Touring Superleggera launches Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder to mark 90th anniversary

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 7, 2016

Touring Superleggera is celebrating its 90 years of existence by unveiling a new two-seater open top car at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show – the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder. Derived from the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione Spider, the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder is inspired by the 1952 Alfa Romeo C52 that is also on display on the Touring stand in Geneva, thanks to Museo Nazionale del 'Automobile "Giovanni Agnelli" of Turin.

On its part, the Museo is planning in autumn 2016 a retrospective exhibition that covers the entire history of Touring. By the time it was heading to the 1953 New York motor show, the C52 was already dubbed as “Disco Volante,” which is an Italian term for “Flying Saucer.”

The Disco Volante proved to be appealing to the public with its streamlined contours. Not only that, its innovative bodywork had come to inspire a number of iconic sports cars in the succeeding decades. Now, the C52 Disco Volante has been picked by Alfa Romeo to celebrate its 100-year celebration with a bronze sculpture. Just like the Touring Superleggera, the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder features lines and volumes whose creation had been guided by a certain functional requirement -- the new car should be "insensitive to wind."

In fact, the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder was intended to best personify the philosophy held by Touring founder Felice Bianchi Anderloni -- "weight is the enemy, air resistance the obstacle." Thus, Touring employed elements from the Alfa Romeo 1900 C like a new tubular chassis, and a lightweight and efficient aluminum body.

Moreover, the upper part of the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder is now a lot lighter, which greatly enhances the car’s handling and performance. Touring chose to base the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder on the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione Spider because of the latter’s light and stiff structure.

The chassis Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione Spider is just perfect for the bodywork of the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder, as it conserves the rolling chassis and drive train. Touring chose to retain not only the chassis but also the steel space-frame and other structural elements of the Alfa Romeo 8C to ensure torsion stiffness and superb performance.

Touring also chose to retain the frame parts and the central carbon cell as well as several elements of the underpinning and the body -- engine bay and firewall, the locks, the cowl and hinges. Moreover, the company also kept the dashboard, the pedals, the instruments and the steering wheel.

One excellent thing about the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder is that every component has been CAD-designed and documented. Of course, during the entire engineering process, Touring received support from Alfa Romeo's engineering team regarding feasibility, safety and homologation as well as aerodynamics and structural analysis.

The team ensured that even with an open roof, the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder has considerable sound insulation for riding pleasure when cruising at high speed. To achieve this, Touring employed Computational Fluid Dynamics that limited the cabin noise level to 24-50dB at 180 Km/h.

Additionally, the company carried CFD studies to improve airflow and ensure optimal downforce in the rear part of the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder. Touring, along with Alfa Romeo, also conducted an intensive study with FEM calculations in order to design the single-piece windscreen frame and the cross roll-bar piece – making sure that they provide the much-needed torsional stiffness.

The windscreen frame and the cross roll-bar piece, as well as the roof, are made from structural carbon fiber. This setup allows for the needed torsional stiffness while saving weight in the upper section of the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder. Also, the door frames and the C-pillar have been revised to match the car’s new shape. Interestingly, the set-up of suspensions for the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder could be configured to suit each customer's preference.

The new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder boasts of an optimal weight distribution of 49:51 between the front and rear axles as well as front and rear double-wishbone suspension setup complemented by hub carriers made from forged aluminum and extra trailing arms for the rear suspension.

Exterior Design

Since the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder is the first open top production car for Touring, it needs to don a bold design statement that would underpin the company’s future design language. Since the windscreen was low and sharp edged and has no visible top frame, the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder has a light and dynamic look.

Moreover, the car comes with a continuous sharp edge flowing through the side windows and fairings. In effect, this edge seamlessly encircles the entire car. Its fairings feature a design inspired by the old Disco Volante. For the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder, the fairings extend the horizontal line of the windscreen, thereby providing a "streamlined" effect to the car.

