Tag Archive for Alfa Romeo

Alfisti, Model Citizens



There is something almost fanatical about those who follow the Alfa Romeo brand, the tribe even has its own name, Alfisti, maybe they are descendants of the Visigoths and Vandals who sacked Rome back in the day.

Model collectors are equally passionate about their pastime. My old friend John Elwin is a fully paid up member of both tribes so this collection for sale is as close to a vision of heaven as he is ever likely to encounter.

The collection is staggering and now is to be sold, wonder where John will be next February?

Historics at Brooklands will present one of the finest model car collections in the world at its winter sale, with one man’s homage to the Alfa Romeo marque making its collective public debut for the first time.

The historically significant 700 strong ‘Martin Webb Collection’ of cars, model kits and books is a life-long representation of an owner’s tireless pursuit of a passion, and includes three extremely rare, unopened, 1/8thscale Italian ‘Pocher’ kits of the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza, Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 Mille Miglia Scuderia Ferrari and an Alfa Romeo Spider Touring Gran Sport of 1932, each valued at between £450 – £550.

The collection – in plastic, die-cast, hand-built resin and white metal – covers vehicles from the 1920’s to the present day, in 1/86, 1/43, 1/32, 1/24, 1/20, 1/18, 1/12 and 1/8 scale, with road cars and commercial vehicles as well as Le Mans, Targa Florio, Mille Miglia and Formula 1 all represented.

Martin Webb’s love of the Alfa Romeo stemmed from over twenty years of ownership, and a dream of one day owning a ‘Spider’.  Having joined the Alfa Romeo owners club in 1993 his relentless research resulted in the acquisition of a 1967 Duetto.  The car was subsequently prepared so pristinely it would win numerous concours prizes, further demonstrating his predilection for perfection.

With a large number of books acquired to assist the owner in his fanatical dedication to detail also due to be auctioned alongside the cars and kits, the comprehensive collaboration will be presented across Historics’ next two auctions at Mercedes-Benz World on 18th February, and Brooklands Museum on 26th May.

John Brooks, December 2011

Double Dutch

Toine

Some stories are worth repeating, so this tale of laughter is certainly qualified in that respect. Over 8 years ago I ended up in a hotel bar with Toine and Mike Hezemans…………….

Spa 24 Winner

After another lashing of Schwien-something or other at the dining table, Cotton, Lister and I drifted past, and then back into, the hotel bar.  We stumbled upon Mike and Toine Hezemans.  Mike is one of the ballsiest drivers in the FIA GT championship, brave to the point of lunacy, commitment being his middle name and also bloody quick.


None of that should come as a surprise to anyone lucky enough to find themselves enjoying a convivial beer or three with his father, Toine. That particular strain of DNA is rare indeed, probably just as well, too much of this concentrated brew would be dangerous………but what the hell?  You only live once.

950 Kilometres of Brands Hatch?
Toine is a larger than life figure in every respect…….as a driver he competed at the highest levels, a multiple champion in sportscars and touring cars. These days as a team owner and manager, he has a reputation for an uncompromising approach. I recalled the first time we had met several years back, oddly enough in another hotel bar in Germany.

My first sportscar race was the 1971 1000Kms of Brands Hatch…….I reminded him of this big moment in my life and his reaction was the same that night as it was at this weekend………
”F##king race, two laps up in the lead and 50kms to go the f**king engine let go”.
Nice to get a consistent view of history. Time certainly is a healer.

Carlo Chiti

Toine was a driver with the Alfa Romeo factory in the late 60’s and early 70’s, a time he recalls with great affection. Although Alfa had a reputation for being a touch chaotic, their approach to testing the touring car programme was more akin to F1 in the modern era, than those freewheeling times.
”We spent a month at Balocco with ten cars, when one broke it would be taken away and another sent out……that way we discovered all the problems and fixed them before the racing began. The title was easy then.”

