1934 Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3

Sold For €3.920.000

Paris


Chassis No.
Scuderia Ferrari no.
50006
46

Documents: Proof of EC Taxes Paid

  • The 6th of 7 second-series wide-body examples
  • One of three examples originally fitted with Dubonnet independent front suspension and reversed quarter-elliptical leaf springs
  • Campaigned by Scuderia Ferrari during the 1934 and 1935 Grand Prix seasons
  • Driven by racing luminaries including Tazio Nuvolari and Rene Dreyfus
  • Well-documented ownership history; extremely authentic example
  • Sensational example of the first monoposto Grand Prix model
  • One of Alfa Romeo’s most important pre-war race cars
255 bhp 2,905 cc DOHC supercharged inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, front Dubonnet independent suspension, rear live-axle suspension with reversed quarter-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,642 mm

THE ALFA ROMEO MONOPOSTO

In late 1931, Alfa Romeo engineer Vittorio Jano began designing a new Grand Prix car to compete with the latest models from Bugatti and Maserati. While a 2.6-litre version of Alfa’s successful inline eight-cylinder was chosen as a powerplant, Jano sought a more purpose-built chassis and body than the sports car-style Monza spiders.

Using the two-seat P2 Grand Prix car as a foundation, Jano engineered an extremely light chassis, which he mounted with new centreline slipper-style single-seat coachwork that placed the driver at the car’s exact centre, for ideal weight distribution. The resulting Tipo B, or P3, was noteworthy, as it was the first Grand Prix car to feature monoposto coachwork configuration.

Weighing just 701 kilograms, the Tipo B was immediately successful during the 1932 season, as the legendary Tazio Nuvolari won the Monza Grand Prix, and team cars took 1-2-3 finishes at the French and German Grand Prix. Six initial Tipo B examples were built with the original 1932 specifications.

After the Great Depression forced Alfa Romeo into government receivership in 1933, the manufacturer was financially prohibited from racing expenditures and formally withdrew from competition. Management took exception, however, when the Maserati brothers’ newer monoposto car beat an older 8C Monza being run by the Scuderia Ferrari, and consequently decided to entrust the newest factory cars to its unofficial team. The Scuderia Ferrari took full advantage of the Tipo B, using it to win the Coppa Acerbo and the Italian and Spanish Grand Prix.

In 1934, formula rules changed to demand wider and heavier cars, and Alfa complied by widening the bodywork on the original five P3 cars. A batch of seven additional examples was then built to the newer specifications, and these cars received larger 2.9-litre engines. Numbering sequentially from chassis number 50001, these wide-body cars were often identified by their Scuderia Ferrari number.

The new cars continued to perform admirably, winning in Monaco, Alessandria, Tripoli, and Casablanca, as well as the Targa Florio. By mid-1934, however, the competition had caught up and the Tipo B’s dominance began to wane, though Louis Chiron and Achille Varzi contributed to a 1-2-3 finish at the French Grand Prix, while Varzi won the event at Nice later that year.

During the off-season, Enzo Ferrari enticed Nuvolari to return to the Scuderia, and the Tipo B cars were further modified with the introduction of Dubonnet-style independent front suspension and reversed quarter-elliptical leaf springs at the rear (which Nuvolari had pioneered to great effect with the Bugatti Type 59). In this configuration, Nuvolari won the 1935 Pau and German Grand Prix, while Carlo Pintacuda won the Mille Miglia, and Chiron and Brivio finished 1-2 at the Targa Florio. Numerous other wins followed at minor events like at Bergamo, Biella, Turin, and Dieppe.

SCUDERIA FERRARI NUMBER 46

Chassis number 50006 is the sixth example of the seven second-series wide-body cars, and one of three originally fitted with the Dubonnet suspension and reversed quarter-elliptical leaf springs (as opposed to being converted by the factory following initial manufacture). Stamped with Scuderia Ferrari number 46, this car interchangeably participated in the campaigns of 1935 with the other Tipo B cars. Individual chassis records were not recorded by the factory or the Scuderia, so it is nearly impossible to determine with any certainty which chassis was used in any given race. It is nevertheless strongly believed that this car was piloted and tested by vaunted drivers like Nuvolari and Varzi. However, it can be proven that this car was indeed campaigned at the 1935 Masyrk Grand Prix in Brno, Czechoslovakia, with Antonio Brivio, placing 4th overall. For the 1935 season, the Tipo B proved to be a highly competitive car and accrued a number of overall victories that year, including at the Targa Florio and Nuvolari’s highly celebrated victory at the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring

In late 1936, the Scuderia Ferrari sold this P3 to Frank Ashby, an English engineer who ran the car at the Brighton Speed Trials in October. He continued to campaign it in hill climbs and other events over the next two years at venues like Brooklands. When the original engine began to crack, Ashby built and installed a new cylinder head and undertook modifications to the radiator and exhaust. His local racing exploits were covered by the British motoring press in magazines like Motor Sport and The Light Car. Ashby later emigrated to Sydney, Australia, where he reportedly befriended a young Jack Brabham and recommended engineering modifications that helped propel the talented driver to his successful multi-championship career.

