Alfa Romeo 8C-35


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The Ex-Scuderia Ferrari, Hans Ruesch, Dick Seaman, Dennis Poore Donington Grand Prix and RAC Hill-Climb Championship-winning
1935-36 ALFA ROMEO 8C-35 Grand Prix Racing Monoposto
Chassis no. 50013
Engine no. 50013

Here we are absolutely delighted to be have been engaged to offer this outstanding, uniquely important, supercharged straight-8 Alfa Romeo Grand Prix car for sale by auction. It is a car for which the Bonhams core team has a particular affinity, since we handled its first sale after no less than 41 years in one ownership – that of British industrialist Dennis Poore - from 1946-1987. It is a superb example of the first all-independently-suspended, big-engined Grand Prix racing design from Alfa Romeo which the Portello factory tailor-made in 1936 to combat the might of the rival State-backed German 'Silver Arrow' Mercedes-Benz W25E and Auto Union C-Type cars. It was in this Alfa Romeo and its sisters that the legendary Italian superstar driver Tazio Nuvolari and his team-mates fought a bitter rearguard action against the overwhelming might of the German teams and their own star drivers such as Bernd Rosemeyer, Rudi Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Hans Stuck. Here is an artifact which in essence these great names would have seen, touched, experienced, campaigned and confronted around the world's most demanding road racing circuits of the mid-1930s. It was in September, 1936, that this imposing Alfa Romeo Tipo 8C-35 Monoposto was sold via the Scuderia Ferrari to the young Swiss private owner/driver Hans Ruesch who had until that time been campaigning an elderly Alfa Romeo Tipo B Monoposto (chassis '5002') in Grand Prix category events, and who also ran a pair of 8C-2300s (chassis '2211084' and '136). The ex-SF 8C-35 that Ruesch acquired was described contemporarily in both British periodicals 'The Autocar' and 'Speed' as having been the machine co-driven by Carlo Pintacuda and Tazio Nuvolari to win that year's Coppa Ciano race at Livorno (Leghorn) on the Italian coast. The Alfa Romeo marque has been superbly well served by British specialist Simon Moore as its leading historian. In his forthcoming new book on the Grand Prix Alfas, Mr Moore records Hans Ruesch's debut in his new 8C-35 as having been the Shelsley Walsh hill-climb in England on September 15, 1936. He clocked second fastest time of the day there, and in France on September 27 he then scored his first win with the car in the the similarly short-distance Course de Côte de Lapize, near Montlhéry. The car was then shipped back into England where on October 3, 1936, it was co-driven by Ruesch and the fast-rising young British star R.J.B. 'Dick' Seaman in the long-distance – 302-mile - Donington Grand Prix at Donington Park. Although not then a European Championship-qualifying round, this race was the British Grand Prix equivalent of the 1930s. Ruesch and Seaman's shared drive occupied nearly 4½ hours and they won at an average speed of 69.2mph for the winding course, leading home Charles Martin's 2.9-litre Alfa Romeo Tipo B Monoposto and the B-Type ERA shared by Peter Whitehead and Peter Walker. Soon after this great success, Dick Seaman accepted the invitation to test-drive for the Mercedes-Benz factory team, and he was quickly invited to join them full-time – going on to win the 1938 German Grand Prix in one of their cars. Meanwhile, Hans Ruesch took his Donington GP-winning 8C-35 south to Brooklands where on October 17 he contested the Mountain Championship race on the high Members' Banking. He took a while to become accustomed to the peculiar course used there, blasting anti-clockwise around the banking behind the Members' Hill and then down around a hairpin and back along the Finishing Straight to rejoin the banking once more. He finished second, beaten by established star Raymond Mays's works-entered 2-litre ERA. Later that month the peripatetic Ruesch took this Alfa Romeo to Hungary where he dominated two minor events at Gyon – on the record-stretch of level roadway there – and then the hillclimb at Harmashatar. He had also secured entries in that winter's South African series of three handicap races, and '50013' was duly shipped south of the equator. Ruesch promptly finished fourth in the South African Grand Prix run at East London – overlooking the Indiana Ocean – on New Year's Day 1937. On January 16 in the Grosvenor GP held outside Cape Town he finished fifth in an event dominated by the factory Auto Union V16-engined cars handled by Bernd Rosemeyer