The French engineer Alexandre Darracq was born 1855 in Bordeaux, but his biography looks like from a modern-day startup pioneer. He started his career at Hurtu and the design of  sewing machines, where he received for one of his machines the gold medal at the 1899 World Fair, hosted in Paris. The exposition’s most famous building became since that year the symbol of the city and the whole country: the Eiffel Tower.

Paris, photo copyright by Patrick Henz.

Hurtu not only produced sewing machines but also bicycles. Based on the gained experience, Darracq left the organization and established in 1891 the “Gladiator Cycle Company” to produce bicycles, motorcycles and automobiles. Already five years later he sold his participation with profit to a British group. The gained capital he invested into the new electric car industry, before he founded ”Automobiles Darracq” to focus again on cars with traditional fuel-engines. In opposite to many other pioneers, he was not emotional attached to his products, but read the signs of the times and understood the need for these machines. His company was on the raise and by 1904 it had a market share of 10% in France. In the same year he sold the French company to the British “A. Darracq and Company Limited”, where he kept 50% of the shares and a director position. The move was done to take advantage of the more investor-friendly laws and taxes in the United Kingdom. This new holding started to invest in Germany into the later Opel company and in Italy founded 1906  the “Societa Anonima Italiana Darracq”. As with Adam Opel in Germany, Darracq started also the Italian company with a local partner, Ugo Stella.

As the offered engines had not been strong enough for the local taste, in opposite to France, the Darracq models had only limited success in Italy.Due to this, in 1909 the company hired the Italian automobile engineer Giuseppe Merosi to develop cars specifically for the Italian market. For these new automobiles Darracq founded, together with his partner Stella, A.L.F.A. (“Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili”) and already one year later they presented the company’s first product, the ALFA 24HP, an elegant sedan with a 4.1L-four cylinder engine.


Henz, Parick (2017): “Italian Car Tales”