The birth of RIAR

The RIAR without secrets in an article on Alfa News's periodical corporate news magazine, October 1972, by Angelo Bordoni, Alfa Romeo's manager and first secretary of RIAR. Notes by President Stefano d'Amico.

Do you want to talk about it?

At least to clarify, even for non-experts, what this notary-sounding word means: a register, which, in fact, is also a bit of an archive of uniqueness and beauty, since it sets out to count and date the vehicles of a given brand that have survived throughout time.

Giovanni Lurani Cernuschi, second Presidente of RIAR,
e Camillo Marchetti, legendary Director of External Relations Alfa.

Alfa Romeo, in our case. Naturally, it is not just an inventory, but rather a free association of passionate men who, almost always, have faced great difficulties, after their purchase, in finding authentic materials to restore and repair the original structure of their vehicles.

Enhancing the brand spirit by exchanging information and creating occasions to meet is the second purpose of the Register.

Today, this fellowship has grown and has reached a total of about fifty members – a remarkable number for a full-blooded automotive brand – (the RIAR, which today counts about 2,000 Members all over the world, has always tried to limit the number of members by favoring quality over quantity – Ed.) and among them are remarkable names in automotive history, like Lurani, Chinetti, Sanesi, Guidotti, ( ....., Castelbarco, Artom, Nicola and Gianni Bulgari, Cy Twombly, Stokes de Robilant, Cetti Serbelloni, Bin Selvatico Estense,... Ed. ) – today, it has acquired a statutory structure and a natural seat in Milan side by side with the premises of its manufacturer. It is well-worth remembering, therefore, how it was born.

The members…… strange and particular men, capable of investing their effort and money in reviving an ancient beauty without gaining any other benefit than the joy of secret possession during the careful preparation and a composed pride afterwards, when that beast on four wheels – which may have been a champion in its day – starts rolling along the roads of the world. If you tell them that they love that car as if it were a living creature, they may laugh, but in reality… that’s exactly the case.​

That’s the reason for the Register.

Let’s make it clear from the beginning that this association of ancient Alfa Romeos was the fruit of the Brand’s influence. The carmaker did not stimulate nor encourage its emergence, it merely authorized it. And that was – we would say – a wise decision. The Register was not supposed to be a tool to further public relations or to promote sales. Its purpose was to prove, as in fact it did, that it possessed a potential vitality.

Its constitution was promoted by Angelo Tito Anselmi – an expert and critic of that undeniable technique and art which vintage car collecting has become. At the time, in 1962, Anselmi was Secretary General of the Italian Federation of Vintage Cars and Motorcycles (FIAVE, the ASI had not yet been created. It was founded in 1968, with the support of the RIAR, when FIAVE ceased to exist, Ed.). The Register’s Commissioner was the Roman collector, Francesco Santovetti. Car collecting as an aesthetical fact, as the capacity to modernize the past by means of tools ensuring a permanent efficiency for shapes that had become final and forever subtracted from the urgency of mutability, had become a fascinating reality by then, even in Italy.

However, we should remember that all this would not have been possible if someone had not made an effort to save these cars from demolition, vehicles which, at the time, were not yet vintage cars, but only old cars. Baron Giorgio Franchetti from Rome, for instance, a well-known expert on modern art, perfectly understood the aesthetical value of Alfa’s mechanical design, which is part of our cultural heritage today. He realized this twenty years ago and decided to save marvelous vehicles from the demolition press, which, in those days, may have seemed too recent.

What was recent later became ancient (this is self-evident), but at that time (and in those days … Ed.) not many had thought of this. Among the few was the late Venturi in Rome, the Leto brothers from Priolo, Longoni, Lurani, Artom in Milan, Dubbini in Padua, Cupellini in Bergamo, Gentili e Storchi in San Martino in Rio, Lanza in Sicily, and other valuable car-recoverers.

This was the situation in Italy.

In other parts of the world, we remember, among others, Angela and Alan Cherrett in England, Slater in London and Goldhann in Vienna.
But abroad, the appreciation for vintage vehicles had preceded us, both as an aesthetical phenomenon, and, above all, in terms of the use of these vehicles and their presence on the roads. It is interesting to note that the number of vintage Alfa Romeos still existing in the world is remarkably high in proportion to the limited amount of vehicles that were produced at the time, in particular in the case of racing models. It is as if something had paralyzed the arms of demolishers in front of those immobilized queens, which, in that moment, were only old cars, without any value apart from their prestige.

A phenomenon that to Anselmi found its justification in “that intrinsic beauty of exact things that always made it impossible to see them as things to be discarded”. Some of these vehicles, at times extremely beautiful, are in the United States, in South Africa, in Australia, in England, above all ……..

……………….. And every Saturday, out. If there is a rally, fine, and if not, we set out anyway, alone, calm and proud of that brand that imbues congeniality and respect. As every similar brand-based association, the Registro Alfa Romeo classifies, informs, creates contacts, organizes. And that is good. Very good.

But first of all, this Register marked the encounter of these vintage cars with their manufacturer. The meeting in question famously took place in June of 1966, at the Castello Sforzesco (in Milan) and on the Balocco race track. Thirty-two Alfa Romeos on display between the walls of the Filarete and then competing in a reliability trial between Balocco and Arese.

This was the lively encounter that preceded and consecrated the, not only formal, transformation of the Register, the election of the association’s official posts; it marked a turning point in its activities, its headquarters now based in Milan, since its potential vitality had been matured. Many of us remember the spectacle of those thirty-two vehicles, which was witnessed by half of Milan, but only few recall that on May 5th some years earlier, a team of veteran Alfa Romeos, all lit up in red, crossed the gates of the Portello, and lined up in a fishbone in the great empty courtyard that was awaiting them, and entirely filled it up.

Ten 1750s later participated in the Rally in Brighton, but the others had only accompanied them and had come home between those walls were they had been born, one Sunday morning, on the Day of the Elderly, without anyone watching, only in the presence of the historical hangars and historical memories. And the memories of an old love.

Milan, 60's.  Francesco Santovetti, Giorgio Franchetti and
Michael Sedgwik with his 1913 Alfa 40-60 HP

Because the relationship between a man and a vintage car is, above all, a relationship of love: love in the search, in the dream of finding an ancient queen stored away in a corner, humiliated to function only as a means of transportation, and love in restoring, with great effort, the honor of those perfect lines, the original pieces of their outstanding mechanics.
And then, on the roads, with the voice of the past, amidst today’s grey traffic, but just as unmistakable as they seemed that Sunday morning in May, when they appeared in an almost uninterrupted line from the gates in via Gattamelata; it looked like a homecoming, with that loyal red color, those paced roars, as if someone could recognize them from the close-by hangars. After thirty years. Long years…. Because a whole world had drowned in them.

Angelo Bordoni


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