The ATL Alfa Romeo 1900 Is A Coachbuilt Rarity From The Edge Of Lake Como
Photography by Rosario Liberti
Some of you may have heard of Mandello del Lario, the small village situated on the eastern fork of the bifurcated Lake Como. It’s a small town with a population barely above 10,000, but a great many motoring enthusiasts still know the name of the place because it happens to be the headquarters of Moto Guzzi.
Since 1921, this quiet and generally understated lakeside location has been home to the oldest European motorcycle manufacturer that’s still in continuous production. Moto Guzzi is deservedly renowned for its historic role in Italy’s motorcycling manufacturing industry, its prominence worldwide in competition (MV Agusta is not alone after all), and the innovations the brand has been responsible for, including the first motorcycle center stand, wind tunnel, and eight-cylinder engine.
Not far from Guzzi’s headquarters, though, there used to be another Italian motoring treasure, a workshop operated by Autotecnica del Lario (ATL). Officially founded by Ercole Zuccoli in the 1960s, the outfit produced very limited series (often one-offs) of hand-shaped bodies for sports and more pedestrian production cars (like so many low-volume coachbuilders, they used teh VW Beetle as a jumping off point for more exotic buggy-type creations). ATL was mainly active in one form or another from the early 1960s, until the late 1970s when the company was disbanded. In that time ATL built a wide variety of numerous bespoke cars like the 1957 Fiat 1100/103 Barchetta Sport and the 1968 ATL OSCA 1500 SP.
However, the most beautiful car to ever come out of the ATL gates is unique even relative to the rest of the company’s creations. Apparently based on something sitting somewhere between a 1954 Alfa Romeo 1900 SS and a later Arese-made chassis, the “ATL 1900” is also reminiscent of the Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM and Touring’s Disco Volante Coupe. In other words, the beautiful yet imperfect lines of this car are every bit as drool-worthy as what Alfa Romeo and the larger Italian coachbuilders were drawing at the time. Even better, the ATL car pictured here was reportedly built without specific sketches or mockups: the construction method is more similar to a sculpture than a precise mechanical instrument, and isn’t this where so much of the stereotypical Italian car charm comes from?
The chassis consists of different-diameter steel tubing with boxed-in sections, to which all of the mechanical ancillaries are attached. The stunning handmade bodywork laid over the top is made from thin-gauge aluminum, suspended over the steel birdcage of tubing similar to Touring’s patented Superleggera methods used on the lightened Aston Martin DBs.
The suspension setup is an independent coil spring system on all four corners, and behind the wire wheels sit Alfa Romeo 2600 discs in front, and drums in the rear. The body is painted (as you can see) in the classic shade of British Racing Green, and though a nice red wouldn’t look out of place, the more reserved and darker color choice pairs very well with the svelte bodywork. The engine underneath the long, vented hood is the standard Alfa Romeo 1.9L twin-cam unit, which was capable of about 100bhp—with the car weighing less than 800kg (~1,763lbs), it is quicker than the dyno sheet would suggest.
Some say that ATL produced no more than eight examples of this car, and the one portrayed here is probably one of the few that remain from that already rare batch, and today it is daily driven. Its restoration began back in the 1980s, but the owner at the time left the project at its very beginning step—an all too common lack of follow-through. Due to the lack of information available, the current owner (who often drives this ATL Alfa around Lake Como), told me that completing restoration took a very long time indeed, and it is 95% complete at this point. His father gave the car to him as a gift for his 23rd birthday (imagine that), and with both father and son being very passionate “Made in Italy” car enthusiasts, they’ve only treated it to the very best mechanics and procedures. Lake Como has no dearth of beauty, and I think in that sense we can all agree that it’s a very fitting home to this swooped-up coupe.