Courtesy of Bonhams
The Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport was an exciting, fast sports car that combined minimum weight with sparkling performance. The chassis was low and lightweight, featuring semi-elliptical springs that passed through the front axle. The 6C 1750 would go on to be victorious over much larger and more powerful machinery in a triumph of balance, quickness and almost thought-control responsiveness. The 1750’s sporting career, aided by its mechanical longevity, extended far beyond its production, amassing numerous wins, including 1-2-3 finishes in the Mille Miglia and top results at Targa Florio, the Tourist Trophy and Spa 24 Hours in 1930. Nuvolari, Marinoni, Ivanowski, Campari and Varzi all recorded successes in Vittorio Jano’s “light car,” and the model is, quite simply, a legend. Having been granted the sole concessionaire for Alfa Romeo in Britain in 1924, F.W. Stiles actively built up the Alfa Romeo brand during the early 1920s, operating as Alfa Romeo British Sales Ltd. Stiles took possession of a batch of competition Alfa Romeos at the start of the 1930 racing season. One of these, 8513028, arrived with no coachwork, to be used mainly in British events, and is documented as the Double Twelve Ivanowski car fitted with its first English racing body. Ivanowski finished 8th overall and was class winner. Following the racing season, chassis number 8513028 features in the Alfa Romeo British Sales Ltd. records as having been bodied for the Motor Show “mounted with Young Coupe, black coachwork and chrome wire wheels.” In January 1931, the 6C 1750 was sold by Stiles under new registration number GN 4568 and tagged as chassis 8513030. It was delivered to its first owner, Lionel G. Maller, on February 6, 1931, as a new car. According to a letter on file from Angela Cherrett dated April 21, 1998, on review of her Alfa Romeo British Sales Ltd archives, Mrs. Cherrett states, “I have discovered a mention of 8513028. This says Car nr. 8513028 Chassis nr 8513028, 1750cc see 8513030 Raced Double 12 Ivanowski’s .....1930, then there is a space in the ledger for the purchaser – L.G.Maller.’” Maller retained the Alfa from 1931 to 1935, and he exchanged it against an 8C 2300 Alfa. The Alfa was then sold to Dr. Lionel Lankester of Guildford, Surrey, in 1935. From Lankester it was acquired by John King of Guildford. In 1957, the car was acquired by the Alfa Romeo enthusiast Geoffrey Wilson, an official of the Alfa Romeo Section of the VSCC. The next change of ownership was in 1961, when the Alfa went to Michael Miller in Scotland, who owned it for some 30 years. He passed the Alfa to a Surrey resident who lives no more than 12 miles from the original place of delivery in 1931. From 1993, the Alfa has seen constant road and rally use, competing in the Nassau Speed Week Revival and driven by Phil Hill, who was a great fan of the 6C 1750. Sympathetically restored in 2013, it retains all of its original major components and James Young coachwork. Considering its fascinating, well-understood and documented provenance, a continuous ownership history, including one of the founder members of the Alfa Romeo Register, all carefully documented in the substantial history file accompanying the car, 8513030 as presented today offers unparalleled historic value, authenticity and originality.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport
Years Produced:1930–33
Number Produced:257 (Gran Sport)
SCM Valuation:$1,100,000–$1,700,000
Tune Up Cost:$1,000
Chassis Number Location:Plate on firewall
Engine Number Location:Intake side, near front
Club Info:Alfa Romeo Register
Alternatives:1930 Delage D8 Grand Sport, 1935 Delahaye 135 Competition, 1932 Bugatti Type 55
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 381, sold for $1,351,515 (€1,184,500), including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Les Grandes Marques du Monde au Grand Palais sale in Paris, France, on February 7, 2015.

This car intrigued me when I read its story in the catalog prior to the sale, and it completely captured me when I stood next to it at the preview in the Grand Palais. In that unbelievably dramatic setting, this low, sleek, black Alfa Romeo took my breath away. I have long been fascinated by competition cars that are given a second act on the motorway and boulevard. The idea of getting dressed in the evening and driving a race-winning car to dinner and the opera is too wonderful to imagine.

Before the function and specification of road and race cars inalterably diverged in the 1960s, such duality was not as inconceivable as it would be today. Can you imagine driving in traffic across the Golden Gate Bridge from your home in Napa Valley into the city for a San Francisco Symphony concert in your recently dealer-purchased, slightly used ex-Team Joest 2014 Audi R18 e-tron Turbo? No, neither can I. Speaking of Le Mans, the French seemed particularly keen on this idea, with many former Delahaye, Delage and Talbot-Lago race cars getting stunning coachbuilt bodies after a victory or two.

Capturing the car’s best time

A challenge for the caretaker of any car when a restoration is considered is that a decision must be made to capture a portrait of the vehicle at a single point in time.

This is further complicated when dealing with a competition car, which by its nature almost always evolves during its planned use. What is the best moment to capture? It could be the moment it left the factory, as originally conceived by its designer; at its most famous race, as piloted by a noted driver; or as modified and developed for its most successful results; or as it existed for the longest period in its life. Any step would be defensible on some level, but only one step is desirable. Any attempt at mixing them can result in a very unsatisfying, non-historic, false object.

Very often, when competition cars were pensioned off by their makers and sold at great profit to new owners, the boulevard bodies they were given are regarded as little more than Groucho Marx eyeglasses with fake eyebrows and nose; something to be tolerated, if not pitied and to be discarded whenever possible. This is especially true in cases when the factory wanted to hide the identity of a former “working” car by stamping a fresh chassis number on the newly minted boulevardier — so its well-heeled owner didn’t know they were paying a new-car price for rather used goods.

The romantic attraction of competition bodywork is so compelling, in fact, that it became almost impossible to find a Derby Bentley saloon or coupe that hadn’t been “improved” with replica Vanden Plas open tourer bodywork. That some of the lost touring bodies on these chassis were arguably as attractive as the coachwork that replaced them — and those touring bodies were certainly a more honest representation of the history of the chassis — is certain.

Turning to Alfa Romeo, while a few hundred 6C 1750 chassis were bodied by Zagato, there are probably more surviving today than ever left their workshop in period.

The right choice rewarded

All this makes it particularly satisfying for me to encounter this Alfa. It had an interesting and very romantic competition history, followed by an interesting post-battle career on the public road with very attractive James Young drophead coupe coachwork. That it retained this body is as much a testament to its various owners through the years as to its great luck in not having been fitted with a more-attractive original racing body. No one seems to have been tempted to toss the heavier road car body in favor of a replica Brooklands Double Twelve one.

Perhaps if Nuvolari instead of Ivanowski had driven the car, the outcome would have been different. We’re all quite fortunate it wasn’t the case. That extensive research also has been done on the car to account for the not-unusual chassis identification number change also helps this case.

This Alfa has spent more of its existence as chassis 8513030 with luxurious James Young coachwork than it did as chassis 8513028 with cycle fenders and no weather equipment. The preservation and restoration of this car has been exemplary, and it was most welcome to see it rewarded in the marketplace. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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