Alfa Romeo offered a full range of models within the 6C 2500 line, from the Freccia d'Oro sedans to lightweight competition spiders. Although prewar in its basic design, the post-war 6C 2500s were boldly innovative among their competitors and contemporaries. Introduced in 1939 as a successor to the highly successful 6C 2300, the 6C 2500 was already a highly developed and competent automobile when production resumed in 1946.
The modest Turismo single-carbureted version produced 87 bhp, while the triple-carbureted SS pounded out 105 bhp at 4800 rpm. Built on a 106" wheelbase with a generously braced chassis frame, the 6C 2500 SS was the last of Alfa Romeo's vehicles to be built in series with a separate body and frame. With low-set covered headlights, thin-blade bumpers that reinforced the bright-rimmed horizontal air intakes and a thin chrome hood spear, Pinin Farina gave the 6C 2500 SS cabriolet an elegant and imposing look.
With only 26 6C 2500 SS cabriolets believed to have been built in 1947, this is an extremely rare automobile. Discovered in the early 1970s in the parking lot of a Burbank movie studio, it was first delivered by Alfa Romeo in Milan on April 4, 1948. Acquired by the present owner in the early '80s, the intervening history is unknown but its discovery at a movie studio is nothing if not intriguing. When acquired by the present owner it was apparent that it was completely original and the engine had never been apart. The engine, electrics, brakes, body, paint, brightwork and upholstery were all redone.
This is a crisp, sharp, powerful and distinctive Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS cabriolet with the long legs needed for tours, yet so elegant that it will get a firm round of applause from concours attendees.
This 1947 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Cabriolet sold for $192,500, including buyer's premium, at the Gooding & Co. Pebble Beach sale held August 21, 2005.
Alfa Romeo entered the 1940s as a company on the verge of great change. Although production continued on various 6C models well into 1943, and development work in new V8 and V12 super luxury cars was being done in a hide-away facility in the countryside, already the move away from large-displacement bespoke chassis for the very wealthy had begun. As Alfa had only sold five cars to the general public in 1936, clearly a move down-market was in order.
Under the direction of Wilfredo Ricart, the company's talented and politically connected chief engineer, a group headed by Bruno Trevisan developed a revolutionary small car code-named "Gazelle." This car, a 6C 2000, featured a DOHC aluminum six, with a rear-mounted four-speed transmission and fully independent suspension, and was intended to be the car to take Alfa to new markets at the end of the war.
The reality was rather different. With its factory in rubble thanks to repeated B-17 strikes, and little money available for development work, Alfa assembled the parts left over from earlier 6C 2500 production and reintroduced the model in 1945, when it produced nine cars.
"Production" began in earnest the next year with 165 cars leaving the factory, and was in full swing in 1947, when this car was one of 486 produced. It was more than a miracle that Alfa was actually selling more cars in a very depressed Europe than it had managed to move in the last years of peace.
All this is to say that while the post-war 6C 2500 looked modern, it was really anything but. These cars have a very vintage feel today (although they were advanced in the late '30s), and as the auction company copy alludes, all 105 hp "pounded out" by the triple-carbureted SS engine is needed to bring any sort of grunt to move the rather heavy bodies most of them wore. And the resulting grunt is, at best, a faint one.
As (gently) rolling sculpture, these cars are hard to beat-the sleek lines of Pinin Farina make the car look much smaller than it actually is and abound in neat art deco design details. This 6C 2500 SS Cabriolet was restored to a very high "driver" level and would be terrific for the those 1,000-mile rally/tour events that cover flat states like Texas. Leave the hills of the California Mille to the guys with the Giulietta Veloces.
Given how speed-challenged the SS models are, restoring a standard, single-carb model as a tour car is an act of sheer folly. If you must restore a non-SS, do it for show and display purposes only.
Prices for these big post-war Alfas have been slowly climbing, completely dependent on model, specs and location. Much more popular in Europe than the U.S., they can be had from the mid-$70,000s for the best of the standard factory Freccia d'Oro coupes to over $300,000 for the most desirable Villa d'Este Touring-bodied cars.
The vague Hollywood connection mentioned in the catalog on this 6C 2500 SS Cabriolet is quite likely, given that the first owners of these very expensive cars were most often film stars and playboys, to whom looking good in a car was more important than how fast it was.
Given the condition of the car, its attractive color combination and SS specification, the price paid was market-correct, and perhaps even a bit of a bargain.
(Donald Osborne is a long time Alfa and Etceterini owner, and a candidate member of the American Society of Appraisers. Description in this profile courtesy of the auction company.)