Automobiles of London

28 October 2009

Lot 239

1929 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS

To be auctioned on Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sold for £522,500

  • Chassis no. 0312940
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85 hp, 1,752 cc twin-overhead camshaft inline six-cylinder engine with supercharger, four-speed manual gearbox, tubular front beam axle and semi-elliptic leaf springs, semi-elliptic rear springs and torque tube, four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 108"

Alfa Romeo began in 1906 under the name of SAID, Societa Anonima Italiana Darracq, but within just three years was reorganised under a different set of initials, ALFA – Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobil. In an effort to boost its image, the company decided to go racing, beginning in 1911 with some success. Shortly thereafter, Europe would find itself at war. Both racing and the market for private cars would disappear by 1915 when Italy joined the fighting.

Enter Nicola Romeo, an industrialist and mining engineer who returned the company to good fortune within just two years of his takeover by making tractors, railway equipment, aero engines, pumps and compressors; the production of cars would become relatively unimportant. That would change in 1918 when demand for the Romeo group’s products vanished once the War ended. Cars would be in short supply, and demand for them surged. The company looked to reorganise under the name Alfa Romeo of Milan, and one of the most famous makes in European motoring was born.

Alfa was building good, reliable production cars but lacked the expertise to design successful racing cars, so a scheme was hatched to hire the engineer responsible for Fiat’s grand prix racing cars, Vittorio Jano. The hiring of Jano proved a wise decision as he brought with him unrivalled flair, experience and the latest in race car design. Enzo Ferrari, too, had joined the company as a works driver. The Italian maker would return to its roots in racing with much success, winning its first Grand Prix World Championship in 1925.

Alfa Romeo introduced the 1752 cc six-cylinder powered cars designed by Jano in 1929. Adept on both road and racing circuits, the powerplant proved reliable and powerful, offering impressive output from its relatively small displacement. Further benefiting from excellent handling, the car, in top factory racing engine trim, could comfortably exceed 161 km/h.

The 6C 1750 is significant for introducing in-house manufactured saloon bodies along with those produced by firms such as Touring, Castagna and Zagato, among others. Three models were available: the single overhead-cam Turismo with 122-inch wheelbase and a maximum speed of about 70 mph, the twin overhead-cam Gran Turismo with 108-inch or 114-inch wheelbase and a top speed of about 80 mph, and the Gran Sport or Super Sport – a supercharged Gran Turismo producing 85 hp and a top speed of 95 mph. Regardless of the version, the 6C remains today one of the most compelling and desirable of all Alfas. All told, the Alfa Romeo built a total of 2,579 1750s through 1933.

Just three months after its introduction, a 1750 driven by Giuseppe Campari and Giulio Ramponi would win the 1929 Mille Miglia. Later that year, Marinoni and Benoist won the Belgian 24 Hour Race at Spa. Alfa would take the Targa Florio, too, and one year later, the company won its second Mille Miglia in addition to a host of other events. The company went on to take the chequered flag in eight Mille Miglias during the 1930s as well as the German Grand Prix in 1935 against the formidable Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union entries. Alfa Romeo began the 1930s as it ended the 1920s, dominating Italy’s sports car and competition scene.

This spectacular Alfa has a well-known, documented history. A supercharged GS example, it was sold new to Mr. Di Brigatti of Milan, Italy on 28 June, 1929. Its second owner, also a Milanese citizen, was Mr. Giuseppe Fantacci who later took the car with him to the United States as a duty-free entry. Rather than exporting it back to Italy, he sold the car to well-known author and collector Ralph Stein. During the 1950s the car came under the ownership of Alec Ullman, who is of course also remembered for organising the 12 Hours of Sebring and the United States Grand Prix. It would then become the property of various collectors in New York and has since been restored by David Pruitt of Alfa Workshops, sensitive to its original condition. It has reportedly won many concours events since completion. The Alfa still wears its old Florentine registration plate and includes its full restoration file along with a certificate of the Automobile Club Italia showing its old Italian registration.

Both the chassis and engine bear the same serial number 0312940. The steering box, gearbox, front and rear axles are stamped with numbers which are close to the chassis number (within ten) as per factory practice at the time of production. The construction number stamped atop the bell housing ends in 2929 as does the bonnet hinge. The rare coachwork by Carrozzeria Sport, a small workshop in Milan, boasts its original panels and windscreen along with front wings which were first modified in the 1930s. The original Jaeger instruments and carburettor have also been preserved.

It is interesting to note that the aforementioned owner Ralph Stein wrote about this car in his book The Great Cars. Of it he said, “I bought one of these early 1750s in 1936 from an enthusiastic young Florentine named Giuseppe Fantacci. Mechanically the car was fine, except that Fantacci’s girlfriend had thought the suspension too hard. To please her, Fantacci had removed all four shock absorbers. When I first saw the car in a garage near Washington Square in Greenwich Village, it looked tired. Its grey paint had gone chalky, the upholstery was tatty. I had the car painted Alfa red (of course), replaced the upholstery, found a new set of friction shockers, and had the engine tuned. When I went with my brother to collect the newly restored vehicle at Zumbach’s I was stunned. The car looked and sounded new. But I hadn’t reckoned with Fantacci. Before I could climb aboard to try my new jewel, Fantacci had vaulted into one seat, my brother into the other, and off they screamed down the street. It seemed hours before they returned. My brother was speechless with delight – he couldn’t tell me until later about Fantacci’s frightening virtuoso exploits. Fantacci kept repeating, ‘My macchina – b-yootiful – b-yootiful.’” B-yootiful it is today still, some eighty years later.

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