Classic Car Capital
1935 Alfa Romeo Tipo C 8C-35
1935 Alfa Romeo Tipo C 8C-35

Alfa Romeo 8C-35 at Bonhams Goodwood Revival 2013

A supercharged Alfa Romeo Tipo C 8C-35 will headline the 2013 Bonhams Goodwood Revival Auction, scheduled for Saturday 14th September at the Goodwood Motor Circuit in Chichester, UK. The pre-war Grand Prix racing car from 1935, campaigned as new by Scuderia Ferrari, was reportedly driven by the legendary Tazio Nuvolari.

Nuvolari was renowned in period for his fearless and committed approach to racing. He is often credited with developing the power-drift driving style, and as star of the Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo team he led Italian racing’s rearguard action against the state-backed German ‘Silver Arrow’ cars of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union. Alfa Romeo had dominated major-league motor racing for almost ten years. In 1933-34 Hitler released German state funds to help Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union overturn Italian racing’s preeminence. The German marques unleashed new technology the Italians could barely afford.

Alfa Romeo launched its latest Tipo 8C-35 contender in time for the September 1935 Italian Grand Prix. This supercharged straight-8 engined design matched the German cars with its new all independently suspended, hydraulic-braked chassis design, and ‘Nivola’ – Nuvolari, the Scuderia Ferrari’s yellow-shirted, red-leather-helmeted team leader would take the fight to the ‘Trans Alpini’ as team director Enzo Ferrari described their German rivals.

The Alfa Romeo 8C-35 to be offered by Bonhams is chassis serial ‘50013’ – identified by Scuderia Ferrari by its in-house serial ‘SF65’ – which did battle in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, in Modena, the Czechoslovak Grand Prix at Brno, in Tunis, in not just one Monaco Grand Prix but two, in the Hungarian Grand Prix at Budapest, in the Eifel Rennen and German Grands Prix at the Nurburgring, in the Italian Coppa Ciano at Livorno (Leghorn), among others.

This car’s most successful race was in its final Scuderia Ferrari event, the 1936 Coppa Ciano, when it was taken over by Nuvolari from assigned driver Carlo Pintacuda after the team leader’s sister 12C-36 car had broken its transmission on only the second race lap. Nuvolari had run back to the pits and Pintacuda was called-in to hand over ‘50013’. Nuvolari tore back into the fray, seven laps behind. Despite being too small for Pintacuda’s driving position, Nuvolari ripped back through the entire field, including the entire Auto Union team, to score a home-team win. These Scuderia Ferrari-entered Alfa Romeos represented the cream of Italian motor sport, their participation extending throughout Europe, into North Africa, Brazil and even to the American Vanderbilt Cup races at Long Island’s Roosevelt Raceway in 1936 – where Nuvolari’s 12-cylinder-engined Alfa 12C-36 won with team-mate Count Antonio Brivio’s third – and 1937 when ‘Nivola’ finished fifth.

1935 Alfa Romeo Tipo C 8C-35
1935 Alfa Romeo Tipo C 8C-35

As described in contemporary issues of both ‘The Autocar’ and ‘Speed’ magazines, Nuvolari’s ‘50013’ was sold post-Livorno 1936 to young Swiss private owner Hans Ruesch, who brought the car to England where he made his debut with it in the Shelsley Walsh hill climb before winning – with emergent British co-driver Dick Seaman – that year’s Donington Grand Prix.

After further campaigning ‘50013’ at Brooklands, where he finished second to experienced local hero Raymond Mays’s ERA in the Mountain Championship race, Hans Ruesch then shipped this Grand Prix car to South Africa where he set fastest race lap in both the Rand and South African GP events. Into 1937, back in Europe, he won the Grand Prix des Frontieres at Chimay, Belgium, the Elaintarharnajo-Djurgaardsloppet in Finland, the Rumanian Grand Prix in Bucharest, and starred in further events at Brooklands and Crystal Palace.

Ruesch loaned the car briefly to racing jazz musician ‘Buddy’ Featherstonehaugh before selling it to British Brooklands habitué Robert Arbuthnot. Postwar it was acquired by British industrialist Dennis Poore – Chairman of Manganese-Bronze Ltd, manufacturers of Villiers engines and BSA and Matchless motorcycles. He was a talented owner-driver and in 1947 drove ‘50013’ to win the first postwar British mainland feature race at Gransden Lodge aerodrome. He featured again in this car in the inaugural Goodwood motor race, in September 1948, before winning the RAC British Hill Climb Championship in it.

He continued to campaign ‘50013’ in Formule Libre and Vintage Sports Car Club events until 1955 when it was retired into long-term storage and retained until Mr Poore’s death, aged 70, in 1987. Bonhams then brought the car out from its long hibernation and offered it for sale by auction in Monaco, where it realised $2.85 million – at the time the highest price paid at auction for a Grand Prix car, and the highest for an Alfa Romeo. It was acquired by leading British historic racing exponent Anthony Mayman, and subsequently passed to American-resident British enthusiast Peter Giddings who had it restored to raceworthy condition. The car has since been campaigned successfully in vintage and European historic events by both Peter Giddings and its present owner/driver.

At this September’s Goodwood Revival Meeting, Bonhams will offer this 330-horsepower supercharged Alfa Romeo Grand Prix car yet again upon the scene of its best-remembered postwar exploits. Chassis 50013 carries a pre-sale estimate of £5.5 million to £6.5 million.

Items in the 2013 Bonhams Goodwood Revival Auction will be available to view on Friday 13th September and Saturday 14th September. The sale will begin at 1pm on Saturday 14th September with automobilia, and continue at 2.30pm with Motor Cars.

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[Source: Bonhams; photo credit: Bonhams/Pawel Litwinski]