Welcome to the story of the Alfa Romeo Nuvola Prototipo, one of the most gripping concepts to wear the famous Visconti Serpent badges in the past two decades. Unveiled for the first time at the Paris Motor Show in 1996, the Nuvola Prototipo was named after Tazio Nuvolari, the legendary Italian motorcycle and racecar driver who competed for Alfa in the 1930s.
The Nuvola had all the essential ingredients of a proper Alfa Romeo sports coupe - a beautifully crafted body and interior, classic proportions, a dedicated chassis and enough power to put a smile on your face.
Of course we would have preferred a rear-wheel drive setup, but its four wheel drive layout is much less of a compromise (for a sports car) than if power was transferred exclusively to the front axle.
Unlike modern days Alfas that are built around less exciting (8c Competizione excluded) hardware pulled out of the Fiat Group’s parts bin, the Nuvola made use of a separate, tubular spaceframe to which the mechanical components were attached. The designers' plan was to use the same architecture on different bodies to cover various niches.
"A welded high strength steel tubing spaceframe brings the benefits of lightness, high torsional rigidity, excellent ride quality and maximum passenger protection as well as low cost of manufactures," Alfa said at the time.
Power came from a front-mounted, twin turbocharged version of Alfa's standard 2.5-liter V6 delivering 300 ponies to all four (18-inch) wheels, with the car said to complete the 0 to 100km/h sprint in the low five second-range.
The Nuvola was penned at Centro Stile Alfa Romeo under the watchful eye of Walter de Silva, who is currently Head of Volkswagen Group Design. As with any proper sports car, the goal of the designers was to stir emotions.
Measuring 4.29 meter (169 inches) in length, the Nuvola is sleek yet muscular, classic yet modern - all at the same time. The two seater show car made several references to Alfa Romeos of the past from the 8C 2900 to the 6C 2500 Villa d’Este, the Giulietta Sprint Speciale and the 1900 Sprint. Notable features include the futuristic luminous diode technology used for the slim, horizontal rear lights and the tires, which had a special pattern created for Alfa Romeo by Michelin.
The 'favoloso' exterior was matched by an equally stunning two-tone interior crafted in leather with aluminum and chrome accents. Sport pedals and a wooden steering wheel are also on the menu, with a finely crafted leather bag acting as storage between the driver and passenger.
While the concept never made it to production, it's styling legacy lives on as the Nuvola prefigured the shapes and surface treatments of Alfa Romeo’s -then- new aesthetics. Take a close look at the pictures and you’ll discover design cues that can even be seen in today's Alfa Romeo models.
Overall, we'd say it's pretty impressive how well the styling of the concept has withstood the test of time and a pity that Fiat's higher-ups never gave it the green light.
Unless you plan on visiting Alfa Romeo's historic museum in Arese, Italy, to see it in person, the closest you'll get to the Nuvola is through a die-cast scale model like the one we found on eBay Italy. True, it’s not the real deal, but probably better than nothing.