1955 Alfa Romeo 1900 C SS Zagato Coupe

Chip Riegel, courtesy of Gooding & Company
Chip Riegel, courtesy of Gooding & Company

The ultra-rare Alfa Romeo 1900 C SS combined the short chassis with a racing-specification engine, gearbox, and revised final-drive ratios — plus air-cooled “Alfin” self-adjusting brakes. The excellent 5-speed manual gearbox featured synchronized second, third and fourth gears, with carefully selected ratios matching the power curve of the twin-cam Tipo 1308 engine. The 1900 series basked in competition success and particularly that of the 1900 C SS, with racing credentials earned at the major races and rallies of the era, including the Targa Florio, Stella Alpina and Mille Miglia.

While over 21,000 1900-series cars were built among many variations, only 854 were the ultimate specification 1900C SS. From introduction, the 1900 received the deft touch of Italy’s finest custom coach builders, including Touring, Ghia and Vignale. Those cars endowed with bodies from Zagato, which utilized ultra-lightweight alloy panel work, yielded even greater performance.

Finished in gray and delivered on May 13, 1955, this Zagato-bodied Alfa Romeo 1900 C SS, chassis AR1900C01947, was sold through the Alfa Romeo dealership at Lucca in Tuscany to Luigi De Paoli, who was known to have owned a succession of fascinating cars. The vehicle returned to Alfa Romeo soon thereafter and was next acquired by Charlie Daniels, a member of the U.S. military in Italy, and Colonel William Kelly. The men campaigned the car jointly until 1957, when Kelly took sole ownership of the car.

Kelly was an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stationed during this time at Camp Darby, an Italian military base for American and NATO military operations beginning about 1951. He served 28 years in the Army, eventually rising to the rank of brigadier general.

While traveling through Europe, Kelly entered club tours and rallies with 01947, with the majority likely organized by the “Scuderia Aurelia” club at Camp Darby. The cloisonné badge of this exclusive club is still affixed to the front of the 1900’s thin aluminum hood. Following Kelly’s return to the United States and a new posting in North Carolina, the C SS was stored unused, in relative secrecy from 1977 onward. Kelly kept the Alfa Romeo for nearly 60 years in all, until the consignor’s recent discovery and acquisition of the car.

As now offered, 01947 is accompanied by a large cache of exceedingly rare parts, spares, trim pieces, manuals and tools — plus a color image of the Zagato coupe, complete with racing number, taken in period at a club event. While the front bumper and left-front cooling duct — along with various other items — are no longer with the car, 01947 is accompanied by the partially assembled 1900 engine that has been with the car since 1956. In sum, this extremely rare and important Zagato garage find is sure to excite the Alfisti everywhere, with wonderful design cues and patina that can only be fully appreciated upon closer examination and consideration by the true enthusiast.