Easily one of the finest motoring experiences known to man is to unleash the neck-bending acceleration and mountain-climbing torque of a supercharged straight-eight Alfa Romeo, and to hear the background accompaniment of those whining supercharger gears and that uncompromisingly muscular exhaust bark.
To drive an Alfa 8C in the wheel-tracks of such immortals as Nuvolari, Varzi, Caracciola, Chiron, Sommer, Tim Birkin and Earl Howe - amongst a list which includes so many other motor racing greats - is to reach out and touch living history.
For many enthusiasts no supercharged straight-eight Alfa Romeo has more visual appeal and flair than the short-wheelbase Carrozzeria Touring Spider Corsa style as offered here in chassis 2211080 - and for many experienced drivers of such cars this specific sub-group comprise the best handling, most responsive, most nimble and best-braked of all the 8C series of Alfa Romeos Vittorio Jano-designed 1930s masterpieces.
This well-known supercharged 2.6-litre-engined classical Alfa Romeo is offered here at a most realistic level, and most significantly it is based upon one of the earliest-specification, thin-gauge lightweight chassis frames.
It has been maintained in recent years regardless of cost by its owner Mulberry fashion and life-style designer Roger Saul and it performs and handles every bit as gloriously as it looks. While having been modified long ago to Corto short-wheelbase form from what is understood to have been its original Lungo long-wheelbase dimension, this cars lightweight chassis frame still retains period competition stiffening about the front-end dumb-irons. This feature is now known to have been applied to such early thin-gauge, lightweight chassis by Alfa Romeos highly successful Paris agent and multiple Le Mans 24-Hour race-winning driver Luigi Chinetti.
This and other features of this cars chassis frame suggest significant competition use before the cars first known road registration in Paris in 1933.
As researched by vintage Alfa Romeo authority Simon Moore and detailed in his superb three-volume reference work, The Legendary 2.3 it seems likely that chassis 080s earliest known recorded appearance was as an un-numbered frame listed within the Figoni coachbuilding companys files as having been delivered in the late spring/early summer of 1933.
It is known that Paris agent Chinetti probably acquired several un-numbered early chassis which were delivered to his establishment for completion several of them to be equipped with original endurance racing bodywork as worn in such events as the Le Mans 24-Hours. It is also known that such bodies were often stripped from early competition chassis which were then refitted with more practicable road-going bodywork and effectively re-issued as new with later chassis numbers being applied to them for the first time.
The thickness of the channel-section chassis frame material as preserved within 080 now offered here is a mere 2.5mm against approximately 4.5mm for most later-period 8C-2300 frames. This substantial difference saves very considerable weight from the chassis frame overall.
However, the forepart of this cars frame has been lined with extra channel-section material inserted within the standard channel and dab-welded to it at frequent intervals. Since long-vacant drillings survive which penetrate both thickness of metal in this area it seems certain that this reinforcement was applied to this frame long before not only the current body but also its long-wheelbase Figoni predecessor were applied to it. This type of stiffening modification is also identified with Luigi Chinetti competition practise. There are also visible features of the chassis which are consistent with it having been fitted with rear cycle wings, and also with a competition-style battery rack, while the chassis frames front cross-member features D-shaped clearance apertures at each end adjacent to the longitudinal frame rails which are known to have provided clearance for oil pipes running to and from the earliest competition 8C-2300s nose-mounted oil tank.
Consistent with Figoni records, chassis 080 is first known to have been registered 9399 RO 1 from Janu-ary 1933, and it retained that registration number when acquired by its sec-ond owner, a Frenchman of Polish extraction named Count Januszkowski. Antoinette de Saugy who met the Count in 1934 and became his wife in 1942 - recalled that he had been a friend of Chinettis and that they attended the Le Mans 24-Hour race with him. Another acquaintance at that time was leading International racing driver Louis Chiron. The Count had himself driven in minor competitive events in both France and Poland, and was a prominent bridge player on the social scene of the Cote dAzur. A transcript of an interview with Countess Januszkowski is included within the extremely extensive documentation file accompanying this Lot.
The Countess remembered 080 very well, for in 1940, upon the Nazi invasion of France, she and her future husband "
left Paris with this car. There were my mother, the canary cage, the dog and the luggage!". Though heading for Toulouse in the south, they did not get very far, "In Fontainebleau the car broke down. We left it at the US Embassy
It appears to have been recovered subsequently by Luigi Chinetti who then arranged its safe storage for the remainder of the War, when it was imported into Switzerland on July 12, 1946. It was described at that time as being a four-seat cabriolet in "partially dismantled" condition. Simon Moores researches describe it as having carried Geneva registration GE 10872 together with the Canton of Vaud registration plate VD 20458.
In fact the Januszkowskis had both an apartment in Geneva and a retreat in Perroy, near Rolle on Lake Geneva. The Countess recalled selling the car some time in the Autumn of 1947, and we understand that Swiss Army records cite a new owner by 1950 as having been Georges Kolumban Bude of Geneva. At that time the car was registered OE 23451.