Alfa Romeo’s competitions department, Autodelta, was run then by the imposing figure of Carlo Chiti…….a man of constant invention and tinkering.
”Chiti was always coming up with something new……sometimes copying shamelessly from others………I was at the factory with Masten Gregory and the boss was very keen to show his new design for a tyre jack…………..very similar to Jim Hall’s Chaparral jack……….but this of course was made of titanium as Alfa had a special forge that had been put in at great expense, so it had to be used at every opportunity.”
”So Chiti was showing off in front of us drivers and put the jack under one of the racecars for a demonstration…….gave a mighty pull and promptly broke the lightweight handle in two and ended up flat on his back. He did not see the funny side, so us roaring our heads off and crying with tears of laughter did not go down well.”


”It was sometimes fantastic to be a works Alfa driver. I was leading the Targa Florio in 1971 (with local hero Nino Vaccarella) and somehow fell off the road on the last lap, within a minute two hundred locals had carried the car back to the tarmac and off I went again.”

Don't Try This At Home, Kids

”Vic Elford in the leading Porsche had a puncture during the race and while he was round the front of the car some of our fans stole the jack and wheel nuts from the back of the vehicle. They really wanted us to win.”


Nonsense, I said, that just shows the native cunning and good sense of the Sicilians, Porsche spares were always worth more then Alfa bits.

Always good value too is Toine.

John Brooks, November 2011

Alfa, Alfa, Alfa

The Brooklands Double 12 brought out fine examples of motoring art from Italy and specifically from Alfa Romeo. The Italians have created some of the most beautiful cars ever to turn a wheel, occasionally a dog too.

Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Bertone

 

 

Almost the first car that the Special Correspondent and I tripped over on our arrival was this fabulous machine. It was a Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Bertone dating from 1942.

Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Bertone

 

 

It was brought to England by its current owner, Corrado Lopresto, who has restored the car to its original glory.

Artist's Signature

 

 

Along the way it has won awards at Pebble Beach and Villa d’Este, including the 2011 Coppa d’Oro, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Tail Piece

 

 

According to my good friend Wouter Melissen the design was the work of Mario Revelli di Beaumont.

Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Bertone

 

 

You can read up more about this fantastic car on Wouter’s excellent site HERE . Strange thing, probably a coincidence, but when you Google this car, most of the websites that describe it at Villa d’Este or Brooklands use a remarkably similar wording to that of UltimateCarPage, when it talked about the car a year ago at Pebble Beach. Spooky, this internet thing.

Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Bertone

 

 

One thing that struck me is the question of how did this car get built at all? In 1942 World War Two was in full flow, Italy was fighting alongside Nazi Germany in the Western Desert and on the Russian Front. All materials were rationed and there was strict control of industrial activity. It must have been very powerful JuJu that allowed the war effort to be diverted to build this one off. Perhaps the Italians have always had a better sense of what is important and what is not, most of them would have seen through Mussolini’s bombast by that time. Certainly nothing like this could have been built in war time Britain, the Man from The Ministry would never have allowed it.

Badge Engineering

 

 

The car was built in 1942, delivered to Concessionaria Oreste Peverelli in Como, then rescued from Italy to Switzerland to remain intact during the Allies’ invasion of Italy. It is a thing of beauty and we were lucky to see it at Brooklands.

Alfa Romeo Montreal

 

 

Less exotic but still very worthwhile was this Alfa Romeo Montreal.

Alfa Romeo Montreal

 

 

The styling say 1970’s in the same way as the Bertone classic says 30’s.  Yet this does not detract from it, there really was Life on Mars.

Another exhibit that purported to date from the 30’s was this weird creation.

Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Aerodinamica Spider

 

 

It is described as a secret project commissioned by Vittorio Jano.

Someone has taken a lot of time and trouble to post up a full history on Wikipedia.

Cockpit

 

 

In 1935, Vittorio Jano, working with the brothers Gino and Oscar Jankovitz, created a one-off mid-engine prototype on a 6C 2300 chassis (no. 700316),which Jano had shipped to Fiume, Croatia in 1934. The brothers Jankovitz had been close friends with leading Hungarian aerodynamicist Paul Jaray, and the prototype, called the Alfa Romeo Aerodinamica Spider, was an especially early and clear example of ponton styling — a genre that would overtake automobile styling and last until the 1960s. Jano had intended to fit a V12 engine, though that possibility disappeared when Jano himself was fired from Alfa in 1937.

