25.02.2005 The news this week that Alfa Romeo are to cease engine production at the famous Arese factory in Milan finally brings to A CLOSE a long and glorious chapter in the marque's history

Union sources have confirmed this week that the famous Alfa Romeo engine and manufacturing plant at Arese, home to the legendary all-aluminium V6 powerplant, will shortly shut down for good.

A gradual winding down of activities at the historic home of Alfa Romeo has been well underway for sometime now. The marque's new generation of models, starting with the Alfa 159 and Bera which debut next week in Geneva, will both use V6 petrol engines based on blocks sourced from former partner General Motors.

The leaking out of this news comes less than a fortnight after the alliance between GM and Fiat was finally terminated.

At the same time as this much expected divorce was publicly announced, it was revealed GM and Fiat's five year old engineering joint venture project, Powertrain, was also to be dissolved.

Despite the unraveling of the Powertrain operation, which will see all the fixed and intellectual assets returned to their original owners, Fiat are going to continue to use GM-sourced larger capacity petrol engines, while the American firm, through its European Opel arm, will still make use of Fiat's highly-rated diesel line-up.

The first car off the new production line at Arese was the Alfa Romeo Giulia, in 1963, and eventually more than one million versions of this model were to roll out of the factory

With the Alfa Romeo 159 and Brera using a new V6 engine, production of the legendary Alfa V6 (seen here in its most powerful 'GTA' format) production is winding down at Arese

The news emerged this week that Alfa Romeo are to cease engine production at the Arese plant. Photo: Stefano Maiano

The 800 workers employed at the Arese engine plant will now lose their jobs, although some will be offered relocation. This will leave just Alfa Romeo's style centre, with its 400 staff, remaining on the site.

"Powertrain confirmed to us today that Alfa Romeo engines will no longer be made at Arese, said trade union leader Vincenzo Lilliu yesterday. "The assembly lines will be shut completely and the six-cylinder Alfa Romeo motor will now be replaced with an engine GM builds in Australia."

Arese: a name synonymous with Alfa Romeo

Construction of the giant new Arese factory began in 1960, and it was eventually to take three years in all to build. It replaced the long standing, but highly antiquated, Portello facility.

The first car off the new production line was the Alfa Romeo Giulia, in 1963, and more than one million versions of this model, in all its various guises, were to roll out of the factory during the the car's lifetime.

Five years after the factory initially opened and production commenced, in 1968, a huge new complex of offices was commissioned. The eye-catching new glass and steel frontage was the work of the project's Chief Architect Ignazio Gardella, with input and assistance from Anna Castelli-Ferrieri and Jacopo Gardella.

Today the Milan City Authorities are working hard to plug the huge gap being left in the area by the gradual departure of Alfa Romeo. A 'high tech' industrial zone is in the process of being created to take advantage of the many skills available. Keen to attract a 'showpiece' name to spearhead the new development, there were discussions last year with TVR, the English specialist sportscar maker, over assembling their Tuscan model on the new site, although plans eventually faded away.

by Edd Ellison & Paddy Granger

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