The Berlinetta Aerodinamica was the ultimate evolution of Carrozzeria Touring’s technical and aesthetic achievements prior to WWII. Conceived for the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1939, the Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Super Sport Berlinetta Aerodinamica was the refined successor to the 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Le Mans Berlinetta. It is the pinnacle of pre-war Italian design, combining the best of elegance, aerodynamics, and competitive purpose.
The original Berlinetta Aerodinamica was last seen at the Mille Miglia in 1940 and unfortunately never surfaced in the 70 years that followed. According to Luigi Fusi in Alfa Romeo All Cars from 1910, only 33 pre-war 6C 2500 Super Sport chassis were built by Alfa Romeo, and this car is based on one of these rare competition chassis. The car was found in Eastern Europe in 1989 just following re-unification. At that time, the chassis carried post-war cabriolet coachwork created by an unknown builder, and a pre-war 6C 2500 engine that remains with the car. The cabriolet coachwork was later removed and the chassis was carefully examined and declared an authentic 2700-mm pre-war 6C 2500 SS chassis by Automotoclub Storica Italia (ASI). There is no known record of its original coachwork.
The car was purchased in 2003 by its current owner and a demanding restoration effort was completed in Italy in 2007. The final coachwork and exquisite details were finished by Ing. Cognolato, and the mechanical aspects were completed by Nino Epifani in a manner consistent with period Super Sport specifications.
|1969 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Berlinetta Aerodinamica
|33 (pre-war SS)
|Original List Price:
|$4,130 (1939 6C chassis)
|$748,000 on this day
|Tune Up Cost:
|Chassis Number Location:
|Cross-member of chassis, plate on right side of firewall
|Engine Number Location:
|Intake side of block
|Alfa Romeo Owners Club PO Box 12340, Kansas City, MO 64116
This car sold for $748,000, including buyer’s premium, at Gooding & Company’s Amelia Island Auction in Amelia Island, Florida, on March 12, 2010, against a pre-sale estimate of $800k to $1.3m.
I can personally vouch for the craftsmanship of this Alfa, as well as the deliciously purposeful style of the streamlined competition berlinetta coachwork. Watching this impressive confection whistle through the Rocky Mountains on the 2008 Colorado Grand presented a stirring sight, all the more so when observed over the radiator shell of my ex-Eddie Hall racing Bentley.
While the sale price was indeed substantial, it is the pre-sale estimate that tells us the auctioneer’s expectations. That this Alfa sold on the short side of the estimate deserves some analysis. It is incontrovertible that had this car been the lost original, the price would have been several multiples of the near-$750k it made.
Value factors of this striking re-creation
If we examine Alfa Romeos, we can see a product trajectory of sheer profligacy of concept and design that achieves its apex with the 40-or-so 2900 8Cs. In the early 1930s, financial exigency forced Alfa to introduce a more rational, unsupercharged secondary line, and ultimately, the successor to the 8C series. The 6C 2300/2500 was based on the original Vittorio Jano-designed 1500 6C (but now incorporating chain-driven valve gear). For economic reasons, the 6C 2300, soon to be 2500, was mass-produced rather than artisan-fettled.
Lasting into the early 1950s, the 2500 still represented an elitist product equipped with state-of-the-art features found on the incomparable 2900: independent suspension, hydraulic brakes, twin-cam architecture, and even, in select examples, Touring coachwork strongly evocative of the antecedent 2900s. In many ways, the spectacular “Broadway theater” that was the 2900 was brought back in the 2500 as “summer stock”-wonderful in its own way but distinctly re-run.
Nevertheless, were the authentic 2500 SS berlinetta still to exist, it would likely command a multi-million-dollar price by virtue of its one-off status, its Le Mans and Mille Miglia history, its modern event eligibility, and, of course, its prized, no-nonsense competition-weapon look.
No shortage of “pixie dust”
The auctioneer made a brave effort in the catalog to cast as much “pixie dust” as possible, expounding on the accuracy of the re-creation, and the interest that Carlo Anderloni of Touring took. Critically, the catalog emphasizes that the basis for our subject replica is one of the extraordinarily rare, Scuderia Ferrari-built and uniquely configured “256” series 6C 2500 SS chassis.
Without that correct chassis type, there would be no legitimate basis for the project. Problematically, contemporary Alfa records from the immediate pre-war period are incomplete due to the effects of Allied bombing. Angelo Tito Anselmi’s definitive monograph, Alfa Romeo 6C 2500, notes gaps in the known “256” chassis number sequence. Our subject car’s chassis number and engine number are both unattested. While this lacuna is by no means a fatal flaw, our car’s legitimacy depends solely on the certification of its chassis as a genuine “256” series unit by the experts referenced in the catalog text. This issue does present a quandary that needs to be dealt with by any potential buyer.
Conundrum: Is replica coachwork a serious defect?
Finally, we come to the question of replica coachwork on a genuine chassis. I would suggest that there are three levels of acceptability for replica-bodied cars. First, there is a car fitted with an exact copy of its missing coachwork, exactly as it existed as original to the chassis. This is the least problematic re-body. Fred Simeone, in his talk at the 2010 Connoisseurship Symposium, stated that replica coachwork commands less of a discount from the value of a complete and original car than seems appropriate in today’s market.
Replicated coachwork is a very major element of an automobile, and all the more so if the original coachwork is special. That today’s market assigns too small a discount is an imponderable. Nevertheless, I expect to see that discount for re-bodies grow over time as collectors recognize the consummate historical importance of original bodywork.
Too difficult to estimate the market “bump”
At the second tier of acceptability is a vehicle fitted with replica coachwork of the correct type of chassis from the same series-the case with our subject. This Alfa is all the more appealing, as the original it emulates has not been seen since 1940, and was, in all probability, a war casualty. Consequently, the 6C 2500 SS Berlinetta Aerodinamica can only ever exist as a re-creation. Carefully considered re-creations of important lost cars have some real justification.
However, we should not lose sight of the fact that the historic value of such efforts is much more modest. In any event, it is a truism that higher-aesthetic-value coachwork seems to gravitate naturally to chassis either bereft of original bodies, or to those fitted with more mundane examples. The inherent value increase such new “couture” gives to a car often results, rightly or wrongly, in a real monetary increase, too. This is the effect we see here with the SS replica. It was the difficulty of estimating this market “bump” that threw out the broad auction estimate.
Lastly, and least acceptable, of course, is the re-created body grafted to a chassis that is improper for the body in question. These efforts are wholly illegitimate, and are generally severely discounted in the market.
In the case of our berlinetta reproduction, the market both recognized the less spectacular nature of the 6C 2500 series in Alfa lore, as well as reflected the replica nature, however finely wrought, of the offering. While the seller was surely hoping for more, this sale was fair for both parties involved.