I know a number of extremely knowledgeable individuals who simply state that if they could own only one collector car, it would be an 8C 2300

In the early 1930s, Italian road racing, and motor sport in general, relied on various tiers of competitors to fill the grids: factory entries, successful privateers, loosely organized regional teams, and bold individuals. It was perhaps the most romantic era of motor racing, and was characterized by tremendous variety, national pride, heroism, triumph and tragedy. Generally speaking, the strict amateurs ran Fiat Balillas; gentleman drivers had small-displacement Alfa Romeos and Maseratis; and the most serious competitors, both in talent and funds, largely relied on Alfa Romeo’s Monza.  Comprised of a purpose-built frame, rigid suspension, a highly-tuned supercharged twin-cam,  2.3-liter,  8-cylinder engine and bodywork that could be transformed from a road-going sports car to an open-wheeled Grand Prix machine, the Monza was the ultimate sporting variation of Alfa Romeo’s most celebrated chassis. Presented here is a genuine factory Monza—a car that spent its earliest years in the company of successful Genovese drivers, each a regular at many of the important national events.

The proud owner has described the 8C as having tremendous personality.  It is no wonder words like “thoroughbred” are used to describe the Monza, as a well-sorted example behaves like a living, breathing beast, one that responds to a light rein. This Monza is extraordinarily tight and responsive and reacts like an extension of one’s own thoughts.  Its instantaneous throttle response, smooth linear power curve, and precise gearbox combine to give this car a tremendous degree of balance, composure, and feedback, and a remarkable ability to be drifted through fast corners with ease and great control of the throttle.  The sound alone is worth the price of entry. A mechanical symphony produced by the spinning of gears, supercharger vanes and the whirl of the valve train amplify into the kind of great booming that can only come with a race-tuned, twin-cam straight eight.  No matter how many times you hear the soundtrack of the Monza, it never fails to impress.  There is always a new element to be discovered in its complexity and beauty.

The factory-built 8C Monzas are among the top tier of collector cars, and this is a star among the best of them. When leading 8C authority Simon Moore states, “This is a lovely, original Monza,” how can you argue with its pedigree?

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza
Years Produced:1931-34
Number Produced:188
SCM Valuation:$5.5m to $7m
Chassis Number Location:Firewall bulkhead on plate
Engine Number Location:Right side rear crankcase
Club Info:Alfa Romeo Owners Club, P.O. Box 12340, Kansas City, MO 64116
Website:http://www.aroc-usa.org

This car, Lot 117, sold for $6,710,000 at the Gooding & Company Pebble Beach auction on August 15, 2010.

Probably the best way to start this discussion is to go back to what I was taught as the first rule of collecting: “What was special then is special now, what was ordinary then may be rare now, but it’s still ordinary.”

The 8C Alfas were extraordinarily special when they were new, and racing Monzas are among the few cars that have remained so through their entire careers, morphing seamlessly from competitive racers through desirable exotic drivers to iconic collection anchors without suffering the indignities of dereliction.

Most race car junkies “of a certain age” have stories of old Ferrari and Maserati racers available at junkyard prices during the “just old race cars” times. I bought a Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa in 1972 for $5,000 and the included trade of a used-up Alfa GTV, but the 8C Alfas were never that way.  

The low point in this car’s career was being bought in Venezuela in 1952 for $1,800—the equivalent of  $15,000 today—and it was in pretty rough shape.  

A racer at birth

The mystique of the 8C Alfas has endured undiminished from the 1930s to the present, and it’s interesting to consider why. It’s probably useful to spend a few words discussing the various permutations of the 8C 2300 before getting into more general issues.  Alfa had experienced excellent racing success with the 6C series of cars in the late 1920s, and their management wanted to step up and create a racer that could compete toe to toe with the larger cars from Germany and England.  

The 8C was originally conceived as a pure racer for factory use only, but a combination of Great Depression economics and a surprising list of willing customers quickly turned it into a limited-production car. Though virtually all of them were open sports cars, they came in a variety of chassis lengths and body styles from pure racer to boulevardier.  

The sobriquet “Monza” was applied to the racers in honor of the 1931 win at the Italian Grand Prix, and technically would apply only to the ten factory racing cars, but over time, the term has been applied to all of the competition 8C 2300s, whether factory cars or not. Generally, it means a narrow body (no wider than the frame rails), outside exhaust, short front springs, and a pointed tail cone.  Having fenders that were easy to remove so the car could run open-wheeled was a common characteristic as well.

True greatness in an automobile, particularly when attributed to one constantly for a period of 80 years, is the result of having not just a few characteristics be memorable, but having everything about it work superbly. I know a number of extremely knowledgeable individuals who simply state that if they could own only one collector car, it would be an 8C 2300. The overall experience is that good.

There is a great old saying: “You drive a Bentley (or Mercedes) with your shoulders, you drive a Bugatti with your elbows, and you drive an Alfa with your wrists.” I have driven all of these cars and can attest that the saying is correct. After muscling a Bentley around a mountain road, the lightness, precision, and confidence of an 8C is amazing. It’s hard to believe they were direct competitors. They were, though, with Alfa accomplishing with a relatively small engine in a compact package consistently better results than Bentley or Mercedes with engines twice the size.  In terms of competition success, only the Bugatti Type 35 comes close.

Tough little cars

The small size and relative complexity of the Alfa package did not imply fragility. These Alfas proved amazingly robust, another characteristic of greatness. A substantial number of cars found themselves following expatriate owners to Third World countries after World War II, managing to keep running with effectively no maintenance or support, much less a supply of spare parts. Lesser machines would have given up. In today’s world, with iconic status and devoted, well-heeled owners taking careful care of them, 8C Alfas are virtually indestructible.

The 8C 2300 Alfas have every box ticked; they are beautiful, fast, exotic, extremely successful in competition (then and now), robust, and immensely fun to drive.  They were also very special from the beginning.  

The subject car was originally registered showing a value of 95,000 Lira, which would have been about $9,500 in 1933—or $160,000 in today’s dollars. In the middle of the Great Depression!  For a purpose-built racing car! There’s nothing ordinary about that. The other great thing about 8C Alfas as collector cars is that Simon Moore, in his excellent books on both the 2.3- and 2.9-liter cars, has researched and documented the individual history for every car.  Aside from maybe mechanical condition, there is nothing about any of them you can’t go look up, which makes buying a much less stressful experience.  

Although 8C Alfas have always been relatively valuable, they became the “flavor of the month” and jumped in value about ten years ago. I suspect this was the result of Ferrari collectors realizing that Alfas were their roots and expanding the Ferrari market expectations to include them. At any rate, the values have been in the nosebleed section ever since, with the factory cars leading the pack, and original-bodied, short-chassis examples following closely behind.

From my knowledge of private sales of similar cars, I wouldn’t have been surprised if this car had commanded a bit more than it did. It may be that the economy caused some of the potential players for this kind of purchase to not show up. Perhaps the car’s history wasn’t as attractive to them as I would expect, or maybe it was just the vagaries of an auction. I’d say this car was well bought.

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