Museum: A building, place, or institution devoted to the acquisition, conservation, study, exhibition, and educational interpretation of objects having scientific, historical, or artistic value.
I have read that FIAT closed the Alfa Museo Storico in Feb 2011 until further notice. This fact is attended by rumors of FIAT desiring to sell off the collection and the Italian Government declaring the collection a National Treasure. It’s an interesting, sad situation that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while.
I visited the Museum in 2005 while spending a few days in Milano with friends. The ‘getting to the museum’ part of it was difficult -a series of trains followed by an extended stay in a parking lot outside a subway station praying a taxi would happen along -one eventually did. The old Alfa plant grounds were basically deserted except for a few cars and a guard in a shack who kept an eye on our luggage while we went in the museum. The museum building itself is your basic stylish box, suffering mainly from being too old to be fresh and interesting, and too new to be historic. Someone from one of the offices eventually took pity on us and came to unlock the front door -leaving my wife and I to our own devices -thankful the lights were on. This is how you visit the astounding museum collection of arguably the worlds most interesting auto manufacturer… the getting there is the price of admission.
Neat! This display is typical. The car in all it’s polished glory, some pictures from the meaningful part of its life, and a simple sign telling you what it is and when it was made. What is this -an 8C2900 LeMans?
As I walked around the cars, poking my head in open windows, touching controls, reading display cards and just being overwhelmed by the overload of this many cars of this much significance all in the same place, I kept wondering: where is everyone?
Of course FIAT wants to shut the museum down and sell off the collection -they own Alfa, but have never really nurtured Alfa as a unique brand or internalized the history of the marque -rather they’ve parts-bin engineered some decent looking cars that could just as easily wear a FIAT badge. It’s like Coca Cola owning San Pellegrino. Do you think Coke gives a crap about anything except the opportunities for some efficiencies to increase corporate profits? Me neither.
The question is begged: If I found a paper bag with a billion dollars in it, was able to buy the collection and do with it what I pleased, what would I do? (not that I think it’s worth a billion -just read this as A LOT of money -enough to keep myself alive and pursue mischief in a big way).
Wishing I had a better camera when I was there.
What would I do with the collection? I’d develop it into a destination or destinations.
I’d move it to somewhere accessible, preferably with a racetrack nearby. Milan? As the ancestral home it makes the most sense. The collection is large, so it could potentially be divided into two locations -maybe Milan and Turin? The USA is, in a lot of ways, an important center for Alfa -with a very active national club, lots of local clubs, lots of older Alfa’s still on the road and Y.T. If they bring Alfa back to the states as they keep promising, a marque museum would be nice way to help rekindle brand awareness. But where in the US is right for an Alfa museum? It has to be a destination place, -maybe right here in California. Milan and San Francisco? Actually, wherever the headquarters ends up is probably the right place. But you get my point. Make it accessible.
I’d create an event space out of it. It would host auctions, civic functions, high profile weddings etc. It would have a gallery for visiting exhibitions. I’d have a cafe and a very good restaurant attached to it. I’d have a shop with tasteful merchandise. I know what you’re thinking -exactly! I’d copy what BMW and Porsche have done with their collections. Make the collection the center of a viable, profitable business.
The never-was (well, once at least) update on the Sprint Speciale. Needs a good Italian tune-up I bet -I’ll handle that.
I would grow the collection if the enterprise was successful. I hear the BAT cars can be had for a mighty song. I would work out ownership assumption schemes with current owners of important/interesting cars. Oh, and me being me -I’d make all the cars fully functional and use them occasionally.
Last thing I’d do? Bank-roll a big budget production movie based on the era of Alfa racing, culminating in the 1935 dramatic punch-line that was Nuvolari’s trouncing of the Nazi’s at the Nurburgring. The theater would be crying as Tazio pulled a recording of the Italian national anthem for the Germans to play. Can you imagine the brand awareness and merchandising opportunity that this would create if very well done? Might spawn a whole series of movies based on the heroic stories that need to be told.
Selling off the collection is the last thing FIAT should do!
What would you do if the collection was yours?
Another take on the subject here.