Blanco and this Reo scored podium finishes for 22 years-from 1931 to 1954-a monumental accomplishment
Car collectors have known for a long time that some of the greatest barn finds have come out of Argentina, but not many realize why this is so. To understand, it is necessary to appreciate Buenos Aires in the inter-war years.
Argentina was at that time the world’s third largest economy, and motor racing was virtually the national sport. Some of the greatest drivers came from this vibrant motoring world, including Juan Manuel Fangio. As great as Fangio was, Ernesto Blanco was the national hero. Unlike Fangio, he never went to Europe to race, but in Argentina, his record was unsurpassed.
Ernesto Blanco’s Reo was designed by Macoco de Alzaga and Luis Viglione one afternoon in 1930. “We were trying to copy the “Gold Seal Special” of Guadno, which was a gorgeous car,” said de Alzaga. The body was new, but the car was mechanically very similar to the Chrysler they were copying. They kept the Reo engine, rated at 125 hp, although displacement was increased to around 7 liters. They fitted Winfield carburetors and a custom exhaust manifold, but changed little else. According to de Alzaga, the result was good for 180 hp-190 hp, more than enough to be competitive. The standard Reo “silent second” transmission was retained, as was the spiral-bevel rear axle.
The chassis was not so easy. The original Reo frame was very high, and they found it necessary to modify the rear of the chassis by increasing the curvature and lowering the frame down over the axle. In addition, the front-to-rear weight balance was lopsided, given the huge size and weight of the inline 8-cylinder engine, so they moved the drivetrain back several inches. Volpi brakes were added later.
Blanco began racing this car in September 1931, and in what is believed to be its first outing, he finished second. Over the next ten years, Blanco would earn an astonishing twelve 1st place finishes, along with five 2nd and a half dozen 3rd and 4th place finishes. Although Blanco retired the Reo in 1955, he continued racing until just before his death in 1961. After Blanco’s death, the Reo wound up in a farmer’s field in rural Argentina, where it was found by Roberto Vigneau. He restored it to the way it was when Blanco raced it, in respect for its heritage as an Argentinean national treasure.