Amelia Island | Lot 108

1956 Alfa Romeo 1900C SS Coupe by Touring

A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith

$176,000 USD | Sold

United States | Amelia Island, Florida

10 March 2017

Chassis No.
Body No.
AR 1900C 10145
  • The famous “Bumble Bee,” well known to Alfa cognoscenti
  • Desirable Touring Superleggera coachwork with upgraded 2000-specification engine and gearbox
  • Quality older restoration, ideal for rallies and tours
  • Eligible for numerous pre-1957 rally events

Est. 130 bhp, 120.5 cu. in. DOHC inline four-cylinder engine with twin Solex carburetors, five-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with double A-arms, coil springs, and hydraulic shock absorbers; live-axle rear suspension with trailing links, coil springs, and hydraulic shock absorbers; and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 98.4 in.

The 1900 was Alfa Romeo’s first post-war production model, and it showed the direction that the Milan-based company would take in the coming decades. The 1900 was smaller and more compact than the pre-war–influenced 6C 2500, and it was powered by an iron-block and aluminum-head four-cylinder with chain-driven dual overhead camshafts. Alfa continued to extract more power from the two-liter engine, which culminated into 115 horsepower for the SS (Super Sprint) with its five-speed manual transmission.

A variety of one-off and limited-production designs from Bertone, Ghia, Zagato, Touring, and Pinin Farina demonstrated the capabilities of these now legendary artisans on the 1900 “canvas.” Few of these designs are more classic and iconic than the Touring “three-window” coupe, built to their famous lightweight Superleggera process.

Orin Smith’s beloved 1900 C SS was originally delivered on 3 August 1956 to an Italian client by the name of Mario Carini. It subsequently went to Germany, then in 1969 to San Diego, California, and has remained in American ownership ever since. A subsequent cosmetic restoration in 1989, by Domenico Scaduto of Escondido, California, saw it refinished in the present bright yellow and black hues, a striking and iconic combination inspired by the original Touring design sketch for the model. Enthusiasts quickly and affectionately nicknamed this car “the Bumble Bee,” a moniker that has stuck ever since.

The “Bee” was subsequently sold in the late 1990s to longtime West Coast Alfa Romeo enthusiast Dennis Birkhimer. Thousands of dollars of invoices on file indicate the high degree of preparation that went into making the car a suitable rally car during Birkhimer’s ownership, including rebuilding the gearbox with custom ratios, and addressing preparation of the cooling system, drivetrain, suspension, electrical system, and the engine, which is an upgraded Alfa Romeo 2000 unit, as is the gearbox itself. The shock absorbers, brake master cylinder, and countless other items were replaced or modified to ensure superb performance. Afterwards, Mr. Birkhimer enjoyed the car in both the Tour Auto and the California Mille.

The car’s restoration shows that enthusiastic use, with minor blemishes limited to areas of cracking and minor chipping, but in a charming and patinaed fashion; correct glass and lamps are present throughout, including Carello headlights. The interior features Zagato-style seats, a desirable upgrade, as well as a rare flat Nardi steering wheel and fully restored instruments, while the engine compartment is tidily presented, with its Solex carburetors. Both spare and jack are tucked away in the trunk.

Mr. Smith loved to drive this car, which is obvious upon inspection. The “Bumble Bee” will suitably be loved by a new owner, as it is eligible for the California Mille and numerous other significant tours and rallies all over the world.

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