Automotive

Touring Superleggera chops the top off its modern-day Disco Volante

Touring Superleggera chops the...
The Disco Volante Spyder does what it was made for
The Disco Volante Spyder does what it was made for
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Touring Superleggera shows an original 1952 C52 next to the all-new Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Superleggera shows an original 1952 C52 next to the all-new Disco Volante Spyder
The 1952 Alfa Romeo C52 earned the nickname "Disco Volante" for its otherworldly, spacecraft-like looks
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The 1952 Alfa Romeo C52 earned the nickname "Disco Volante" for its otherworldly, spacecraft-like looks
Interiors have also changed a lot since 1952
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Interiors have also changed a lot since 1952
The Disco Volante Spyder reveal
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The Disco Volante Spyder reveal
First look at the Disco Volante Spyder uncovered
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First look at the Disco Volante Spyder uncovered
The new Spyder has a distinctive rear-end with single-round taillights and diagonally mounted exhaust outlets
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The new Spyder has a distinctive rear-end with single-round taillights and diagonally mounted exhaust outlets
The bodywork over top the wheels is a nod to the original 1952 Disco Volante
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The bodywork over top the wheels is a nod to the original 1952 Disco Volante
A look straight in the eyes
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A look straight in the eyes
The Disco Volante Spyder features a new aluminum/carbon body atop an Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione chassis
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The Disco Volante Spyder features a new aluminum/carbon body atop an Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione chassis
Touring Superleggera celebrates its 90th birthday in style
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Touring Superleggera celebrates its 90th birthday in style
Touring plans to build and sell seven Disco Volante Spyders
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Touring plans to build and sell seven Disco Volante Spyders
Touring Superleggera Disco Volante Spyder, 2016 Geneva Motor Show
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Touring Superleggera Disco Volante Spyder, 2016 Geneva Motor Show
The Geneva car is the first of seven examples
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The Geneva car is the first of seven examples
The squared rear wheel arches follow the lines covering the front tire tops
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The squared rear wheel arches follow the lines covering the front tire tops
Touring estimates a 4.5-second 0-62 mph and 181-mph top speed
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Touring estimates a 4.5-second 0-62 mph and 181-mph top speed
Touring Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Disco Volante Spyder
Building the first Disco Volante Spyder
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Building the first Disco Volante Spyder
Building the first Disco Volante Spyder
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Building the first Disco Volante Spyder
Building the first Disco Volante Spyder
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Building the first Disco Volante Spyder
Building the first Disco Volante Spyder
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Building the first Disco Volante Spyder
Touring Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Disco Volante Spyder
Thanks to a carbon fiber double roof, the Disco Volante Spyder is ready for both blue and gray skies
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Thanks to a carbon fiber double roof, the Disco Volante Spyder is ready for both blue and gray skies
The Spyder is powered by a 4.7-liter V8 engine
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The Spyder is powered by a 4.7-liter V8 engine
The Disco Volante Spyder does what it was made for
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The Disco Volante Spyder does what it was made for
The Spyder has a classic interior with leather from Connolly Bros
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The Spyder has a classic interior with leather from Connolly Bros
Spyder badging
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Spyder badging
Touring Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Disco Volante Spyder
The Geneva car is the first of seven customer-commissioned examples
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The Geneva car is the first of seven customer-commissioned examples
Touring Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Disco Volante Spyder
The trunk is designed to accommodate the two roof panels, in addition to luggage
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The trunk is designed to accommodate the two roof panels, in addition to luggage
Touring Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Disco Volante Spyder
Touring Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Disco Volante Spyder
Touring Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Disco Volante Spyder
Touring Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Disco Volante Spyder
Trunk with roof panels inside
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Trunk with roof panels inside
Touring Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Disco Volante Spyder
Touring Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Disco Volante Spyder
Touring Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Disco Volante Spyder
Touring Disco Volante Spyder
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Touring Disco Volante Spyder
1952 Alfa Romeo C52 "Disco Volante"
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1952 Alfa Romeo C52 "Disco Volante"

Italian coach builder Touring Superleggera is celebrating its 90th anniversary at this year's Geneva Motor Show. With the introduction of the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante Spyder, it looks back on its history in moving forward into the future. Inspired by the original disco volante – the 1952 Alfa Romeo C52 – as well as the Disco Volante 2012 coupe, the new convertible offers hard-top practicality with the option of enjoying the timeless "pleasure of riding with wind tousling one's hair."

Touring's 90-year run hasn't been a traditional one, as it's been actively designing and building car bodies just over half that time. It ceased operations back in 1966, and though the name survived, Touring didn't have anything new to show until after Zeta Europe BV purchased the rights in 2006. The Touring name reemerged on the car design scene two years later with the Maserati-based Bellagio Fastback and A8GCS Berlinetta. Since then, Touring has been hard at work, unleashing a slew of coach builds and concept cars, including the Disco Volante 2012, MINI Superleggera Vision and Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso.

