As we promised in our first report of the Alfa Romeo 4C, we will tell you here more about the production of the car, and amongst others, the Maserati factory facilities…
On the photo above, one sees the painted C4 bodywork on the Maserati assembly line!
Hans Knol ten Bensel
A move in the legendary thirties…
Towards the end of the 1930s, all Maserati manufacturing activities were transferred to the plant located in Viale Ciro Menotti in the city of Modena.
This is where legends were born. Indeed, over the last 70 years, the facility has produced several genuine automotive engineering "masterpieces," on-road cars and racing cars that have become four wheeled icons of their epoch.
Front suspension fitting on the assembly line...
Indeed, just over the last decade only, this factory has produced several technical and style 'jewels,' such as the Maserati Quattroporte, Granturismo and Grancabrio.
More recently, with the fascinating Alfa Romeo 8C, the Maserati plant has opened its doors for the first time to another brand with similar tradition and ambition.
Considering its historical and recent background, Modena was the natural choice for the Fiat Group to mass-produce the Alfa Romeo 4C. A thoroughbred vehicle which combines highest technology with the meticulous attention to detail which only true craftsmen can deliver. This manufacturing philosophy actually forms an integral part of the Maserati DNA in the Modena plant.
Here one sees the car in a powered rotating conveyor hook...
In this plant, innovation is combined with passion. This then translates into discipline and determination to succeed.
The craftsmen’s touch adds value to the product, and therefore this plant's operates differs widely from the "mass production" logics in favour of a decidedly more handicraft dimension.
Suffice it to think that the minimum 'takt time' (the manufacturing speed needed to guarantee delivery) is of 20 minutes: this is an indicator of the plant distinctiveness as opposed to the "mass production plants" in which the shortest 'takt time' is approximately of 50 seconds.
Fastening "in situ" of the power unit...
The fundamental role played by human talent in a heritage made up of technical competence and masterful craftsmanship is now evident.
All the operators are experienced, and the age of these young women and men averages approx. 29.
Fastening of the rear suspension unit...
60% of them holds either a high-school diploma or a university degree and has on average over 5 years of work experience on Maserati models.
They are truly a select group of manufacturing professionals capable of performing knowledgeable work on up to 40 different stations and of carrying out activities lasting from 20 to 40 minutes: in other words, they are highly skilled mechanics capable of mastering the production workflow practically from start to end.
The Alfa Romeo Supercar production takes place in dedicated 4C workshops. These are specific and proper areas for 'body fitting' and 'assembly' operations, whereas the 'testing' and 'finishing' areas are shared with the Maserati production.
A closer look at the "Body fitting" area
The 4C primary structure is assembled in this area: here are the first "skins" applied to the newly created "body in white".
The carbon monocoque still fitting snugly in its container frame...
In particular, operators in station no. 10 fit the carbon monocoque on the front and rear chassis and on the crossmembers. This manual operation requires a continuous conformity check of those parameters, like the tightening "angle torque," which guarantees the permanent union of the connected elements in even the most demanding operating conditions.
The complete chassis on the bench...
A little further down the line, on station no. 30, the vehicle cell is closed using the windscreen frame and the roof: this operation requires the use of special masks that allow to achieve the exact passenger compartment geometry. Finally, couplings are produced with state-of-the-art polymers and reinforced with mechanical joints.
The measuring room
Once the body is fitted, the 4C "body in white" undergoes a quality assurance check in the measuring room. Every day several sample bodies are subjected to high precision measurements. The dedicated team checks up to over 400 measurement points in order to ascertain that the body is perfect from a geometric and dimensional standpoint. In this process, there is no room for tolerance: the measurement results must comply with the blueprint.
The roof fitting, with the body still unpainted in its chosen colour...
Painting and assembly
The next step is painting, this is the only process performed outside the Maserati plant. After they have been painted, the "bodies in white" return to the plant to "be distributed" on the Alfa Romeo 4C. It is important to note that the new compact supercar is the only vehicle starting its assembly sequence with a "disassembly" operation.
Before the internal components can be assembled on station no 1, the car is brought back to its primary structure by removing some of the parts that have already been painted, such as the bonnet and the doors, and some structural parts, such as the rear frameworks and the turret bar. At this point, the car is attached to a rotating hook.
The fitting of the roof on the still unpainted bodywork...
In this area, the operator's mastery is the heart of the whole process. This is the reason why the working station and the whole logistics are built and structured around the operator. All the components needed for manufacturing the 4C are delivered to the various stations in the exact quantity, at the required location and at the right moment. For instance, in station no 2, no unnecessary or unnatural movements are required: the vehicle lifts or turns in such a way that the operator can always work at the right height. This improves quality and allows the operators to use their manual skills even better.
