First seen on an Alfa Romeo in 1923, the Quadrifoglio Verde is a familiar sight to a lot of racing fans. (Image/Alfa Romeo Passione eBook)

For Valentine’s Day this year, the legendary Italian car company Alfa Romeo released Passione, a free downloadable eBook about its storied design history.

So, instead of having a romantic dinner with our Significant Others, we pored over the book’s awesome collection of vintage photographs. And it reminded us that performance- and race-oriented Alfas typically wear a signature green four-leaf clover (Quadrifoglio Verde in Italian) badge on their fenders.

But what does a distinctly Italian vehicle have to do with a symbol commonly associated with Ireland?

The Quadrifoglio Verde was adopted by many racers over the decades, like you see here on a 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA. (Image/Alfa Romeo Passione eBook)

The Story Behind the Alfa Romeo Four-Leaf Clover Badge

For starters, understand that Alfa Romeo has been involved in auto racing for a long time, starting way back in 1911 when it entered a pair of cars in the prestigious Targa Florio race in Sicily. But the company and its race team didn’t see much success in those early years.

All that changed in 1923 however, as Alfa Romeo was prepping four RL Corsas for that same Targa Florio race.

One of Alfa’s team drivers was Ugo Sivocci, a talented, but unlucky racer. So unlucky in fact, that he’d earned the nickname “l’eterno secondo,” which is Italian for “the eternal second.”

The famous clover first appeared in 1923 on a RL SS Targa Florio. (Image/Alfa Romeo Passione eBook)

In an attempt to turn his fortunes around, Sivocci painted a huge four-leaf clover on the cowl of his RL. The belief in that symbol’s luck-bearing properties had been around for centuries and it seems Sivocci was hoping some of that luck would rub off.

And it did—Sivocci took the win, which simultaneously gave Alfa Romeo its first international motorsports victory.

Many Italians, racers and spectators alike, credited the presence of the four-leaf clover to Sivocci’s victory that day.

A Tragic End Cements the Tradition

Unfortunately, Sivocci’s life would be cut short just a few months later in a deadly accident while running practice laps for the 1st Grand Prix of Europe.

Curiously, the new Alfa Romeo P1 race car Sivocci was driving at the time was NOT wearing the painted clover. That sad revelation convinced the Alfa Romeo drivers and mechanics that all future race cars must wear some form of Sivocci’s lucky charm to ward off similar misfortune.

Sivocci’s car was also wearing number 17 that day. Since the tragic accident, no other Italian car has been assigned that number.

And that tradition carries on to this day. In fact, Alfa Romeo has extended the practice of assigning the clover to all of the high performance variants of its street cars.

The familiar QV clover badge can still be seen gracing the fenders of modern Alfa Romeos. (Image/Alfa Romeo)

The Four-Leaf Clover Emblem Today

Since the adoption of the Quadrifoglio Verde, Alfa Romeo fans often refer to the signature emblem simply as QV.

You can still see the clover badge on a few current Alfa Romeo models, including the Stelvio and Giulia.

But it’s important to point out that, while closely connected to the Alfa Romeo brand, the QV is not exclusive to the company. Given its broad ties to Italian racing heritage, you’ll see examples of the Quadrifoglio Verde on Italian race cars and driving suits throughout history.

Over the decades, the QV has become a familiar sight on racetracks. (Image/

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Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.