03.01.2005 fnm - alfa romeo's Brazilian connection 1950-1986

Most Alfa Romeo enthusiasts are familiar with Henry Ford’s remark, “Every time I see an Alfa Romeo, I tip my hat.”

His comment was made back in the years when Alfa Romeo was at the leading edge of motor sport and super sportscar production, very much in the same sense as Ferrari today. With Alfa Romeo's brilliant current range, Ford's opinion of the legendary brand could still be valid to this day.

Henry Ford passed away in 1947, so he was unable to witness Alfa Romeo enter mass-production. As a result, he was also unable to remark on Alfa Romeo's global assault as a volume car manufacturer.  Each and every one of Alfa Romeo's foreign production plants deserves a place in history, as each is equally as fascinating, but the most successful of these factories was situated in Brazil.

The Brazilian Alfa story starts back in 1942 when a new factory, called the ‘Fábrica Nacional de Motores’ (FNM), was established by general Edmundo Soares and Brigadier General Antonio Muniz in Rio de Janeiro. Initially the factory produced aeronautical engines, ammunition, bicycles, spindles and refrigerators, but on 14 January 1949 the plant struck a partnership with the Italian truck manufacturer Isotta Fraschini to build trucks under license.

On top of this, FNM had a network of financial interests, whereby Alfa Romeo was linked through the state-owned IRI company.

In the post-war years Alfa Romeo’s global business contacts were exceptionally strong. As far as car production was concerned, Alfa Romeo’s were being produced in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Thailand and Malaya (now modern-day Malaysia). The 1900 Berlina model was also built in Argentina with a non-Alfa engine and a non-Alfa grille superimposed on the intact front sheet metal.

Above: Alfa Romeo's post-war success as a successful truck manufacturer resulted in them taking over from Isotta Fraschini at the Brazilian FNM factory. Trucks produced by FNM were the D-9.500 and D-11.000, known locally as the Fenemęs.

Top:  the FNM logo was a take on the original Alfa Romeo emblem. Middle: a period FNM-2000 modelo JK advertisement. Bottom: the JK 2000 was a license-built Alfa Romeo 2000 Berlina. In total, 7.426 examples were produced between 1961 and 1968.

By the 1950s Brazil was a poor, yet exceptionally eager country. Ambitious projects were taking place, with perhaps the best example being the futuristic dream cities, with ‘Brasilia’ being the best-known. The FNM factory, which had expanded by 1950 to cover an area of 3.300.000 m2, certainly fitted within the country’s determined scope.

Alfa Romeo’s connection with FNM advanced in 1950 after Isotta Fraschini went bankrupt. Alfa Romeo’s truck building interests made a perfect substitute for Isotta Fraschini, and at the time Alfa Romeo’s truck and bus production outnumbered their car production threefold. Despite this, Alfa Romeo had started to mass-produce cars which formed another interesting opportunity for FNM.

FNM’s first license-built Alfa Romeo car bowed in 1960 in the form of the FNM-2000 modelo JK, a license-built ‘Duemila’ (2000) Berlina. There was nothing wrong with the FNM-2000, it was a nice car with good engineering, but when Alfa Romeo superseded their 2000 with the 2600 in 1961, FNM continued to produce the old model.

With the ‘2000’ obviously referring to the engine capacity, the JK stood as homage to President Juscelino Kubitscheck. The FNM badge itself had become a clear adaptation of the Alfa Romeo logo, where the original cross of Milan was transformed into the acronym of the FNM company.

Continued on Page 2 >

Page 1/3