have you ever wondered what the four-leaf clover on alfa romeo's quadrifoglio models is? why is it only on quadrifoglio models? what does it mean? has alfa romeo considered some sort of corporate tie-up with lucky charms?
the answer goes back to the 1920s, but it's especially interesting today. on september 8, the italian grand prix takes place in monza, where the man who invented an enduring symbol of luck saw his own run out 96 years ago to the day.
with world war i in the rearview mirror, alfa romeo resumed production of its famed racing cars and began to compete in grand prix racing, having drawn major attention in the early postwar years with a series of impressive performances in the numerous italian races held across the country, throughout the year. by 1923, alfa romeo had a dominant car in the rl and a remarkable driver lineup. the four drivers were enzo ferrari, antonio ascari, giulio masetti, and ugo sivocci. the all-italian squad performed admirably as a team, but sivocci was unhappy with his performance. the former motorcycle racer had yet to win a race as a driver, so he decided he needed a change of some sort after a series of second-place finishes.
he was inspired by the fighter pilots of world war i, who often had special emblems on their planes as lucky charms. ferrari’s famed prancing horse has the same origin, as it was originally on an italian war ace's plane and was gifted to ferrari by the pilot's mother. instead of finding an existing logo, sivocci decided to make his own luck and designed his own symbol. he decided on a white diamond with a green four-leaf clover—a commonly known lucky charm—in the middle. he named the symbol he painted on his 1923 rl targa florio "quadrifoglio" (four-leaf clover in italian).
the quadrifoglio turned out to be sivocci’s lucky charm after all, as he finally clinched his first victory in the demanding targa florio endurance race. he came ahead of his teammates ascari and masetti, who were driving identical rl targa florios. unfortunately, sivocci lost his life while testing a new race car, the alfa romeo p1—which did not bear his signature lucky charm—at the famed monza racetrack in italy on september 8, 1923, just days after his 38th birthday. alfa romeo decided to commemorate sivocci’s death by painting a new quadrifoglio on all alfa romeo race cars. instead of having the green four-leaf clover on a white diamond, they decided to drop a corner and place the clover on a white triangle. the loss of the corner was to honor the loss of sivocci, who was now immortalized in racing lore, as many alfa romeo cars have been bestowed with the badge since his untimely death in 1923.
the quadrifoglio badge is still a prominent feature on both the giulia quadrifoglio and stelvio quadrifoglio's front fenders. now, if you see one zip past you at a high rate of speed, you’ll know the origins of the name and symbol that adorn that car. the quadrifoglio is also found among the many sponsor stickers and aero bits on the alfa romeo c38 (pictured above), the brand's entry in the 2019 formula 1 season. they're racing today, september 8, at monza in the 2019 formula 1 italian grand prix, 96 years after sivocci lost his life at the track. if you're watching it, may i suggest a bowl of lucky charms as a snack?