Based on documents kept in the family Jankovits the history of the car’s development is as follows:
Summary of the “Aerospider” Alfa Romeo Jankovits – 6 C 2300 Aerodinamica Spider “Aerospider” (constructed 1934-1937)
The prototype of modern automobile design and the first car which had been constructed and executed as a sculptural whole.
The combination of a very advanced aerodynamic body with the engine behind the central driver’s seat, on the most advanced chassis of its time makes this Alfa Romeo unique in the history of automobiles.
This special version of an Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 belonged to a secret project by Vittorio Jano and the brothers Jankovits.
The Aerospider represents:
The first supercar of “modern” sports car design.
The first mid-engined car with central driving position in the history of automobiles designed to keep the centre of gravity in the middle of the car – 60 years ahead of the McLaren F1
The first car designed to take account of newly developed principles of aerodynamics, to provide low-drag both externally and internally.

The article makes a whole batch of other claims about the car.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is even a bit of James Bond, or should that be “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” provenance attached?

The car was ‘liberated’ from East Europe in a dramatic way, according to the story.

No V12.

 

 

Any public appearance of the futuristic looking Aerospider would have caused a sensation, but because of the secrecy surrounding the project, and then the onset of the war, the prototype remained hidden in the Jankovits’ garage in Fiume, and was not seen by anyone from outside the garage. On Christmas Eve 1946, Gino Jankovits drove the Aerospider at full speed under the toll-bar of the closed communist controlled border into Italy. Border guards fired volleys of shots after him, but the low, streamlined body saved Gino’s life. Only the rear tyres were destroyed by the bullets, which also caused some dents in the rear of the car’s bodywork. To get money they had to sell their car to an Anglo-American officer. Then the Alfa disappeared for about 20 years until it was rediscovered in England. In 1978 the Aerospider was recognized by the well-known Alfa Romeo historian Luigi Fusi, who had worked with Vittorio Jano at the time of the Aerospider project. He wanted to acquire the car for the Alfa Romeo Museum. The acquisition failed, but the prototype did eventually return to Italy, 30 years after its birth, to be restored at last to its original condition as a racing car.

Original?

 

 

However, Alfa Romeo is a brand that inspires loyalty and enthusiasm amongst the Alfisti to a degree seldom seen by other motor manufacturers. So when a rare beast like this appears from nowhere it will attract commentary and not everyone has accepted the authorised version.

Brooklands

 

 

Indeed, when I asked my colleague, the venerable Special Correspondent what he thought, he was somewhat dismissive. He backed up this opinion by later confirming that the car was not in the Alfa Romeo bible ‘Alfa Romeo Tutte le Vetture Dal 1910′ by Luigi Fusi. That confirmed it, as far as he is concerned, that this car is not an Alfa Romeo. Others have written blogs about this vehicle, one can be found HERE that eloquently puts the case for the prosecution.

Proof?

 

 

 

 

Another comment that was published, “Respected antique dealer Colin Crabbe was told by Luigi Fusi of the Alfa Romeo Museum that the Jankowits car is not an Alfa Romeo, what ever the current owner seems to think, none the less it is an extremely interesting Alfa Romeo powered special, stories of the car dodging bullets to escape communist Yugoslavia are comically wide of the mark, the car and its occupants were allowed to leave the Yugoslavia with a perfectly normal travel permit, it was never designed for anything other than a straight 6, Alfa V12’s did not exist at the time the car was conceived by the Jankowits Brothers.”

More Proof?

 

 

Still, there are those who maintain that this story is true. The car has been exhibited at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed and, of course, Brooklands, giving some credibility to that version of events. Being less of a purist than those like the Special Correspondent, I am inclined to enjoy that car for what it is and am glad that we are able to see it today.

Alfa Romeo 1900C SS Zagato Coupe

 

 

One car that attracts only enthusiasm is the Alfa Romeo 1900C SS Zagato Coupe. Even the rain storm that hit the event that day could not dim the glow from the car.

Name Check

 

 

A fitting way to end this salute to Alfa magic on display at Brooklands last month.

John Brooks, July 2011