Probably the greatest sports car of the pre-war years was Alfa Romeo's 8C 2900B, a supercharged straight-eight grand prix racing car with two-seater sports body, versions of which were designed by several of Italy's finest coachbuilders. While some of these designs were winning the prestigious Concours d'Elegance at the celebrated Villa d'Este, others were winning on the racetracks and the surviving examples are highly sought after and extremely valuable.

Of all the versions made, possible the most beautiful, famous and successful was the Spyder Corsa bodied by Carrozzeria Touring. In the hands of Celmente Biondetti, one of these won the 1938 Mille Miglia at an average speed of 84.6 mph (135.391 kmh), a record not beaten for some fifteen years, and in second place was its sister team car, driven by Pintacuda, who set up a record for the sections from Firenze to Pisa with an average speed of 132.1 mph (211.42 kmh).

With only two of these cars surviving the chance of purchasing one, even if one were fortunate enough to have the considerable funds necessary, are extremely slim. An alternative was created in 1995 by the Appennine Car Company, who have meticulously built a faithful replica, incorporating modern features to enhance performance and safety.

With the absence of an available straight eight engine, the decision was taken to manufacture one from scratch, using two in-line four-cylinder, two-liter Alfa Romeo units as a basis, joined lengthways and incorporating new camshafts and crankshafts, running in ten main bearings and breathing through four twin-choke side-draft Weber 40 DCOE carburetors. The resulting power output is 251 bhp, some ten percent more than the original supercharged unit.

The engineering skill and craftsmanship employed to create this new engine can be seen throughout the construction of the whole car. As on the original car, a transaxle is utilized, being donated by an Alfetta, but rather than the rear swing axles and transverse leaf spring of the original, a de Dion set up is incorporated, and all-round disc brakes provide improved stopping power compared to the original car's drums. With reduced weight, greater power, improved brakes and suspension, over-performance and ease of driving are significantly superior to the original, embarrassing most of today's sportcars.

The stunning Touring coachwork was faithfully recreated in aluminum from facsimile copes of the drawings and the overall effect is quite awe inspiring. As the current owner of Biondetti's original Mille Miglia-winning car said, "You have done a magnificent job and certainly you have captured the flawless lines of this great car."

The new car's public debut was at the Earls Court Motor Show, having previously appeared in an unfinished state at the NEC Classic and Sportscar show. Since then many motoring magazines have featured the car, including such well-known titles as "Classic and Sportscar," "Car and Driver," and "Auto Italia," to name just three. Additionally, an appearance was made on BBC's "Top Gear," when driven and enthused over by Tiff Needell.

With a build cost of over $420,000, this superb replica of one of history's all time motoring legends became available for a fraction of that cost. Additionally, the purchaser was to be offered the opportunity to purchase separately some of the tooling, including boy bucks and engine blueprints, and if required, the remaining assets of the Appennine Car Company and assistance should further examples be desired.

{analysis} Coys of Kensington, London, on 15 May, 1997, sold the Appennine 3.9 for $100,800; no word if the new buyer decided to "purchase the remaining assets of the corporation" so that they could continue to build A3.9s and sell them at a net loss of somewhere around $300,000 each.

The A3.9 stands as another monument to the automotive reality of "If you build it, they won't come." Although Martin Swig and Ken Shaff waxed euphoric about this fakey-doo assemblage of bits (albeit masterfully constructed), at the end of the day neither they nor any other Alfa fanatic on the planet was willing to step up and pay big bucks for the prototype 3.9. when it was actively being offered for sale prior to its auction appearance.

Replidoo-dads will always have an extremely limited market, and their builders never recoup their costs unless they figure their construction labor at somewhere under five cents per hour.

Perhaps the final nail in the price coffin of the 3.9 was its Alfetta-derived transaxle. Imagine, there you are cruising in your near-half-million-dollars-to-create-car, and an Alfetta sedan (value $1,500) owner honks and waves to you as a fellow Alfetta owner. The horror! - ED.

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