Hand-built and extremely rare, it's the last example of the kind of cars that made the company's reputation between the wars


In 1935, Alfa Romeo introduced a new model, the 6C 2300B. Once again, the work of the great Vittorio Jano was to take Alfa Romeo in a new direction by offering one of the first cars available with fully independent suspension-pure racing technology from the current Grand Prix car.

The influence of this engineer cannot be over-estimated, and his superb work was still being used on Alfa production cars into the early 1950s, long after his departure from the company. Felice Bianchi Anderloni was head of the testing department at Isotta Fraschini. Through a temporary stake from Cesare Isotta and the brothers Fraschini, in 1927 he was able to buy a coachbuilding company, Carrozzeria Falco, which became Carrozzeria Touring of Milan.

He knew the enemy of performance was weight and was determined to deal with the legacy of weight that stemmed from the wood-framed horse carriages of the past. Felice had an idea he had developed from his interest in aircraft construction, a semi-rigid system of stretching aluminum panels over light steel tubes. By 1937, Anderloni's perfected system required a patent, which was secured in the name of Superleggera by Touring of Milan.

At the end of the war, Alfa Romeo's factories had largely been reduced to rubble and they had lost over two-thirds of their production equipment. By 1947, car construction slowly restarted with the prewar 1939 6C 2500 series. Still hand-built on an order for order basis, the factory offered the Freccia d'Oro coupe, and as usual, customers could order their coachwork from a host of Italian and European firms.

The model range included Turismo, Gran Turismo, and Sport on the long chassis and Super Sport and Corsa on the short chassis. The final development of the 2500 Super Sport engine for the road offered 110 hp.

The magnificent Villa d'Este on the shores of Lake Como dates from 1568. By 1925, the ownership passed into the hands of the Municipality of Como, which turned it into a magnificent hotel. In 1929, the first major concours d'elegance for automobiles was held in the surrounds of the hotel. Touring showed a new coupe there in 1949, executed on the 6C 2500 Super Sport, and received the Gran Premio Referendum (People's Choice). Since that day, this design has been designated "Villa d'Este." Just 36 cars in total were made, all coupes except for four cabriolets on the long wheelbase and one short-wheelbase cabriolet.

This 1952 6C 2500 Villa d'Este is one of the last of the series, a long-wheelbase cabriolet from 1952 and has a documented provenance from new, with five U.S. owners, the first of which took delivery in Europe. The present keeper purchased the car in 1997, and that same year a lengthy and detailed restoration was undertaken by Eric Rosenall of Ramona, California.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1952 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Villa d'Este
Original List Price:$5,500 (1952 chassis)
Tune Up Cost:$750
Distributor Caps:$100 (Bosch equivalent)
Chassis Number Location:Bulkhead
Engine Number Location:Intake side of block
Club Info:International 6C 2500 Register
Investment Grade:B

This 1952 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Villa d’Este Cabriolet sold for $825,000 at the Worldwide Group’s Houston Classic auction on May 3, 2008.

Many of us think of concours d’elegance events as gatherings in which carefully restored vintage cars are displayed on a lawn for anal-retentive inspection by judges looking for evidence of dust on the carburetors or errant blades of grass in the tire treads.

Such competitions are more accurately “concours d’etat” or “competition of condition,” rather than those of “elegance.” Most true concours d’elegance took place in Europe in the years between WWI and WWII, and were opportunities for owners to show off their fancy new custom-built cars and for the coachbuilders to discreetly prospect for new business.

The vehicles were driven to a central judging area, accompanied by lithe and elegant young women wearing couture frocks, which complemented the color and feel of a given car’s design. Following WWII, they made a comeback of sorts, and even our own Pebble Beach Concours began in this model in 1950; a “vintage” car did not win best of show until Phil Hill started the tradition with his 1931 Pierce-Arrow taking the top prize.

A masterpiece of design and detail

One of the leading traditional concours in Europe was held at the Villa d’Este on Lake Como in northern Italy. Winning a prize at Villa d’Este almost guaranteed the sale of similar new cars from the manufacturer and was a highly coveted goal. The 6C 2500 was, like most of the European cars of the time, a prewar design. Although they were clothed in the latest fashion, automotive engineering was steadily moving forward, and it was soon clear that more up-to-date chassis were needed to succeed in the postwar world.

Nevertheless, the Alfa was an advanced car for the 1930s and still held its own until the new 1900 model was unveiled in 1950. Its aging chassis notwithstanding, the Touring-bodied 6C 2500 Villa d’Este coupe is, in the opinion of most, including this author, one of the most beautiful cars ever and an absolute masterpiece of design and detail. It incorporates the best of prewar streamlining with postwar unity of form.

It is a perfectly proportioned design and has no bad angles. It is no surprise that it was recognized at the Villa d’Este event; the only remarkable fact is that it “only” won the People’s Choice award rather than the top judged prize, which went to a Ghia-bodied car.

Notice I specifically mentioned the “coupe.” The cabriolet, to my eyes, lacks the complete form of the coupe and seems a bit heavy-looking, especially with the top raised, due to the thick C-pillar. Touring employed many of the visual elements of the Villa d’Este on designs for other chassis, such as the sculpturing around the front end and sweeping fender creases, and these cabriolets in particular are almost dead ringers for the Bristol 402 drophead coupe, not the world’s most lovely car. Still, it is a hand-built, extremely rare Alfa Romeo, the last example of the cars that made the company’s reputation between the wars.

These Villa d’Este cars rarely come up for sale. The last entry in the SCM database is a 1949 coupe, which sold for $256,000 at the 2005 Bonhams Monte Carlo sale (SCM# 38549). For a very long time, the postwar “big” Alfas were not the flavor of the month. The great 6C 1750s, 6C 2300s, and 8C 2900s have long had their diehard adherents. Likewise, the cars of the Giulietta/Giulia era defined the marque for millions of people worldwide.

Eligible for any event or concours on the planet

The postwar 6C 2500 sits uncomfortably between the great prewar and later postwar Alfas. Not particularly fast, even in the three-carb SS configuration, they are mostly appreciated for the great style given them by leading Italian coachbuilders. Still, they’re products of the master engineering of Jano, even if it is his older work, and they are eligible for any event or concours on the planet, including of course the modern show at the Villa d’Este. Now, these 6C 2500s are more desired for their aesthetic attributes than for their dynamic properties, much like the postwar Delahaye 135M.

From the photographs and catalog description of this 1952 6C 2500, it appears to have been restored to a very high standard and remains in excellent condition. It also has a complete ownership history and is one of only five open Villa d’Este cars. As such, determining value is very much a subjective exercise. It’s a classic case of “If you want one, when will the next one be available?” It therefore has to be judged appropriately priced.

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