Behind the wheel of a P3, Tazio Nuvolari bested the Third Reich on its home turf, winning the 1935 German Grand Prix in one of the great come-from-behind drives of all time


The P3 Alfa Romeo sculpture offered here is patterned after the fantastic and dominant single-seat, eight-cylinder Alfas of the early 1930s. Cast in bronze by a well-known Italian art foundry, it remains unpainted in pure, resplendent bronze. Its greatest attribute, however, is its legendary pilot-the great Tazio Nuvolari.
Nuvolari remains as one of the most respected, most accomplished and fearless drivers in all of racing history, His feats behind the wheel of the P3 Alfa are legends in their own right. Nuvolari competed in the Alfa as late as 1937 in races against cars of superior design and engineering, however, his natural abilities behind the wheel proved too much for most of the competition and he continued to dominate, even in what was considered by many to be an antiquated race car.
This full-size sculpture represents an unusual opportunity to acquire an evocative object of art and speed, which can be contemplated and enjoyed at leisure in all weather, climates and atmospheres. The sculptor, Francois Chevalier, came by his appreciation of kinetic automotive objects the hard way-by racing. His history includes twice driving at the 24 hours of Le Mans where he was once a winner of the prestigious Luigi Chinetti Trophy. He was director of the Circuit Paul Ricard at its inception, before turning to art and sculpture.
This particular bronze is numbered eight of eight, although we understand the artist approved four other bronzes to be cast, bringing the total to a mere 12 examples. The bronze is also imprinted by the artist with a small plate on the left-hand side of the chassis. It would be appropriate as décor for an office, museum or business establishment, or simply as a reminder of the great Tazio Nuvolari and the mighty Alfa Romeo P3.

{analysis} This 1932 P3 Bronze Sculpture sold for $47,300 at RM's Monterey auction, held August 13-14, 2004.
Francois Chevalier could not have picked a more dramatic subject when he sculpted this bronze.
The single-seater P3 has long been regarded as one of the most beautiful racing machines ever designed. Alfa Romeo's great Vittorio Jano developed the Tipo B P3 for the 1932 Grand Prix season. With Tazio Nuvolari at the wheel, Alfa won in its debut at the Monza Grand Prix in June, and went on to secure its second World Championship after additional victories in both France and Germany.
Without the old requirement for a riding mechanic, Jano was free to make the chassis more compact and streamlined. The straight-eight-cylinder engine was enlarged to 2,654 cc, boosting power to 215 hp and making the car capable of 144 mph when fitted with twin superchargers. The P3's main chassis members were curved upwards over the rear axle and the rear wheels were driven by separate driveshafts from a differential mounted immediately aft of the three-speed transmission. This allowed the driver to sit lower in the chassis to improve handling.
The future looked bright for Alfa's racing efforts in 1933, but an economic crisis was rapidly approaching and racing efforts were left entirely in the hands of Scuderia Ferrari, which would continue to field the P3s in the absence of Alfa's support. In 1934, the P3 engines were bored to 2905 cc, increasing horsepower to 255, and Ferrari managed wins at Monaco, Tripoli, the Targa Florio, Avus and the French Grand Prix.
Mercedes and Auto Union had become formidable opponents, however, and the long-in-the-tooth P3 needed some help. For 1935, it was fitted with a 265-hp, 3165-cc engine, cantilever rear springs, hydraulic brakes and Dubonnet independent front suspension. Still overmatched by the Nazi-backed teams, Nuvolari bested the Third Reich on its home turf, winning the German Grand Prix in one of the great come-from-behind drives of all time.
Chevalier specializes in automotive art from the 1920s and '30s, making this Nuvolari Alfa piece a natural. Chevalier was born in Lyons, France, in 1942 and was exposed to motor racing at an early age. His unique combination of racing experiences and artistic talent led to his development into a respected automotive artist.
This particular sculpture is 13.45 feet in length and weighs 1,794 pounds (that compared to the approximately 1,625 pounds of the real P3). While it is signed and numbered, the numbering system is certainly unique with eight originals cast but an additional four produced. This isn't really much of an issue with regards to exclusivity, though it would be if the numbers got considerably bigger.
The P3 Bronze Sculpture was previously offered by Bonhams in its August 15, 2003, sale in Carmel, CA, but did not sell. RM took its shot at Monterey this past year, tagging the statue with a pre-sale estimate similar to the one from the Bonhams catalog-$50,000-$65,000-but with no reserve.
The $47k paid here might appear to be an over-the-top price at first glance, but a little research indicates that this was more likely a wise purchase. Another piece by Chevalier, the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix-winning Bugatti Type 35B with William Grover at the wheel, made $70,700 at Brooks' August 18, 2000, sale in Carmel.
The Bugatti was slightly smaller than the Alfa pictured here, so by every comparison-including pound per dollar-the P3 was a better buy. And while it is still a pricey piece of yard art, it is a heck of a lot more affordable than buying the real thing.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company){/analysis}

Comments are closed.