The Castagna-bodied 6C 1750 Alfa shown here is a triple masterpiece: its magnificent Vittorio Jano-designed engine, Alfa Romeo's superb chassis,and the beautifully constructed and subtly detailed Castagna body. In addition, it has been fastidiously restored in Australia by marque specialists Double J.

Vittorio Jano put the P2 GP project behind him and turned his talent and creativity to Alfa Romeo's commercial products, still derived from Giuseppe Merosi's designs of the teens. Jano took advantage of the carte blanche assignment given him by Alfa Romeo and, for 1927, created a new engine from scratch, an engine of great potential and adaptability. Conceived and developed to accept both single and dual overhead-camshaft cylinder heads, Jano's original 1.5-liter six-cylinder expanded slightly to 1.752 liters in 1929 and was designated 6C 1750. It would take three forms, from supercharged twin-cam racing versions that demonstrated their prowess in race after race to reliable, naturally aspirated twin- or single-cam sporting models, touring cars and sedans. During a period of rapid evolution in performance automobiles at Alfa Romeo and others, the eight-year production life of Jano's six-cylinder cars is remarkable and offers ample evidence of the design's quality, a pedigree that attached to all of Jano's 6C series engines.

The chassis into which Jano's little masterpiece was placed was itself a model of Alfa's mastery of contemporary technique. Renowned to this day for their delicate handling, responsiveness to driver input and roadholding, the Alfa 6C 1750 chassis was at once refined and exuberant. The competence of the chassis in diverse and demanding conditions is illustrated by its four victories in the Mille Miglia, a race that demanded much of its drivers and rewarded automobiles with stability and predictability.

While Zagato and Touring turned out lightweight competition and sports models on Alfa's six-cylinder chassis, it was Castagna that delivered the elegant yet sporting coachwork favored by many Alfa buyers of the time. Castagna had been in existence for nearly a century in 1930, and was noted for the exceptional quality of its coachwork and its meticulous attention to detail in design and execution. Elegant, comfortable and practical, without being stodgy, Castagna's coachwork was the mark of a discerning owner who appreciated both style and function.

The 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Castagna Convertible Coupe shown here was imported into Australia in the late 1980s in unrestored condition, where it was restored for a noted European collector, then living in Australia. It gained many awards in Australian concours before coming to the US, where it was proudly displayed at the 1997 Concorso Italiano in Carmel Valley. Carefully maintained since, it is still in show-quality condition and is ready to use and enjoy whether in shows and concours, or in the many vintage tours for which it is eligible.

{analysis} It's a pleasure to see restored 6C 1750 Alfas that do not carry Zagato bodies, or recent facsimiles thereof. A Castagna-bodied Alfa in its original configuration is now very rare. There's a reason for this: heavy Castagna 1750 convertibles were considered worthless by enthusiasts in the '50s and '60s, especially if not supercharged. These cars were completely vulnerable to the dismantler in an era when you could buy supercharged Alfas for less than $3,000. Over the years, the most common fate of Castagna (and James Young) convertibles was to be parted out as a source of spares by owners of supercharged, Zagato-bodied 1750s, and it's really a wonder that any of them survived that era. I once owned the front half of just such a sacrificial convertible, and finally sold the front frame section to designer Dick Teague for his own 1750 Zagato.

In point of fact, the huge gap in value between sporty and staid still applies. This car sold for $82,500, including buyer's premium, at the RM Phoenix sale on January 18, 2002. At the same auction, a 1750 supercharged Zagato, also restored to a high level, was bid up to $319,000 and went unsold. Even today, the less sporting cars may be in danger of being sacrificed into oblivion by well-heeled owners of old Alfas in need of parts.

This particular car has recently had two very different valuations by the market. It was declared sold for $162,000, including premium, at the 2000 Brooks Amelia Island auction, a price that we considered quite high, given the double curse of great weight and little power. Then, at the RM Biltmore sale, the car sold for just half that amount, at $82,500.

The second sale was somewhat of a bargain, but probably more in line with current values than the first sale. In any event, for those Alfisti who will never be able to afford a supercharged Jano Alfa, an unsupercharged one with non-sporting bodywork may be a happy compromise. The buyer got a sterling piece of late 1920s engineering, and a slow-speed tourer of satisfying reliability and charm.-Pat Braden{/analysis}

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