The Tipo B was sold in 1946 to Ken Hutchison, a wealthy British enthusiast who wrote about his experiences with the car in an extended cover feature in the January 1948 issue of Motor Sport magazine. The Alfa’s road manners were also described in a 1947 issue of The Motor as being ‘marvellous, even, and tight . . . the whole car seemed absolutely perfectly balanced.’

The car continued to see racing use through 1950, sold to enthusiast Joe Goodhew in the winter of 1949. In 1953, he sold the car to John McMillan of New Zealand, who immediately campaigned it in the New Zealand GP in January 1954. The Tipo B saw additional time on the local circuit through the ownerships of Ernie Sprague and Bill Harris of Christchurch. Leon Witte of Lyttleton then purchased the car and undertook restoration of the bodywork.

Prior to 50006 making its way to New Zealand, modifications to the bodywork were carried out to an otherwise extremely original 50006. During 50006’s life in England, a narrow body had been constructed and fitted. Leon Witte decided that the car should be put back to its original wider cockpit as campaigned by Scuderia Ferrari. At the time of restoration, Bill Clark owned 50005, and an exact copy of the original wide cockpit used during the Scuderia Ferrari era was crafted using 50005 as a guide. According to the noted Alfa Romeo historian Simon Moore’s Magnificent Monopostos text, it is believed that ‘only the centre section of the body had to be replaced, the rest being original’. Further evidence of this is noted in a photograph of both Leon Witte and Bill Clark with 50006 and 50005, respectively, with only the centre section appearing new. This is further confirmed by an inspection report on file. The Alfa was purchased around 1990 by one of Japan’s foremost collectors, Yoshiyuki Hayashi.

In 2000, chassis number 50006 was purchased by noted American collector Bruce McCaw, who retained the car until 2007. At that time, the Tipo B was purchased by Umberto Rossi, and he commissioned an inspection and report from both the esteemed Hall & Hall in Lincolnshire, England, and one of the most pedigreed British motor racing authors and experts (who had previously inspected the car during Hayashi’s ownership).

Today, thanks to a remarkable unbroken chain of documented ownership, chassis 50006 is confirmed to retain almost all factory-original components. It is truly remarkable that in the car’s 80-plus year history, it was never derelict nor neglected like so many other cars. It has remained intact all its life and was never rebuilt from an assemblage of parts or discarded for years on end. In addition to its original chassis, the very precious 3.2L SF-50-A motor from the famous Bimotore car is included with the sale.

The crankcases of 50005 and 50006, as well as the one from the Alfa Aitken, were interchanged when all three cars were in New Zealand. Bill Clark acquired all of these engine parts when he bought 50005. Eventually, SF-50-A was paired with 50006. Taking into account the historical importance of SF-50-A, the decision was made to construct a totally authentic modern engine for racing and to put SF-50-A on a stand in an effort to preserve it. The new engine parts were supplied through the Jim Stokes Group and then assembled and tuned by Hall & Hall.

With the exception to the aforementioned restored cockpit section of the bodywork, the bonnet panels are largely original. Stampings throughout the car appear to be entirely genuine upon examination. Of course, all of these cars were raced in period and parts were exchanged and replaced as necessary to keep them competitive. Thus, finding a wholly original P3 is next to impossible. Importantly, documentation on file asserts that chassis number 50006 ‘incorporates many original components from the Scuderia Ferrari/Alfa Romeo stock of the 1934–1935 period’. Finally, documentation on file further attests and confirms chassis number 50006 benefits from ‘a substantially unbroken provenance line extending from the Scuderia Ferrari to the present owner’, confirming its authenticity as a true Scuderia Ferrari-campaigned P3 and therefore, a true piece of motorsport history. The car is further documented by an FIA Heritage Certificate, issued in 2007.

In conclusion, this rare and extremely authentic Tipo B offers discerning collectors an opportunity to acquire an important intersection of the history of Alfa Romeo and the Scuderia Ferrari, as well as one of the earliest monoposto Grand Prix cars ever built. Driven by some of racing’s most celebrated drivers, including the Flying Mantuan himself, this important pioneering Tipo B would crown any collection and should expect a warm welcome at exclusive events such as Villa d’Este and Pebble Beach. Many would argue that perhaps the best place for chassis number 50006 to be enjoyed would be on the track, where it would undoubtedly be a thrill to not only the driver, but to all in attendance, just as Enzo Ferrari, Tazio Nuvolari, and Achille Varzi would have wanted.


Addendum

Please note that contrary to the printed catalogue description, the Alfa Romeo P3 Tipo B was not the first single seater grand prix car, and there were six Tipo Bs built to 1932 specifications.

Veuillez noter que, contrairement à ce qui est indiqué dans le catalogue papier, l'Alfa Romeo P3 Tipo B n'était pas la première monoplace de Grand Prix, et qu'il y a eu six Tipo B produites aux spécifications 1932.


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