The following advertisement subsequently appeared in the Bugantics journal edition of Summer, 1958: REPRODUCE AD IN TEXT:
Former owner of this car, David W. Mize of Chelsea, Vermont, USA, would later write to the present vendor in 1995: "I bought the car in 1960, possibly 1959 or 1961. I had met Robert Baer, an Anglo-Swiss who was dealing in cars from Geneva. From Baer I bought as a package deal two Type 57 (Bugatti) Stelvios and the 2.3 blown Alfa. I
the Alfa to America" (where I kept it) "
in Westport Connecticut and my wifes familys summer house. At that time there were absolutely no buyers for the Alfa. I only drove it once or twice
Moore found that the Swiss Customs records indicate that the car was in fact exported to the USA on July 21, 1961. In a letter of October 7, 1971, John ODonnell of John ODonnell Automotive, Westfield, New Jersey described how "The 2.3 body was removed from a car imported to the USA many years ago by an American named David Mize
the car changed hands several times and then was taken apart for spares
.later the 2.3 chassis was purchased by Bill Summers in England".
Despairing of finding a buyer for the unwanted Alfa, we understand that Mr Mize finally towed it on a solid bar to the establishment in South Norwalk, Connecticut, in which "
at that time Derry Mallalieu was involved in the vintage car business. He traded the car for a Volkswagen as far as I can remember
Moore describes the car as having been broken up but that rather pejorative term today seems inappropriate. It was in fact dismantled in order to sell its component parts separately, for they were worth rather more on the contemporary second-hand market as spares than as a completely assembled car
how times change!
It appears that one Arthur Jacobs acquired some major components, including the chassis frame and sold them to the UK, with American Alfa Romeo enthusiast Jackson Brooks also being involved along the way. In England David Black, Michael Villar and Bill Summers shared his enthusiasm for these supercharged 8-cylinder Alfa Romeos and in 1971 the late David Black wrote to Alfa researcher Mrs Angela Cherrett: "You are quite right that No 2211080 was the chassis and engine imported from Jackson Brooks
Jackson Brooks himself wrote in 1995: "When I did the register" of all then-known 8C-2300 and 2600 cars "it was owned by Michael Villar of Shropshire
David Black became a leading British exponent of the marque and of this model, and it appears that he modified this very early, and most intriguing chassis into its present short-wheelbase Corto form and we believe fitted at that time an engine assembled from original British agent Thomson & Taylor spares using the crankcase from 2211087. In period he wrote to Ed Bond in the USA (undated) "I see in Jackson Brooks owners list that the chassis which I am rebuilding and which was at that time owned by Michael Villar is numbered 2211080" confirming his acquisition of the original frame.
Towards the end of 1971, the completed car was passing around the London Alfisti, passing through the hands of such well-known names as Alain de Cadenet, Danny Margulies and Roger Gates. The latter is quoted by Simon Moore as recalling how he had "
obtained the number OLF 7 from an Austin 1300 which I purchased for £100
. OLF was certainly the best performer of the three 2.3s that I owned
The most enjoyable driving in this car was on secondary roads and its remarkable acceleration from traf-fic lights was stunning. I enjoyed driving the car im-mensely, she was stable and precise with excellent brakes. Black had made a good job of this car it was well sorted in every department."
Its "remarkable acceleration from traf-fic lights" was perhaps enhanced by its relatively lightweight chassis structure.
The car was pictured on the front cover of Veteran & Vintage magazine for February 1973, and sold subsequently to Roger Hancox. It was acquired by Alan Riley who used it for many years, appearing in such events as the 1977 Mille Miglia Retro, and he was pictured in the car in the Classic & Sportscar issue of January 1995.
In the later 1980s, the car passed to prominent Historic racer Peter Hannen, and thence to Peter Gregory/Peter Bloor. It had been dismantled and was in this condition when it was acquired by Roger Saul who recognised not only its remarkably well-proportioned beauty, but also its potential, not only for lightweight performance but also historically.
Specialist restorer Paul Grist was entrusted with the cars reassembly and complete restoration to its present exquisite appearance and good order. There was some doubt at the time concerning whether or not the chassis had ever been shortened, and Paul Grists specialists discovered that it had in fact been modified in this manner, but that the removed section had been excised in a most unusual location, immediately ahead of the rear axle chassis kick-up. The joint had been so expertly re-welded it was virtually invisible, and once painted as today it is indeed effectively invisible.
During Paul Grists restoration the present Carrozzeria Touring fin feature was added, and once his work had been completed Roger Saul, the current owner, ran the 1997 Mile Miglia with his wife Monty and the car was featured in The Daily Telegraph newspaper for 17 May, in a full-page feature on that event. The car has been raced in VSCC circuit events and has carried Roger and Monty Saul for many, many most enjoyable, charismatic, atmospheric sporting miles.
- It has been drawn to our attention by Peter Hannen, who is mentioned in the catalogue description, that the car did not pass through his hands.