The 6C series had been founded as early as 1924 when Alfa Romeo engineer Vittorio Jano, perhaps the greatest automotive engineer of his era, was detailed "to develop a medium capacity light car with brilliant performance." The great engineer chose the balance and pick-up characteristics of an in-line six cylinder engine and combined them with what was, by the standards of the time, a very lightweight and nimble-handling chassis design. Much experience gained in development of his AIACR World Championship-winning Alfa Romeo P2 Grand Prix car of 1924-30 was built into this production series.

The prototype, initially know as the model "NR" but subsequently renamed "6C-1500" was unveiled at the Salone dell'Automobile Milano in April 1925, and then reappeared at both the Paris Salon and the London Motor Shows. Deliveries to customers of the original single-camshaft version commenced in 1927, and the general reception was so enthusiastic that a second series of twin-cam variants followed. Many 6C-1500s were employed in competition, with the supercharged variants doing particularly well in sports category events in 1928 and 1929.

The subsequent enlargement of a similar basic engine configuration to 6C-1750 model form involved increases in both bore and stroke. These engines were offered with or without supercharging, delivering respectively approximately 85 bhp or 76 bhp in both cases at a quoted 4,500 rpm. The supercharged 1750 engine developed considerably bore mid range torque than the unblown unit which made it a most effective weapon for racing and hill-climbing, while also doubling as a genuinely high-performance road car.

As competition success was all-important to sales, the factory produced a very limited number of special high-performance race engines for the works entries. This engine was of a fixed head, or Testa Fissa, design. This design obviously eliminated any cylinder head gasket problems during long races. It is thought around six cars were fitted with this engine in 1929/30 on the 1,500 cc model and using larger valves the horsepower rose by 9 bhp over the standard detachable head blown Super Sport. However, for the 1931-29-30 seasons a further very small batch of cars were also fitted with the 1,750 cc Testa Fissa engines. These engines were developed further than the 1 1/2-liter cars and employed larger valves, and a wide 100-degree instead of 90-degree valve angle, and instead of the standard five-bearing crankshaft they had re-designed crankshafts running in eight main bearings. In addition, a higher compression ratio was used as well as reinforcement to the upper bevels of the timing gear train and special connecting rods of white metal cast directly on to the big-ends, instead of white metal in bronze shells. These developments raised the horsepower from 85 bhp in the standard 1750, to 102 bhp at 5,000 rpm in the Testa Fissas. This enabled the 1931 cars to reach a top speed in excess of 105 mph.

The Testa Fissa engine works cars had numerous victories in many of the major races of the late 1920s and early 1930s. This special run of cars was used by the works and Scuderia Ferrari, and provided seats for most of the famous Italian pilots such as Campari, Nuvolari and Varzi. Even Enzo Ferrari proclaimed the Testa Fissa Gran Sport his favorite among all the varied cars, his own and others of his experience.

This particular chassis number 10814346 is one of the very last 1750 Testa Fissa cars produced (with the introduction of the eight cylinder 2.3-liter in 1931) and is reputedly the car that Giuseppe Campari drove to second overall and a class victory in the epic 1931 Mille Miglia. The Campari Testa Fissa was a traditional skimpy Spyder Zagato and was up against strong competition from the likes of Nuvolari and Arcangeli in the new 8C 2300 models, Varzi in a 4.9 Bugatti, and Rudi Caracciola in the massive 7.1-liter Supercharged SSKL Mercedes as well as Borzacchini in another works 1750. After a hard-fought race, all the Alfas having suffered tremendous tire problems, amazingly Campari came in second to the seven-liter SSKL Mercedes and first in its class. This remarkable performance of the Testa Fissa is most impressive when one takes into consideration the opposition including Nuvolari's 8C Alfa as well as Varzi's 4.9-liter Bugatti.

While this short-chassis Testa Fissa has long been known as the car which was driven by Campari, it has been hard to establish concrete evidence from either Alfa Romeo or Mille Miglia archives. Factory records and research by the noted 1750 historian Angel Chariot have traced the history from June 1931 when the car was sold to noted collector Alfredo Nasturzio for the sum of 73,000 lire.

