Born Pierre-Alexandre Darracq on November 10, 1855, in Bordeaux, France, Alexandre Darracq was one of the first to have a hand in the mass production of automobiles. While his formal training was in manufacturing sewing machines, by 1896 he went into business manufacturing cars and developed an interest in rotary valve engine Millet motorcycles. By 1904, Darracq was credited for producing more than 10 percent of the automobiles in France and had a reputation for manufacturing quality vehicles.
Darracq’s first venture in large-scale automobile production began in 1898 when he manufactured Voiturette vehicles under the Léon Bollée license. With his reputation carrying him forward, Darracq signed a licensed contract with Adam Opel to produce vehicles in Germany under the brand name Opel-Darracq. Becoming involved with auto racing and winning a number of races, including the Vanderbilt Cup in 1905 and 1906, Darracq was able to expand his empire.
This success led to Alexandre Darracq, alongside several Italian investors, to found Societa Anonima Italiana Darracq in Milan, Italy, in 1906. A few short years later, Darracq insisted the vehicles use a rotary valve engine, thus introducing the 2.1 to 3.6L Henriod-powered models. The company saw a few issues with the rotary valve engines seizing, which led to a bad impression with consumers. This, inevitably, led to his resignation.
The Italian investors decided to move forward and make a few changes for the betterment of the company. Cavalier Ugo Stella acquired the shares of Società Anonima Italiana Darracq and the company was renamed to Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, otherwise referred to as A.L.F.A.
Nicola Romeo took over the company in 1914, just before the start of World War I. Wartime meant car production came to a halt and the factory was transformed for the military production of aircraft engines, compressors, and generators. At the end of the war, the company changed its name to Alfa Romeo.