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The Alfa Romeo 308 in Argentina

The Unknown History of the 308 in Argentina

by Estanislao Iacona

The 308 GP Alfa

On 1938 the works Alfa Romeo team, now “Alfa Corse”, was moved back from Scuderia Ferrari to “Il Portello” again. Enzo Ferrari was still the manager though and one of the first creations of this new team was the 308 Grand Prix Alfa Romeo. Four cars with a set of three spare engines were built. This was the first Alfa Romeo to fulfill the new formula of 3 litres. The engine was derived from the glorious 8C 2900B, from which some important variations were made. The 3 litre twin-overhead cam straight-eight engine was supercharged by twin blowers. This gave the car a power rating of 295 CV at 6000 RPM. The twin-tube chassis was an updated from the 8C 1935 tipo C, making the overall car a derivation of the tipo B P3 Alfa. The entire project was under the supervision of Giocchino Colombo.

Debut in Europe

April 1938. Pau GP. Two 308`s made their debut, one driven by Tazio Nuvolari –broke the lap record- yet burst into flames due to a defective fuel tank mounting. Tazio`s car was destroyed. Luigi Villoresi driving the other car and risking the same fate thought better of it and withdrew. After this race Nuvolari announced his retirement from racing. He returned some months later, but racing for Auto Union this time. The other two 308`s cars took part in the Tripoli GP a month after Pau. Tragically Eugenio Siena was killed in one of the cars, after hitting a wall. Raymond Sommer drove the sister car to a 4th place finish, trailing a trio of Mercedes. In Sommer’s hands it did manage to win a hillclimb at La Turbie in 1938 and `39. When racing returned after the war, the car had a modest run of success in Europe and South America, driven by Jean-Pierre WimilleAchille Varzi and Luigi Villoresi.

The unknown history of the 308 in Argentina

Varzi with Villoresi and Pintacuda in Retiro, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaIn late 1938, an Uruguayan driver called Bellini Caviglia bought a 308, presumably from Alfa Corse, in Italy. The car arrived in Montevideo safely, but was retained by the custom office, I assume, due to tax problems. The car was auctioned, and the buyer was Dr. Italo De Lucca, an Argentinian lawyer that lived in Quilmes, near Buenos Aires. This car was chassis number 50017, and though being a 308 GP car, it had a 3.800 litre engine of the previous 8C 35 series. This engine was also supercharged.

Italo De Lucca was not a driver, but had the car to raced by several well known racing drivers of the time. The first one to drive the car was Ricardo Nasi  who debuted the car at La Plata city, near Buenos Aires. He was forced to withdraw from the race with electrical problems. The car was then race by Ricardo Caru, with some success. During the 2940 racing season, the car was leant by Dr. De Lucca to Jose A. Canziani, who became Argentinian champion of “pista” that year, wining a lot of races.

Like most of the rest of the world, races were halted in Argentina during the war. After the end of hostilities this 308 emerged for the 1947 season, now driven by Oscar Alfredo Galvez, a well known stock car driver here in Argentina. Famous for his eternal battles in this specialty with Juan Manuel Fangio, Galvez brought the car to Dr. De Lucca, and made a full update of the car, by purchasing several spares from Alfa Romeo in Milan. Galvez had great success with the car,  becoming Argentinian champion in both 1947 and 1948. His most important win was that of February, 1949, at Palermo, Buenos Aires, in which he defeated all the European and local stars. Ascari (Maserati 1500), Farina (Ferrari 2000), Villoresi (Maserati 1500), Fangio (Maserati 1500), Prince Bira (Maserati 1500) and many others.

Ricardo Nasi pushes to the starting grid of the 1939 "La Plata" GP in Buenos Aires, his 308 # 50017. He battled the race with the 8C # 50014 Alfa Romeo of Carlos Arzani, who finally won the race.The car was reportedly dismantled and ended during the mid fifties in Fangio’s hands, who rebuilt it, but never actually raced the car, rather lending for to several other drivers to race. Oscar Rodriguez Larreta “Larry” (Ex-Lotus F1) was one of them, Ernesto Hilario Blanco also raced it in the epic “Rafaela” race, at Santa Fe. Adolfo Schwelm Cruz, a well known driver who raced successfully in Europe with a 6C 2500 Villa d`Este and here, with a 8C 2.300 “Monza”, Roberto Mieres (Ex-Maserati and Jaguar) and finally the brothers Carlos and Julio Menditeguy.

Fortunately, due to being property of the great Juan-Manuel Fangio, the 308 50017 is now part of his museum in Balcarce, 400 Km. From Buenos Aires, Argentina. It does not have the brightness and splendor of a restored machine, but all the impetus of a real racer. The 308 50017 sleeps at Fangio’s museum, it has won his glory for ever.

Estanislao Iacona
Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 1999.