The Testa Fissa ran in the 1938 Mille Miglia driven by R. Blestrero and S. Corsi as race number 116. They were running in the Categoria Sport Internazioale-classe sino a cc 2000 con compressore and they left the start at 4:40 am, but retired before they reached Rome. Mr. Nasturzio kept the car until 28 October 1950 when it was sold to Giuseppe Scotti. Upon Scotti's death, the Testa Fissa was sold on 4 August 1954 to Jose Augusto Pimenta. Mr. Pimenta subsequently sold it on 3 September 1958 to Mr. Ennco Wax, who appears to have sold it into the Ventun collection in Rome in January 1959, although the car was not re-registered in Rome. Count Johnny Lurani and Corrado Cuppillini appear to have acquired the car in March 1968, and in the 1970s, it passed to Arthur Jacobs of Minneola, NY, who in turn sold the car on to Ben Rose in November 1977.

Early in its life, perhaps before being sold to Mr. Nasturzio, it is known that a Touring Spyder body was fitted. Research from another noted Alfa Romeo historian Simon Moore confirms that in the 1933 issue of "Motori Aero Ciclie" Sports there is a photograph of GE 19912 with Touring coachwork and a "fin" over the spare wheels at the rear - a sort of miniature version of the 1932 works Mille Miglia cars! This is the same spectacular body style as the famous "Rimoldi" 8C 2300 Alfa Romeo that was sold for a record price by Christie's at Pebble Beach in 1995. It is thought that only two such 1750 Alfas were built by Touring with the streamlined tail fins. As was often the case with aging race cars, the Testa Fissa was modified with enveloping wings to look more like a 2900 B. When Cuppelini and Lurani purchased the car they commissioned Carozzeria Riva to return the car to amore traditional "Touring" style and changed the wings, bonnet and windscreen. David Cooper, of Cooper Technica, recently rebuilt the Testa Fissa for Ben Rose and confirms that much of the bodywork other than the bonnet and fenders appears to be of an older date. It is quite possible that the central part of the existing bodywork is the spectacular Touring coachwork that was on the car in 1933.

Mr. Rose raced the car at historic events for a number of seasons. By the late 1980s, it was time to rebuild the car. While the work was initially entrusted to one firm, the whole project was undertaken by David Cooper in December 1992. Cooper undertook a full mechanical rebuild of the engine and ancillary parts, as well as re-wiring the car, restoring the clutch, and rebuilding some of the gauges to ensure the car was in top mechanical shape. This work took over a year to complete and cost in excess of $100,000. Extensive photo documentation of the rebuild is included with the car. Since the work was completed, the car has not been raced and has mainly been taken to shows and driven occasionally.

The chance to acquire a 1750 Gran Sport Testa Fissa is a very rare opportunity indeed. The Testa Fissa engined cars are by far the most desirable of the 1750 series due to their superior performance, racing pedigree, and rarity. A short-chassis, eight-bearing, Testa Fissa is the ultimate development of the 6C Supercharged Alfas, and would be an important addition to any collection of sports racing cars. Further research may confirm this car's competition history. Perhaps of more interest is that this car once had the exquisite Touring coachwork with a streamlined cover over the spare wheels. Naturally it will be a welcome highlight at historic road/racing events. The Rose Testa Fissa is one of the most significant Alfa Romeos to come on the market in recent years.

{analysis} Bidders determine significance by their willingness to raise their paddles, and this Testa Fissa was clearly voted "significant" by the three bidders who took the hammer amount to a staggering $651,000, against a low estimate of $350,000, at the Christie's 26 April [1997] Tarrytown event.

Why such a high sale amount? The answer: "Try to find another one." Testa Fissas represent the ultimate development of the Alfa 6C series, and this was a car with significant (although murky at times) history.

Further, if rebodied in the "Rimoldi" style, it would be visually stunning.

The Alfa 6Cs and 8Cs continue to be very, very strong in the marketplace, as they are the "Ferraris" of their era - technically sophisticated, capable on both road and track, built in limited numbers, and visually stunning.

It is to Christie's credit that they were able to bring this car to the open market. With the new wealth entering the collector car market, the auction venue provides a public opportunity for new, and often higher, values for important collector cars to be established. - ED.

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