This Is The Secret Pureblood Alfa Romeo Lovers’ Collection
Story by Jacopo Villa, photography by Alessandro Bianchi
If you were just strolling down this tiny street in Milan’s industrialized outskirts, you wouldn’t even notice it because it blends so easily with the old factories and buildings. If you were looking for indications along the road, just like you find in Arese, you would be lost somewhere, on some road, in the middle of nowhere, disoriented by the Milanese fog.
To find it you have to know where it is, and you need to have a good reason for knowing, as it does not accept visitors.
Despite the fact that I had all the directions explained and my sat-nav was on, I needed to explore the area for a while before finding the Alfa Romeo Blue Team’s buildings. As I parked my car inside the facility, I was greeted by the two Salvetti brothers, Stefano and Alessandro. I was welcomed inside the entry corridor, decorated with a huge collection of 1:43 die cast Alfa and a “Marchionne-free zone” sign, and then introduced to the main hall of the collection.
Inside, there was the single-most complete concentration of post-war Alfa Romeo masterpieces that I have ever seen. Oh, and a timid looking Maserati Ghibli and Mexico were there just to say “hi.” You can imagine the grin on my face.
The Alfa Romeo Blue Team is a discreet club of élite Alfa Romeo Collectors, or more appropriately, friends and associates passionate about all things Alfa. As a matter of fact, the twenty members of this group contribute to this project for the pleasure and satisfaction of enriching their collection with great cars and warm company. It’s kind of a typical Milanese gentleman’s club, but definitely cooler.
The Collection focuses exclusively on post-war Alfas to the beginning of the Fiat era, and it earns its name from the successful Italian National Bridge Team from the 1950s. In fact, the Salvettis’ grandfather was a member and three-time World Champion. In honor of his competitive past, the Alfa Blue Team’s founder, Gianfilippo ‘Gippo’ Salvetti, the two brothers’ father, named his Alfa Romeo club accordingly.
After a good cup of coffee to fight the freezing environment we began the tour, starting from a modified blue 1967 Giulia SS. “The passion started when our grandfather bought a Giulietta Berlina as a family car” Alessandro says, “my father was five-years-old and from then his passion started to grow and at 18 he purchased his first car,” pointing at a beautiful Dutch Blue 1967 Giulia SS.
“In 1970 it was just a three-year-old car that nobody wanted.” The color, Dutch Blue is not the original, as the car came out of the factory in green (Verde Muschio). The car also does not have the front bumper and features a couple of modifications, starting with the wheels, a pair of aluminum winglets, and an oil cooler on the front. But original or not, this car is important to the collection and occupies a special place among other cars, as it is a remarkable piece of the Club history.
As I gaze at the beautiful sculpted lines, Stefano points out that “We do not use them very often, but just enough to keep them in good condition and consistent through the years. We also have our own shop where we service and restore our associates cars thanks to a few mechanics who come frequently to assist us,” says Alessandro pointing a suspended first series Maserati Quattroporte.
The collection is organized in multiple stables and on two levels, and it was built at the beginning of the 2000s to organize the cars and display them in chronological order, from an early 6C 2500 to the most recent, the 1990 ES30, also known as the SZ.
We continue the tour with a one off 6C SS with a Pininfarina body. The car still has its original cream-colored leather interior, “originality is a key aspect to our philosophy,” the brothers told me. “When we got this car, we were suggested to get rid of the interior, but we wanted to keep it as it is.” Despite the statement, the Blue Team initially wanted every car they had painted blue, as some of the cars on display were. But, as with most collectors, they preferred maintaining and restoring their cars to their original state. A 6C Sport four-door sedan, characterized by “non period-correct headlights, as they were changed in ’59 for the new regulations” they tell me, a 1900, 1900 Super T.I. and a Super, a Corto Gara 1900 Sprint Superleggera (a short-wheelbase racing version of the car), paired with a red late version of the same model. Both cars were raced in period and participated in the Mille Miglia.