Touring isn't letting its unconventional timeline get in the way of its 90th birthday celebration, reviving the spirit of one of the most iconic cars in badge history, the voluptuous 1952 Alfa Romeo C52 racing sports car. In designing the body for that car, Touring followed the wise words of its founder Felice Bianchi Anderloni, "Weight is the enemy, airresistance the obstacle." It worked hard to make the C52 as insusceptible to the effects of rushing air as it could, putting it through a wind testing regimen to ensure a 0.25 drag coefficient, a number that puts it just behind modern-day top dogs like the 2016 Toyota Prius and Tesla Model S (both 0.24, a few spots behind the Volkswagen XL1).

The C52's overflowing curves led immediately to the nickname "disco volante," which translates from Italian to "flying saucer." The nickname was kind, not derisive, and people looked at the magnificent aluminum sculpture with wide eyes and drooping jaws.

Only a handful of C52 Disco Volantes were produced, and not one ever ran a single race. Still, thanks to its unique looks, the car became an icon for both Alfa and Touring. It influenced the design of future sports cars for decades to come, including, according to some observers, the Jaguar E-Type, a car lauded as one of (if not the) most beautiful cars ever.

The 1952 Alfa Romeo C52 earned the nickname "Disco Volante" for its otherworldly, spacecraft-like looks
The 1952 Alfa Romeo C52 earned the nickname "Disco Volante" for its otherworldly, spacecraft-like looks

An original 1952 C52 was the first thing to greet us at Touring's Geneva booth, as the new Disco Volante Spyder remained covered in cloth awaiting the official press conference unveiling. Borrowed from the collection of Museo Nazionale dell'Automoible "Giovanni Agnelli" of Turin, the luscious red roadster on show weighs just 1,676 lb (760 kg) and relies on a 246-hp 3.5-liter inline-six. After giving it a thorough look-over, we were so mesmerized we almost forgot to stick around for the debut of the 2016 Disco Volante Spyder.

We did eventually snap out of our C52 daze and took a few steps over to watch Touring remove the silky cloth from the all-new Disco Spyder. Touring's latest car is a beautiful design in its own right, building upon the curves of the Disco Volante 2012 coupe – or perhaps we should say "removing from" those curves, since the main change is the loss of the fixed roof. That roof is replaced with a versatile solution: two removable 7.7-lb (3.5-kg) carbon fiber panels that pop off on demand and store in the trunk to deliver the wind-powered hair tousling Touring was going for. When attached, the roof panels ensure that the Spyder drives with dependable, coupe-like protection in poorer weather. Touring calls it a split personality solution.

First look at the Disco Volante Spyder uncovered
First look at the Disco Volante Spyder uncovered

"Personally I would have a very hard time choosing the configuration Ienjoy most between open top or carbon roof," says Touring head of design Louis de Fabribeckers. "Both have their own essence without compromisingon style."

Sixty-four years is an eternity in automotive design, and sadly for those of us that love the style of classics like the C52, modern design has moved far beyond the flat, flying saucer-like body construction that made that car such a legend. The new Disco Volante Spyder, therefore, lacks the magnetizing presence and visual flair of its six decades-old predecessor.

The Spyder does, however, share some basic design DNA with the C52, and the plump, voluminous fenders, strongly defined front grille and bodywork over the upper front wheels can be traced directly back. The back wheels are left open to accentuate the rear-driven muscle power, but the squarish arches keep the look cohesive. Lower elements like the wedge-shaped side skirts and rear diffuser provide sharp contrast with the "Blu Ceruleo" ("sky blue") paint.

Touring plans to build and sell seven Disco Volante Spyders
Touring plans to build and sell seven Disco Volante Spyders

The Spyder's rear fenders aren't quite the standalone zeppelins that hover over the C52's wheels, but they're still quite muscular and defined. The fenders taper back into a taut rear-end with flat tail and single-round lights. The accent metal shooting off those lights and the diagonal exhaust outlets give the Disco Volante a unique backside view.

Touring Disco Volante Spyder
Touring Disco Volante Spyder

Below Touring's masterful carbon fiber and hand-beaten aluminum bodywork resides an Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione Spider rolling chassis, which brings its 444-hp 4.7-liter V8 engine. That engine routes power through a six-speed sequential transaxle gearbox with paddle shifters and a limited-slip differential. Touring left the chassis structure untouched wherever possible, including interior components like the dashboard and steering wheel, making changes only where necessary to support the new body style.

Touring reckons the Disco Volante Spyder can bolt from 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 4.5 seconds and keep accelerating up until 181 mph (292 km/h). Updated front and rear double wishbones provide cushion and carbon-ceramic disc brakes bring the car to stop.

The Geneva car is the first of seven customer-commissioned examples
The Geneva car is the first of seven customer-commissioned examples

We included the Disco Volante Spyder in our Geneva concept car gallery, but this car is actually more than just a design house show car – the Geneva car is the first of seven planned hand-built examples. Touring hasn't shared pricing, saying that interested buyers can receive a quote on demand. Each commissioned build will take six months from the time the donor 8C Competizione is secured.

Source: Touring Superleggera

1 comment
Stephen N Russell
Finally a decent looking Alfa Romeo, what took so long with so many coach designers in Italy alone then to tap. Expand to other models. Update AF brand, style. ( Mini Ferrari for the Common Man).