Interestingly, the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder features a number of traits that transformed the old Disco Volante into an icon. For instance, the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder features covered front wheels and uncovered rear wheels. This design provides a sense of speed and sportiness as well as a sense of power.

Consistent with Touring's philosophy of personal commissioning, all details of the uncovered rear wheels are in accordance with the preference of customers. The first of only seven examples of the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder is wrapped in "BluCeruleo" (sky-blue) exterior paint while the hides come in shades of natural beige and black.

Contrasting elements are painted in the body color to provide a sense of continuity between exterior and interior. In terms of protection during poor weather, the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder comes with a twin carbon roof for coupe-like personality that is not only beautiful, but also light and practical.

Louis de Fabribeckers, the Head of Design at Touring Superleggera, remarked that both configurations -- open top or carbon roof -- have their own essence that doesn’t compromise on style. The roof, weighing around 3.5 kg, is designed to be stored in the boot without having to sacrifice room for cargo.

Powertrain

Powering the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder is a light and compact 4.7 liter V8 engine that provides up to 450 HP of output and up to 480 Nm of torque and is paired to a six-speed sequential transaxle transmission featuring electronic control and paddle-shift gear selection.

This allows the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder to sprint from zero to 100 km/h (0-62 mph) in just 4.5 seconds and achieve a top speed of around 292 Km/h (181 mph). Furthermore, the car comes with a limited-slip differential and a cutting-edge carbon-ceramic braking system that features large diameter, ventilated discs.

As for why “Spyder” has been used instead of “Spider” to refer to a two-seat open top car, the term traces its roots in the 1960s. That time, Italian auto designers thought the misspelled term would feel more stunning and appealing. Touring intentionally picked the misspelled word to pay tribute to its Italian tradition.

Press Release

Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder by Touring Superleggera

Touring turns ninety and celebrates this important anniversary at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show with a brand new car. A bold interpretation of the open top car, fully devoted to the pleasure of riding with wind tousling one's hair. The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder is a two-seater open top car, based on the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione Spider. It is built for discerning customers in just seven examples, more than half of which have been sold already. The model being showcased at Geneva is the first of the series.

The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder is inspired by the 1952 Alfa Romeo C52 also present on the Touring stand courtesy of Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile "Giovanni Agnelli" of Turin. The Museo will host a retrospective exhibition encompassing the whole history of Touring in autumn 2016. On its way to the 1953 New York motor show, the C52 had already gained the Disco Volante nickname, Italian for 'Flying Saucer'.

Once again, Touring had sparked the public's imagination with a groundbreaking shape on what was the eve of space age. As usual with Touring Superleggera, the lines and volumes were dictated by a strict functional requirement: the new car had to be "insensitive to wind". The Disco Volante was to become the best example of Touring's founder, Felice Bianchi Anderloni's philosophy: "Weight is the enemy, air resistance the obstacle".

Using Alfa Romeo 1900 C elements, the car received a new tubular chassis, and a lightweight, striking and efficient aluminium body. The public embraced the Disco Volante and its revolutionary streamlined contours, though the car's impact went far further: the bodywork was so innovative that it influenced for decades numerous celebrated sports cars. Chosen by Alfa Romeo to mark its centenary celebration with a bronze sculpture now displayed in Milan, the C52 Disco Volante is one of the most significant models in automotive history.

This is the first open top production car in Touring's recent history. As such it had to be a bold design statement which starts to outline Touring's future design language. The 1952 car was revolutionary. The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder is as astonishing and exciting as a coach built car should be.

The windscreen is low, sharp edged, without a visible top frame. This gives lightness and a more dynamic look to the car. The uninterrupted razor sharp edge continues through the side windows and fairings, encircling the whole car with a seamless and exciting trait. The fairings' design certainly draws inspiration from the old Disco Volante and the aerodynamic approach which it expressed. In the present Spyder this concept is made extreme.

The fairings are not a discrete element, rather they elongate the horizontal line of the windscreen, giving a surprising "streamlined" effect to the car. The Spyder maintains most traits that made the Disco Volante an icon. The stylish covered front wheels give a sense of speed and sportiness, whilst the uncovered rear wheels highlight the more muscular details, giving the car a real sense of power. Just as every Touring car should be, the lines are essential.

