1939 Alfa Romeo at PVGP
I am the owner of the above mentioned vehicle which was displayed at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix this weekend. It has been shown only twice before in the US ... at the Amelia Island and St Michael's (MD) Concours in 2008. I brought it to Pittsburgh this past weekend mainly for the benefit of the BMW Club as BMW was the honored marque. As many of you know, this design was also the basis for the 328 Coupe which is the most famed BMW of the pre-war period.
I wish the original body still existed, but to this point (70 years later) it has never surfaced. I wish we knew which chassis it was matched with ... but we do not. I have reviewed the factory Le Mans records from 1939 and they include every important fact but one ... the chassis number. I have researched the Milan registration number which matches to 915007 an "open car." I am not aware of any credible evidence of a match between a specific serial number and the 1939 Le Mans body. I have more work to do ... and those that know me can attest to my diligence. If you have information I would be most grateful for your help.
This project was an important project for Carlo Felice Bianci Anderloni. He wrote a brief monograph on the subject where he stated his motivation to bring back what has been forever lost. If we were ever to realize this magnificent shape in metal again who better than Ing Anderloni to oversee the project? In this case he engineered and guided the reconstruction as close as he possibly could to the vanished original. On a proper prewar Tipo 256 chassis and drive train.
This was a painstaking project which took years to complete to the standard which is evident when you see the car. In the end Ing Anderloni stated that it was correct to his exacting standards ... an accurate reconstruction of the 1939 Le Mans Berlinetta Coupe. Its the best point of reference I could ask for.
I continue my research on this period and these interesting cars. I have had additional incentive over the years as the former owner of one of the "standard bodied" 328 cars that ran at Le Mans along with the 328 Coupe and Alfa Coupe. Its a tough period for research as much was lost.
For those that are interested ... it is a fantastic driving car. In addition to the shows mentioned above it also took part in the Colorado Grand last year. 1000 miles is a great introduction to the dynamics of this stellar vehicle. Although a short wheel base ... its quite a large car. But it can still be put though the corners with ease. It was comfortable and very "eventable." It was cool in the cabin even on very hot days ... the wind vents in the front when lifted provide adequate ventilation. A delight to look at and joy to drive.
Below you can read the necessarily brief description I provided for the "Italian Cortile" show where it was photographed on Saturday. Later that day it was returned to the paddock after charity runs on the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix course.
"This is a 1939 Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 with reconstructed aerodynamic berlinetta Touring coachwork. It is the only correct example in existence. The underlying Tipo 256 chassis and drive train were rediscovered in 1993 with postwar cabriolet coachwork of unknown origin. The reconstuction of this highly complex superleggera (super-light) aluminum body was realized through a collaboration between the former head of Carrozzeria Touring, Carlo Felice Bianci Anderloni; master coachbuilder Dino Cognaloto; and rare archive documents provided by Alfa Romeo. The coachwork was completed in Italy in 2003 just prior to Anderloni’s death. It was the famed designer’s final project.
In 1939, Alfa Romeo created this very special aerodynamic design for the Le Mans 24 hour race. The Tipo 256 featured independent suspension; perfect 50/50 weight distribution; and a 6 cylinder 2500 cc un-supercharged race engine tuned by Ferrari for the Alfa Romeo racing organization (Alfa Corse). This is one of approximately a dozen surviving examples of the 1939/40 Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 model. All of the Tipo 256 cars were originally bodied with superleggera bodies by Carrozzeria Touring – but nearly all were spiders (open race cars). Few, if any, are believed to retain their original coachwork as these former race cars were typically rebodied during the WWII to make fast transport for senior German and Italian officers. Unfortunately, the Alfa Romeo production records for these cars were destroyed during the war.
This aerodynamic berlinetta design was both beautiful and extremely advanced for 1939. Vestiges of this seminal design can be seen more than 20 years later in the Corvette split-window coupe, Jaguar E-type coupe and many fastback coupés that followed.
The design also has an important link to BMW – the honored marque of the 2009 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. In 1939, BMW management saw the Alfa Romeo berlinetta being built at Carrozzeria Touring and requested a similar body be built for one of their BMW 328 chassis. This famous car won its class at Le Mans in 1939, won the Mille Miglia in 1940, and today is the centerpiece of the BMW museum collection in Munich.
The 1939 Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 Berlinetta Touring is owned by Mark Gessler of Potomac, Maryland."