I asked if they use those cars in races and events like the modern Mille Miglia, but the two brothers shake their heads and say they do not like those events, and none of the club members race cars, “You see, we just enjoy them and prefer leaving mundane parties to others. We are just a friends club, nothing else.”
Pausing in front of Giuseppe Luraghi’s own white Giulietta SS in the good company of a Giulietta Sprint and a Sprint Veloce Confortevole. The tour continues with a 2600 SZ, a Giulia GTC Touring, a 1750 Veloce a pair of Junior Zagatos and last, we halt in the area they call the ‘Gulf’. It’s an area inside the building were a road registered TZ (one of the twelve road-legal built), a Giulietta SZ, a RHD Giulia GTA share a few square meters together. It’s just an amazing sight to see. “In the ‘70s, these cars were almost being scrapped and no one wanted them. My father rescued them and with no great expense he had ten cars in about three years.”
Besides these automotive marbles, the collection includes rarities like aero and diesel engines from trucks and boats. They were happy to point out that this heavy machinery was real Alfa Romeo and at an affordable price. Did I also mention that they have one of the few remaining Alfa Romeo kitchens ever produced?
What is truly impressive is the amount of never-seen gems in the collection, like two Colli 1900 “allungata” or limousines built for the Italian Government and Treasury, both in original and unrestored condition. They were acquired from famed collector and car crusher Righini, and saved from a shameful fate. The second floor of the main stable hosts a couple of military “Matta” Jeeps, a British-built open-top GTV6 2.5, a one-off Alfa 90 Sport Wagon, Aga Khan’s armored Alfa 6s, a 2000 Vignale, and a few modified Giuliettas of Carrozzeria Caprese, Colli and Vignale. In a corner of this section were two 2600 OSI paired together: two of the original 54 and of the ten or so surviving in the world.
As we pass through a narrow corridor between the buildings we start chatting about what some consider the last, great Alfa Romeo. They seem confident telling me that the 75 is the last original one-hundred-percent Alfa designed and produced before the Fiat era. The 164 also counts, but not as a complete Alfa model. This is not because of the front-wheel drive layout, but because it later became a Fiat product, thus losing the Alfa identity it had. They are so adamant about this that there are aren’t any in the collection. If you consider yourself a hardcore purist, just keep in mind that the Salvetti family truly venerates the humble front wheel drive Alfasud, the long unappreciated car built in Pomigliano, near Naples, “whoever says these are not great cars means they never drove one” they say with a smile of conviction.
They own a cool bunch of Alfasuds, racing versions included. I admit they look terrific to me and I fell in love with them instantly. Did I mention they also own a nice array of recent 33 saloons and station wagons, namely the ‘Sport Wagons’? The coolest of them was a never-registered, untouched sedan still with the protective plastic on the seats, just as if it was delivered yesterday. An ultra-rare Giulietta Turbodelta in pristine condition alongside two Montreals, three Alfetta GTVs, a 75 Turbo Evo and a ES30 Zagato completed this section of the collection.
Many of the cars there were unrestored, but sooner or later they will be re-conditioned as keeping these cars original is almost impossible, they told me. “We usually do not believe people when they tell us that their cars are all original and look new at the same time. Most are thirty-year-old restorations kept clean.”
The tour ends with the most unusual and curious section, composed of heavy- and light-duty trucks and vans. In the middle of the room there’s a big, blue Alfa Mille with a van on top of it, surrounded by a complete array of every version of the small Alfa Romeo van, ranging from roadside assistance vehicles to ambulances, hearses, and Sicilian ice cream vendors!
We finish our day spending a few more minutes in the elegant, well-stocked library chatting about cars, greeted by the company founder, Gippo Salvetti, a true gentleman and motoring enthusiast, whose passion has become a place of friendship, interest, and a bastion for preserving the Alfa Romeo’s true spirit. What a way to spend a cold December afternoon!