Here one sees the extrusion of the partly structural polymeric material...
Some operations, like the window installation, are performed by robots elsewhere. In the Modena plants they are entrusted to the operators' attention: this is another exclusive trait of the 4C manufacturing process. That is not all. Many of the vehicle subassemblies, for instance headlights and dashboard, are assembled at the plant, as opposed to what happens in other industrial sites where they are preassembled by the supplier. All these aspects deeply enhance the perceived and effective quality of the end product.
Testing area, road test and finishing
Testing is the only phase in the manufacturing process that relies on technology as an objective means to assess performance quality. Every detail of the vehicle is strictly checked by the systems: from the correct operation of the climate control system to the mechanical component settings and the dynamic behaviour.
Here the 4C is undergoing pre-road testing on the suspension settling bench...
Every 4C produced is road-tested for 40 km by an experienced test-driver. This is another practice that is commonly used for the most prestigious supercars. It is worth mentioning here that the team of test drivers is one of the most valuable assets of the plant: all the pilots are experts in their field, they are true drivers and thoroughbred car enthusiasts, besides being outstanding professionals.
At this point, the 4C manufacturing cycle is almost complete: the cars reach the “finishing” area where they are subjected to the final setup operations before being sent to Commercial Logistics, headed towards the market.
Making a bridge between past and future: the new 4C
The Alfa Romeo 4C is inspired by the century-old tradition of Alfa Romeo and projects the brand's authentic values into the future: Italian style, performance and engineering excellence offering maximum driving satisfaction in total safety.
The 4C making an impressive circuit debut on the latest Goodwood festival of speed...
Indeed, the designation '4C' refers to Alfa Romeo's great sporting tradition: in the 1930s and 1940s the names 8C and 6C were used for cars - both racing and non - fitted with the powerful 'eight cylinders' and the innovative 'six cylinders'.
The 4C design layout and construction confirms the goal of achieving the weight/power ratio of an authentic supercar (lower than 4 kg/HP).
This is achieved by limiting the weight rather than by increasing the engine power.
Designed by Alfa Romeo engineers and manufactured at the Maserati plant in Modena, the captivating coupé with two bucket seats uses technologies and materials derived from the 8C Competizione - carbon, aluminium, rear-wheel drive - and technologies from the latest Alfa Romeo standard models currently on the market, but thoroughly developed to enhance the sports appeal of the new car to the full.
The 4C going full song down the straight on the latest Goodwood festival of Speed...
This is demonstrated by the new 1750 Turbo Petrol engine with direct injection and aluminium block, the sophisticated "Alfa TCT" twin dry clutch transmission and the Alfa DNA selector with the brand-new Race mode.
A length of approximately 4 metres and a wheelbase of less than 2.4 metres: on the one hand these dimensions emphasise the car's compact features while accentuating its agility on the other.
The 'Alfa of Alfas'
Designed by Alfa Romeo's Centro Stile, the 4C model immediately brings to mind some iconic classic models that have left an important mark in the brand's history. Today they all relive in the new compact supercar: "The Alfa of Alfas."
The 4C looks good from any angle, here on the tarmac at Goodwood...
One of the reference models in terms of dimensional and layout similarities is definitely the 1967 33 Stradale, a very elegant vehicle with vertical-opening doors.
This same combination of "lightness and efficiency" was also at the basis of some unforgettable Alfa Romeos developed in the past, like the 1938 8C 2900 B Touring with its aluminium body, a memorable Le Mans protagonist or like the 1952 1900 C52 "Flying Saucer," a car that could reach 230 km/h and weighed just 760 kg.
With the captivating 4C, the Alfa Romeo brand also proposes its view on 'Technology' just as it did with the 2010 Giulietta, the first vehicle ever to develop and adopt the TCT transmission.
Alfa also set new standards of 'Dynamism,' as it did in the 2007 8C Competizione, the fastest road car ever manufactured by Alfa Romeo, produced in a limited series of only 500 vehicles.
The beautiful profile of the 4C, was to be admired at the Festival of Speed at Goodwood...
Today lightness, efficiency, Italian style, technology and dynamism are uniquely blended in the new Alfa Romeo 4C, a genuine but affordable sports car, at the same time a technologically advanced and captivating “supercar” offering driving precision, agility and performance. We cannot wait to see more of this car, and to drive it for you in a not too distant future…
Hans Knol ten Bensel