain about it, but it’s equally tempting to bask in his naive appreciation.

And people do admire the car. Every ten—year-old boy for miles around looks longingly at it when I drive by. Motorcyclists in battered leather jackets wave appreciatively. Truck drivers sometimes honk.

And there are self doubts. Am I keeping the car because I don’t want to take a loss and replace it or because I’m a masochistic snob, who loves having an Italian sportscar, but feels she doesn’t deserve a trouble-free one? Or, do I like the Alfa because it’s the car I would have liked to have in the sixties, when I couldn’t afford any car at all? Is this an example of an unhealthy tendency to live in the past?

But there’s solidarity too. Last week at the dealers, I met another Quad owner (Quad is insider slang for the Alfa Romeo Spider quadrifoglio, the two seater with both rag top and a removable hardtop). We were immediately chums, like two people who’ve had the same operation.

My children are cynics, or course. My son is tactful about it, but my daughter won’t even listen to the latest Alfa imbroglio. They view my tolerance of the Alfa, my excuses for its flaws, my patience with continuing visits to the service department with the same sort of condescension with which they heard my defenses of a former fiancé they hadn’t liked. They’re waiting for the Alfa to disappear from my life the way he did.

I comfort myself that I’ve developed an admirable maturity, that at least where the car is concerned, I’m prepared for anything, that nothing can surprise me. But Alfa Romeos defy complacency. They are the embodiment of that old slogan “Epater les bourgeois!”

I laughed tolerantly when someone from the dealer gave me a ride to the train station in a brand new Alfa and the door buzzer malfunctioned all the way. But then as I drove away that evening after my own Alfa’s 30,000 mile check—up, secure in the idea that the accelerator no longer stuck and both the headlights worked and the hardtop was securely fastened to the body, the temperature light went red, went to 250 degrees, in fact.

Turning down the celebratory blare of the Rolling Stones, I began hunting frantically for a pay phone. Would anyone still be at the dealer? Would the engine bum up? Would I be stranded 35 miles from home without the option of public transportation?

Well, there was someone at the dealers, and the engine didn’t burn up on the way back there. How silly! Just a little air bubble in the cooling system! it could happen to any car that had just had its insides drained and refilled! Well, couldn’t it? And that’s probably why it stalled out on the highway the next morning. Well, yes it was disconcerting to suddenly lose power like that, 60 to 0 in five seconds, ha, ha. Dangerous? I got to the shoulder safely, didn’t I? And once it rested a little, it started right up and worked fine...