#0015 - Alfa Romeo 6C Monoposto by Conrado Volpi, Juan Manuel Fangio, 1938
Photographed: Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance, 2007. Owner: David L. George
An Alfa By Any Other Name: Looking suspiciously like an Alfetta, we can't go so far as to stake that claim just yet. Conrado Volpi built a number of specials in Argentina for, among what must have been many drivers, the great Juan Manuel Fangio. In this particular car, Fangio competed in the Argentinean equivalent of the national championship, and later gifted the car to friend and driver, Alberto Crespo, who succeeded in winning the title in a limited class. For a while thereafter, the car remained in the Museo Juan Manuel Fangio in Balcarce where it shared space with a Volpi Chevrolet Monoposto built from scratch with pieces of a World War II surplus military truck. Recently, an east coast owner has restored the Alfa Romeo Volpi, and employed it quite frequently in historic racing. The ubiquitous Alfa supercharger has been re-fitted (or fitted, if it never had been), and the subsequent noise the whole kit produces leads one to believe that's the way things are supposed to be.
Potency: This baby Alfetta is powered by a supercharged in-line 6-cylinder, likely the 2.5 litre unit ramped up for the Tipo 256 cars, rooted in the 6C 2300 of 1934. For this reason, the monoposto body appears a tad stout in proportion, incapable of keeping the tapered lines of the factory Alfetta. As for the Alfetta itself...
Alfa Romeo developed a 1.5 litre in-line 8-cylinder motor for voiturette racing in the face of the German onslaught that dominated classic era Grand Prix competition. Not surprisingly, this motor proved the basis for Alfa Romeo's post-War Grand Prix car, then christened the 159 Alfetta, which went on to win the first Formula 1 World Championship. And in pre-War specification, this gem of a motor was just quite good, make no mistake. Running on alcohol with a supercharger, a 1.5 litre Alfetta motor would put out over 200 horsepower for starters, and more than 350 horses upon later development. Into the post-War period, the real dangers became thirst and tyre wear. By 1952, Ferrari was soundly in front of Alfa, if not in power, then in reliability and speed with their 500 F-2 cars. Alfa Romeo would never again run the same level of factory Grand Prix effort, which leaves us with the Alfetta, in both pre-War and post-War guises, as the last great Grand Prix Alfa.
It's also worth noting that these old Alfa Romeo cars, from the 1500 Grand Sport to the Volpi Monoposto pictured here, are real Italian hot rods. The motors are simply incredible by most any standard. On one hand the sound of a vintage Alfa is just that, vintage—a cracking spew of cams and mechanical supercharging—but on the other hand, these motors roar with a smooth verve more like a modern car, often sounding like a loud V-8. The sound almost always baffles the uninitiated, contradicting the vehicles' diminutive stature, and is one of the truly great aspects of historic motorsport. So if the chance is present, catch a classic Alfa Romeo racer in action. The visceral quality of these machines is really breathtaking.
The Victory by Design series, by Tony Maylam and Alain de Cadenet spends some wonderful time with an Alfetta very similar to this special.
An interesting tribute to Juan Manuel Fangio includes a scattering of historic images, and information on the museum in Balcarce. This site is best in Spanish.
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