Courtesy of Bonhams
The example offered here is one of 11 Corto Gara (Short, Competition) models built, of which only three were Stradale (road-going) versions like this car. Only two of the Stradale models survive (this car and chassis 01361), with chassis 01047 being the sole surviving Corto Gara. All were supplied with an up-rated engine. Built exclusively for racing, the lightweight Corto Gara models boasted a split windscreen, Plexiglas rear windows, a special dashboard and a fixed boot lid. The bumpers were deleted. There were, of course, numerous more minor differences in addition. The better-equipped Corto Gara Stradale featured tubular bumpers, lightweight door panels, Plexiglas windows, an abbreviated boot lid, and a cockpit air extractor. According to the Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo, chassis 01420 was completed on July 22, 1953, and originally finished in Grigio/Azzuro (Gray/Blue). The car was delivered new to Tessiture Italiane Seriche SpA of Milan, and subsequently was sold to a Mr. Detwiller in Switzerland, who in turn sold it on to Sweden. Chassis 01420 was still in Sweden when it was discovered — in barn-find condition and minus its original engine — by the well-known German racing driver Hans-Joachim Rössing. Mr. Rossing continued to race his other 1900 coupe but left chassis 01420 unrestored. While racing, he met fellow competitor Elviro Mario Govoni, who bought chassis 01420 from him in 1989, although the car’s restoration did not begin until 1993. Officina Gamberini of Bologna, Italy, tuned the engine, which is of period-correct type, while the bodywork was entrusted to Mario Galbiati. It was at Galbiati’s workshop that the previous owner first saw the Alfa Romeo and fell in love with it, purchasing the car from Mr. Govoni a few months later. Chassis 01420 remained in France, unfinished, until 2007, when it was sent to Italy for completion by some of the country’s foremost specialists, a process that would take the next three years.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1953 Alfa Romeo 1900 Corto Gara Stradale Coupe by Touring
Years Produced:1952–53 (Corto Gara)
Number Produced:11 (total)
Original List Price:Unknown
SCM Valuation:$344,000 (for a 1900 5-window coupe)
Tune Up Cost:$475
Chassis Number Location:Engine bulkhead, stamped into metal
Engine Number Location:Intake side of block
Club Info:Alfa Romeo 1900 Register
Alternatives:1953 Lancia B20 S2, 1953 Maserati A6G/2000 Allemano, 1953 Fiat 8V Rapi
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 114, sold for $494,068 (€414,000; €1=$1.16), including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Les Grandes Marques à Monaco auction on May 11, 2018.

The eight commonly acknowledged and known Corto Gara competition cars were all built in 1952, well before this car, which came 300 chassis numbers later.

It is probable that a well-known client of Alfa and/or Touring admired the lightweight coupes seen in the leading events of the day and requested one similar to enjoy on the road. Once the first was built, it inspired the next two.

They seemed conceived as gentlemen’s transport rather than privateer racers like the Giulietta Sprint Veloce Alleggerita was to be. Sharing with the competition cars the alloy-framed side windows, along with the hollowed-out door panels, the car has an immediate racing look. But adding the 6C 2500 “Villa d’Este”-style tubular bumpers and a trunk lid along with bright trim on the bottom of the fenders and doors provides usefulness and a bit of welcome bling.

The race cars also had a no-nonsense, function-over-style narrow-slab dashboard with instruments spread across it. Corto Gara Stradale chassis 01361, also built in 1953, has a modified version of that dashboard, with a shaped instrument binnacle. Our subject car has a standard 1st Series 1900 Sprint dashboard, which seems luxuriously incongruous above the un-upholstered gearshift-tunnel cover.

A little history

This very car sold at RM Auctions’ Monaco sale in May 2012 (SCM# 201751). At that time it achieved €240,800, or $311,836 at the then-current exchange of €1=$1.29. By any objective measure, it seems to have proved a clever investment by the buyer in 2012, as it brought over 35% more in U.S. dollars this time around — and an almost 42% increase in euros, the consignor’s currency. That is indeed impressive considering the restoration is now eight years old. This speaks to the greatly heightened interest in having unusual pedigreed cars at multiple events.

A long time in the garage

In 2012, the SCM auction analyst graded our subject car as a 1-. This year, it only earned a 3+. This is somewhat surprising given the fact that it had only covered 332 km (206 miles) in the interval between sales. The Alfa seems to have simply begun to age without benefit of actual use.

It is a very good thing that on this day it performed better financially than it seems to have been given a chance to on the road. After all those years in restoration shops, the poor thing has never had a chance to live.

As I have written before — and never tire of sharing — all Alfa 1900s offer a wonderful driving experience, and a short-wheelbase, lightened coupe version would greatly enhance that. It is unimaginable to me that anyone would own a car such as this and not actually use it.

This car is lovely and rare to the point of actually being unique. Once sorted, it will be a blast to drive.

More work ahead

The car will need major sorting. This 1900 began its restoration journey in 1993, and, through fits and starts, was completed in 2010.

It has been unused since.

The new owner may even decide that a major freshening of the restoration in is order. There are a number of details that should be addressed, especially under the hood.

With the interest, attention and rising values of special Italian cars of the 1950s and 1960s, a restoration of a 1900 like this would be approached in a rather different way today than it was when this began decades ago.

I hope the new owner will do just that and enjoy this car on rallies, tours, events and shows — to share it with as many people as possible. This car was well sold, but it was appropriately bought if it is actually used in the future. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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