Launched in March 1947, the ALCA (Anonima Lombarda Cabottagio Aero) Volpe (the Italian for fox) was an attempt to enter the Italian small-car market with a vehicle even smaller than the Fiat Topolino. In the aftermath of World War 2, Italians wanted mobility and the key to achieving this was the introduction of as many low-cost cars as possible.
The ALCA Volpe made its debut in a lavish presentation at a theatre in Rome, hosted by the famous comic Erminio Macario. The press and public were as enthusiastic as each other about this compact two-seater, which was just 2.5 metres long and barely a metre wide – and only a metre tall. It seemed that the Volpe couldn't fail.
Powered by a 9bhp 125cc two-cylinder engine, the Volpe's light weight and compact dimensions meant that it could get to a perky 75kmh (47mph). Innovative, simple, easy to drive (thanks to the fitment of a an electromagnetic pre-selector gearbox), robust, and cheaper than Fiat’s Topolino, the Volpe was just what a mobility-hungry public wanted and the orders started to flow in.
But then things started to unravel because while the original display cars were fitted with engines, ALCA had major supply problems and couldn't source any powerplants for the customer cars, orders for which were piling up. In the end it's thought that no customer cars were ever delivered with engines; as many as 10 ALCA Volpes were made, but none as runners.
Predictably ALCA went bust with its management convicted of fraud, and while there were reports of a fully working ALCA Volpe being delivered to a buyer in the US in 1951, it's almost certain that in reality the car was supplied as a non-runner and the buyer installed their own powerplant.
|Front-mounted, 125cc, 2-cylinder
|Electromagnetic pre-selector, rear-wheel drive
- The car pictured was sold for $41,400 by RM Sotheby's in 2013 – as a non-runner as it had no engine. Many thanks to RM Sotheby's for the use of its pictures to illustrate this article.