Giorgio Langella: Heart of An Alfista
You’d be hard-pressed to find a truer Alfista than Giorgio Langella. Following his father’s footsteps, Giorgio went to work for Alfa Romeo at the young age of 14. Now retired, Giorgio takes great pleasure in sharing tales of his time at Alfa Romeo to a fellow Alfista.
A charming and welcoming man, Giorgio’s voice and his words take on a mix of pride and nostalgia as he recounts his story.
Q: When did you start working at Alfa Romeo?
A: The 16th of January, 1957. I was 14. [The date comes off of Giorgio’s lips without missing a beat, as if forever imprinted in his memory as a significant milestone]
Q: What was your first job at that time?
A: I started out as a car electrician, then moved on to production.
Q: What other jobs did you have there?
A: I also worked at Autodelta for one year as a mechanic and electrician, and then in 1968, I settled back in Alfa Romeo as one of their official test drivers.
Q: What was it like working at Alfa Romeo and Autodelta back then?
A: There was a lot of respect for those who were our seniors and had been there for some time. They were considered the Maestros. We could assist them, but before we could put our hands on a motor, transmission, or any other part, we had to earn their trust. And it wasn’t easy, especially at Autodelta where they took great pride in their products and scrutinized every little intervention.
At that time, the head of Autodelta was Carlo Chiti, a real tough guy. But it was beautiful working in those conditions, because you truly learned.
Q: What cars did you work on then?
A: In those years, I worked on the 2000 Touring and the 2600 Touring at Alfa Romeo, and in Autodelta I worked on the Tipo 33 Stradale and the GTA. Every time the GTAs raced, they would finish in the top three.
Q: After Autodelta?
A: I went back to Alfa Romeo and became a test driver. Every car that would leave the assembly line would be test-driven around an internal track, and the test drivers would then report any issues.
Q: As a test driver you also spent some time abroad, right?
A: Yes, I did a lot of testing in Finland in the cold as well as in the US.
Q: What was your experience like in the US?
A: Between 1988 and 1990 I spent a lot of time in the US to adapt and test drive the Alfa Romeo 75 [aka Milano in the US] and the 164 for the American market. They had different regulations than in Europe, so modifications to suspension, tires, catalytic converters, and others had to be made. And we had to test in the cold and hot environments of the US.
I have to say that right from the beginning, I was always made to feel very welcome by Americans, perhaps because I’m Italian and was driving an Alfa!
Q: What was it like driving in the US?
A: Whenever I drove on public roads in my Alfa, someone in an American muscle car would always challenge me to a race. I would always win, of course! I had to uphold the Alfa Romeo image, after all.
At the end of each race, they would ask to see the Alfa up close. They were very fascinated by the Alfa.
Q: What was your favorite Alfa Romeo of all time?
A: My favorite was without a doubt the Alfa Romeo 75. It was a perfect driver’s car. With a 52/48 weight distribution and a very potent engine, you could make it do whatever you wanted. When I test drove it for the first time, the master test drivers told me “this is a car that you drive by the seat of your pants.” Because your butt and your back act like an antenna when you drive, and they pick up every little movement of the car. In fact, car seat design takes this into consideration in addition to just comfort. And having test driven so many cars, I can tell you that the Alfa Romeo ES30 Zagato and the 75 were practically perfect.
Q: What’s your sweetest memory from working at Alfa Romeo?
A: I’ve now been retired for 19 years, and I still dream about being called into work to go testing on the Balocco test track. Being an Alfa test driver was the best time of my life. It was a very prestigious career and it wasn’t for everyone. I had the honor and fortune to be able to test drive all the prototypes and to be able to develop them, and this is a thing of excellence.
The love for that work can only be compared to the love that I have for my wife. It’ll never end, and I swear to you that whenever I speak with my ex-colleagues, it’s a sentiment that we all share.
I often look at the photos of those times and even listen to a recording I have of the engine of the 75 going around the Balocco test track, and I remember every single turn and every single sensation.
All photos courtesy Giorgio Langella