Originally the property of the 3rd Viscount Ridley 1934 to 1964 Present ownership -1969 to date 1934 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 'Le Mans' Tourer Registration no. BPE 367 Chassis no. 2311221 Engine no. 2311221
It was no whimsical decision that placed Matthew White Ridley, 3rd Viscount Ridley, at the wheel of 2311221 in April 1934. The 32 year-old Ridley had succeeded to the peerage at the age of fourteen in 1916, upon the death of his father. He married Ursula, daughter of Sir Edwin Lutyens, in 1926 and took seriously the management of the family seat and surrounding estate, Blagdon Hall, in Northumberland. His passion was however for fast motor cars and motor sport and he was in the privileged position of being able to indulge his passions to the full. 2311221 was just one of many cars that enabled him to do that but a car that remained in his ownership from new until his death in 1964.
Geographically, Brooklands Circuit was some 330 miles from the famous South Gates of the Blagdon Hall Estate (noted landmarks beside the old A1 Road north of Newcastle, with the gate posts surmounted with white cattle), but this did not curb the Viscount's enthusiasm. Frustrated that neither Austin nor M.G. would give him a 'works' car with which to tackle the Brooklands 750cc Class H Records he famously set about building his own car, The Ridley Special, to take on the 'works' giants in 1931 and in this he succeeded the car was powered by a 746cc twin overhead camshaft supercharged engine to the design of Ridley himself and his chief engineer G Sartoris and with it he seized the Class H Records in August 1931 with speeds of 105.42mph for the flying kilometre and 104.56mph for the mile. A later attempt that year to break his own record resulted in disaster when the car crashed badly and Lord Ridley was seriously injured. This curtailed his racing activities but not his enthusiasm for fine cars.
2311221 came to the UK from Italy in September 1933 in chassis form and was delivered new to Fox & Nicholl, noted Talbot and Lagonda specialists. There is no record of the original coachwork fitted to the car, nor does Ridley in later correspondence make reference to it, but presumably it was built specially to Ridley's order. Ridley first registered the car with Surrey County Council authorities on 11th April 1934 BPE 367.
2311221 was one of several notable Alfa Romeos owned by Ridley over many years, notable among which were a rare 17/90hp supercharged 1750 (to which he later fitted a 2.6-litre engine) and he was later to own 8C 2900, no.412022, the London Motor Show car, to which he is quoted as fitting 'huge trumpet horns under the bonnet and they played a sort of Colonel Bogey fanfare!' These cars were maintained in his own workshops, Blagdon Engineering Ltd. in Northumberland, a north country Mecca for owners of proper cars.
Writing of 2311221 shortly before his death in 1964 Ridley reported: I have owned this car since it was new. I think it is the standard long chassis with wheel base 2.3m and back axle ratio 12/52. The mileage must be considerable. I do not know what it is. I rebuilt it in 1939 and then again completely in 1959, since when it has done very little running. It is mechanically in almost exactly original condition and has the Bosch electrical equipment. The only part that I know of that is not in perfect condition is the supercharger, this was worn. I was able to get a new casing but not rotors. I had these built up and hand fitted but still it only gives 1.25 atmosphere at maximum speed instead of 1.35 which it used to. As a result the power is down to 125hp at 5,000rpm instead of the 138 which I think was standard. The compression ratio is just under 6 to 1 which I think is standard. I have made the following alterations and additions to the chassis: An extra cross member between the front dumb irons, telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers instead of the original Hartford friction type, S.U electric pump instead of the original, welded steel body floor with battery box and tool box underneath, thermostatically controlled electric fan, heater, windscreen washer, etc. The wiring is all new and instruments and controls are new and are grouped in a panel in front of the driver. Some of the electrical controls are fixed to the steering column and are removable with it, there being what is in effect a multi point plug connecting them to the chassis so that this steering box can be removed to get the engine out. The body is a two seater coupe with sliding roof originally made before 1939 by Corsica and fitted to the car by me about 1947. In about 1960 it was altered and reconditioned by F.M.Panelcraft. Headlamps are the original Bosch, other lamps and flashers, etc., are modern Bosch but look contemporary with the car. It has the original well-base rims and five nearly new Michelin tyres 5.25/5.50 x 19
Thankfully none of Ridley's modifications were irreversible and these have been carefully addressed by a small succession of subsequent knowledgeable owners. Simon Moore's excellent reference work The Legendary 2.3/Alfa Romeo 8C2300 records that the Corsica saloon body referred to by Ridley came from 2111003. Moore records that the top of the Corsica body was subsequently cut off, keeping as much as possible of the original body. That is not the case. The present owner advises that he removed the Corsica body in its entirety and had the present body in Le Mans Touring style constructed by H&H Coachworks to drawings provided by David Black.
Following Ridley's ownership 2311221 passed to Alfa Romeo and steam engine enthusiast Monty Thackeray of Malton, Yorkshire, through whose hands several notable Alfas and other distinguished cars passed in the 1960s. It moved quickly from the Thackeray stable to Richard Seys in Sussex and then to Peter Giddings in 1968. Soon after it passed to Danny Margulies and then to John Melville Smith and then in 1969 was acquired by the present owner some 44 years ago. It could have found no better home, sharing the motor house at various times with other great cars, not least of which is the owner's equally long term-owned Austin Chummy!
Following acquisition for the princely sum of £2,300 (against the new owner's father's best advice) much work was carried out including an engine rebuild by Nigel Arnold-Forster at Bassett Down, new cylinder heads were fitted with enhanced porting (the originals are offered with the car) as were re-profiled camshafts. In common with so many in its peer group 2311221 has been upgraded to 2.6 litre specification. The car was re-wired and a 3.9 to 1 high ratio crown wheel and pinion fitted for fast Continental driving. Otherwise all work completed focused on returning 2311221 as closely as possible to factory specification.
44 years on from first driving the car 2311221 continues to give its owner the same immense driving satisfaction that comes from exacting maintenance, routine work being carried out in the owner's motor house, but for twenty years or so all specialist work and event preparation has been entrusted to Alfa specialist Paul Grist. The car has been extensively and successfully campaigned, competing with glory four times in the testing Mille Miglia and winning the Best British cup on that event in 1998. It has been rallied in Denmark, driven with spirit at Zandvoort and Angouleme and completed a long distance tour in South Africa. Closer to home it has taken part in countless VSCC and Alfa Romeo Section events in the UK - it is particularly at home ascending Prescott Hill.
Here is a matching numbers Alfa Romeo 8C of undoubted integrity, offered with continuous and well documented history, spared the indignity of a shortened chassis and therefore offering comfortable high speed motoring on track or mountain passes, maintained to the highest possible standards and with just two long term owners whose combined ownership covers a remarkable 74 years of its 79 year history. 2311221 comes with UK registration documents, old buff log book back to May 1949, copy of a workshop manual, a FIVA Identity Card and FIA Identity Form dated 1990.
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