Volumes and surfaces take the leading role. Just as every Touring car should be, the Spyder is timeless. In line with Touring's philosophy of personal commissioning, all details are dictated by the customer's taste. The exterior paint chosen for the first unit is "Blu Ceruleo" (sky-blue in English).

Where indeed does a Disco Volante come from? Shades of natural beige and black were chosen for the hides, whilst contrasting elements painted in the body colour provide continuity between exterior and interior, as appropriate in an open car. The briefing for this car was not to impair the pleasure of driving even in poor weather. The Anniversary car must be as fit for the Grande Corniche as it is for the Cotswolds.

Touring therefore decided to apply an innovative twin carbon roof allowing the car to have all the protection of a true coupé. This design allows for other advantages too: beauty, lightness and practicality. Louis de Fabribeckers: "Personally I would have a very hard time choosing the configuration I enjoy most between open top or carbon roof. Both have their own essence without compromising on style".

With each roof weighing a bare 3.5 Kg, it is designed to be comfortably stored in the boot, whilst still leaving room for a real luggage set. Substantial weight is removed from the upper part of the vehicle, conceding great advantages both to handling and performance. The term "Spider" is widely used for a two-seat open top car, but the term "Spyder" does not exist in the English dictionary. In the Sixties though the Italian car designers felt the misspelled term would be more exotic and appealing.

Touring deliberately choose to respect the "Italian touch" as a homage to the Italian coachbuilders' tradition. Every new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder component is CAD-designed and documented. The meticulous engineering process run with the support of Alfa Romeo's engineering team covers feasibility, safety, homologation, aerodynamics and structural analysis through the use of the most advanced IT tools and simulations. Sound insulation is paramount for riding pleasure at high speed with an open roof.

Computational Fluid Dynamics helped achieve outstanding acoustic comfort in cabin, with noise level limited to 24-50dB at 180 Km/h in the driver and passenger zone. CFD studies were also performed to enhance airflow and ensure optimal downforce in the rear section. Since torsional stiffness is of critical importance, an intensive study with FEM calculations was carried out in cooperation with Alfa Romeo to design the new single-piece windscreen frame and the cross roll-bar piece.

Together with the roof, they are made from structural carbon fibre. The ensemble provides crucial torsional stiffness advantages and saves weight in the upper section of the car, where it is most beneficial for performance. Faithful to its philosophy of personalisation, Touring provides a bespoke set-up of suspensions to match each customer's preference. The Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione Spider was chosen as donor car for its light and stiff structure and its outstanding dynamic properties.

It forms the perfect basis for the coach-built bodywork of the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder, which integrally conserves the rolling chassis and drive train. The Alfa Romeo 8C's steel space-frame and other structural elements are retained to guarantee torsion stiffness, high performance and quality standards. The frame parts and the central carbon cell remain unchanged. Elements of the underpinning and the body, such as the engine bay and firewall, the cowl, the locks and hinges have been retained too, just as the dashboard, the instruments, the pedals and the steering wheel.

Parts like doorframes and the c-pillar have been modified to match the new shape. The layout of the front-central mounted engine, the transaxle transmission and the rear-wheel drive offer an optimal weight distribution of 49-51% between the front and rear axles. To ensure excellent handling the front and rear double-wishbone suspension scheme is combined with hub carriers made of forged aluminium and additional trailing arms for the rear suspension. The lightweight and compact 4.7 litre V8 engine delivers 450HP and 480Nm peak torque.

It is coupled with a six-speed sequential transaxle gearbox with electronic control and paddle-shift gear selection. Combined with a limited-slip differential and a state-of-the-art carbon-ceramic braking system including large diameter, ventilated discs, the package ensures a precise, dynamic and proactive drive. The Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 4,5 seconds and has a top speed of approximately 292 Km/h (181 mph).

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