Alfa Romeo Built A Spaceship Before We Ever Went Into Space

Okay, it's not technically a spaceship, but it sure looks like what I wish spaceships looked like. It's actually very much a machine designed for use in an atmosphere, since this 1914 Castagna A.L.F.A. 40/60 HP Aerodinamica is the first real example of an aerodynamic passenger car.

There were streamlining attempts before this Alfa, going as far back as an 1865 patent application for an "air-resisting train", but for cars streamlining had previously been only attempted for racing cars.

That is until the delicious-sounding Count Marco Ricotti had the Castagna coachbuilding firm apply some early aerodynamic understanding to an A.L.F.A. (later known as Alfa-Romeo) 40/60 HP chassis. The 40/60 HP name is pretty confusing, as the six-liter inline-four actually made 70 HP.

The one-off prototype looks like a steampunk's wet dream made real, even if it ended up being so heavy that it offered no performance improvement over the normal-bodied model. What makes it especially charming are the details– the original clunky lighting equipment, the Rumpler-like fenders, the weird rear-mounted dual horns, and, best of all, the "tunnel" at the front to get air to the radiator.

In fact, the entire engine (including the radiator) is inside the passenger compartment. This could mean for comfortable, out-of-the-weather servicing — or, in the pretty-common-for-1914 event of overheating — an instant sauna as the radiator rapidly fills the cockpit with scalding steam.

Alfa Romeo Built A Spaceship Before We Ever Went Into Space

Also helping make for even more exciting motoring is the lack of a rear window or rear-view mirrors. In this car, why would you be looking back, anyway?