1935 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Pescara Spyder

“La bella figura” means presenting the best face to the world. Mussolini wore tailored uniforms and was equally attentive to his cars

{vsig}2008-6_2184{/vsig}

By the early 1930s, Alfa Romeo was accumulating silverware and losing money in seemingly equal measure. It was rescued by the state-backed I.R.I. (Institute for Industrial Reconstruction). To attract new customers while maintaining the marque’s sporting credentials, the 6C 2300 was launched at the 1934 Milan Motor Show. Successor to the iconic 6C 1750 and stopgap 6C 1900, it was powered by a clean-sheet 2,309-cc DOHC straight-6 engine available in three states of tune, the most powerful of which developed 95 hp at 4,500 rpm.

To celebrate its victory in Pescara’s Targa Abruzzo and Coppa Acerbo, Alfa Romeo sanctioned the production of just 60 6C 2300 Pescara chassis, all of which shared the same 2,925-mm wheelbase and potent twin carburetor engine. Chassis 700635 was supplied new to Benito Mussolini on August 10, 1935. A long-term supporter of the Milanese marque, who once described it as a “national jewel,” the fascist dictator owned twelve Alfa Romeos.

His chauffeur and confidante, Ercole Boratto, was an ex-Alfa Romeo test driver, who said that Mussolini “adored machines, especially motor cars and parading about in them. He loved to be recognized by the people and to be noticed principally by the female sex…. If by chance some young thing caught his eye, he was quite capable of taking the same street several times in succession so as to pass by the target woman.”

The bodywork fitted to chassis 700635 did not have an easy genesis. Bereft of any bulletproof glass or armor plating, the Spyder was initially rejected by Mussolini, not because it lacked such protective measures but due to the absence of a rumble seat. Rarely without his chauffeur, Il Duce perhaps felt the need to accommodate any “target women” he might encounter. To raise the height of the car’s rear deck to integrate the new due posti dietro seating, the spare was made almost flush with the bodywork, the fuel tank was repositioned, and the rear wings reshaped to fit a discreet fold-away step. The bonnet was altered so that cooling vents ran horizontally rather than vertically, giving the impression of greater length.

Mussolini was delighted with the result and duly paid 50,000 lira-something of a discount on its true cost. The only open 6C 2300 of a quartet entered for the 1936 Mille Miglia, chassis 700635 was piloted by Boratto and Guido Mancinelli. The duo finished a strong 3rd in the over 2-liter unsupercharged class and 13th overall.

Reconfigured as a road car, the Pescara remained in Il Duce’s possession until November 1939. Bought back by Alfa, chassis 700635 then passed to a lesser Fascist Party official. Hidden away at the end of World War II, it was acquired from his relatives in 1972. Still highly original, it was treated to a mechanical overhaul and took part in the Mille Miglia retrospective before entering the current ownership during May 1995. After several years, it was restored by Dino Cognolato. As a just reward for the meticulous care and attention to detail that went into the rejuvenation, the Pescara placed second in class at the 2005 Pebble Beach concours.

As far as we are aware, this 6C 2300 Pescara Spyder is the only first-generation 6C 2300 Pescara to have been bodied as a Spyder by Touring.