Its factory devastated by wartime bombing, Alfa Romeo did not resume car production until 1947, the pre-war 2500C standing the Milan marque in good stead until 1952.

The firm's first all-new offering of the post-war period arrived in 1950. Designed by Dr. Orazio Satta Puliga, the 1900 was the first Alfa to employ unitary construction and was powered by a twin overhead-camshaft engine.

A four-cylinder unit of 1,884 cc and 90 bhp was sufficient to propel the saloon to 93 mph. Although ostensibly a humble family conveyance, the 1900 was endowed with sporting credentials including wishbone and coil spring independent front suspension, and an exceptionally well-located live rear axle. It should have surprised nobody, therefore, when the 1900's potential was realized in the form of two high-performance derivatives. Launched in 1951, the 1900 Sprint featured bodywork by Pinin Farina (cabriolet) and Touring (coupe), both models utilizing the 100 bhp engine of the 1900TI sports saloon. The model was upgraded for 1954, gaining a 1,975 cc engine and five-speed gearbox.

The Series II Sprint pictured here features five-window Superleggera coachwork crafted in aluminum by Touring. The engine is the more powerful two-liter unit dating from 1957 and driving via five-speed gearbox with floor-mounted change. Reportedly approximately $70,000 has been spent on restoration, the mechanical work being undertaken by Al Cortes, and the bare-metal repaint by Bob Mosier. In addition, this "black plate" California car benefits from a completely rebuilt brake system, new wiring harness, and new Michelin tires, and has original Carello driving lights, Connolly leather upholstery, Alfin brake drums, and Borrani wire wheels.

{analysis} This late five-window 1900 was announced sold for $61,900 at the Brooks/USA auction in Carmel on August 15, 1998.

Unfortunately for us, we know more about this car than we should. The engine was from a later, side-draft Solex-equipped two-liter Alfa, and the floor-shift five-speed gearbox as well. On the instrument panel, the gauges were from a later Giulietta. The bumpers and their mounts were missing; the chrome on the driving lights was poor.

We have seen far better 1900s struggle and fail to cross the $40,000 barrier in the U.S., so this sale result can be credited to the power of Brooks/USA in bringing an appreciative buyer to the table.

However, let's hope that the new owner doesn't have plans to resell soon. The incorrect engine and gearbox, while definite improvements in terms of use, should hurt the value for purists. The Giulietta gauges might be considered by some to be an outrage, and will need to be replaced by the nearly-impossible-to-get originals.

1900s have a strong following in Europe and a smaller but equally determined set of fanatics in the U.S., led by SCM subscriber Joost Gompels and his admirable, chock-full-of-information "Irregular 1900 Newsletter."

However, 1900s often languish in the marketplace, and the strong result for this particular car should not be regarded as an indicator that all 1900s have suddenly gained 50% in value. We wish that to be the case, and as former 1900 owners will gladly report it if it happens.

One sale does not a market make, so we will wit to see how other 1900s fare in the public marketplace before declaring a trend.

Market opinions in italics by Keith Martin.


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