and Ernst von Delius. With the State-backed German team having reportedly consumed all their special fuel and Continental racing tyres in these first two races of the series, they non-started in the final event – the Rand Grand Prix outside Johannesburg on January 30 – which left Ruesch's big Alfa Romeo to start on scratch. Despite proving to be the fastest finished in that event the young Swiss was classified fourth on handicap behind two ERAs and an MG. The car was then shipped back to Europe for a jam-packed motor racing season which saw Ruesch run it in no fewer than 15 events ranging from the British Empire Trophy race at Donington on April 10 to the Mountain Championship back at Brooklands on October 16. He won no fewer than seven times, including the Finnish GP in Helsinki, the GP des Frontières at Chimay, Rumanian GP in Bucharest, the Prix de Bremgarten on his home soil at Berne, Swizerland, and finally that Mountain Championship at Brooklands. He also won at Montlhéry outside Paris, France. He crashed the car in the Coppa Acerbo meeting at Pescara, Italy, and it failed to finish at Brno, Czechoslovakia, on September 26, when driven by Ruesch's Italian fellow-privateer, Renato Balestrero. Simon Moore has analysed practice times for the 1937 Monaco Grand Prix – in which Ruesch conducted '50013' home into a respectable eighth place – and finds that he was quicker than two of the official Scuderia Ferrari quasi-works entries, and slower than the other two – a great achievement by any private owner/driver in that era. When the International Grand Prix Formula was changed for 1938-40, limited admissible supercharged engines to no more than 3-litres capacity, this 3.8-litre straight-eight Alfa Romeo was no longer eligible. Consequently, Hans Ruesch based it in England where it was still accorded star status in many of the varied events run there throughout the summer season. Its programme began with the Coronation Trophy meeting at London's Crystal Palace parkland circuit on April 2, 1938, when – due to personal illness - Ruesch entrusted it to talented jazzman-cum-racing driver R.E.L. 'Buddy' Featherstonhaugh. Unfortunately the enthusiastic 'Fanshaw' spun the car at Stadium Dip and finally left the tortuous little circuit at Fisherman's Bend, stalling the engine which he was unable to restart unassisted. Worse awaited Featherstonhaugh and the car as at Donington Park during practice for the following weekend's British Empire Trophy race the musician got off onto the grass verge at very high speed, the car dug in and somersaulted twice, throwing its driver clear without serious injury. The big Alfa Romeo would not reappear for over a year as Ruesch almost certainly returned it to Italy for repair – the work probably being carried out very much "on the back burner" when immediate calendar commitments might allow. Simon Moore's intensive researches indicate that during this repair procedure the car was fitted with some spare body panels which would likely have been drawn from Alfa Romeo/Scuderia Ferrari stock, left available since a number of '50013's surviving sister 8C-35 chassis had been converted to match the new 1938 season's Grand Prix Formula regulations. The Milan factory's 'new' Tipo 308 model featured 3-litre straight-eight supercharged engines and all-new bodywork mounted in, and on, the old frames. Back in London, the 1938 Sydenham Trophy race at Crystal Palace on May 20, 1939 was then graced by the entry of Hans Ruesch's revived '50013', sporting a fresh bonnet panel clearly different from that worn in 1936-37. Ruesch placed second in Heat and third in the Final. At Shelsley Walsh hill-climb on June 3 he finished second in class, after which event the car was sold by Ruesch to enthusiastic British driver/dealer Robert Arbuthnot, who ran High Speed Motors Ltd in London's expensive Lancaster Gate Mews. Arbuthnot engaged ex-Alfa Romeo, ex-Scuderia Ferrari, ex-Dick Seaman and ex-Ruesch mechanic/engineer Giulio Ramponi to prepare '50013' for him and drove it in the Cambridge University AC sprint at Syston Park and upon his Brooklands debut in it on August 7. Unfortunately, he spun it there while leading, after setting what would prove to be the perpetual Brooklands Campbell Circuit lap record for the 3-5-litre category. The venue would in fact be closed by the outbreak of World War 2 on September 2-3, never to reopen to racing. During that 1939-45 war, Arbuthnot sold the car at one stage to racing haulier Reg Parnell who almost literally 'hoovered-up' all the interesting pre-war competition cars he could find. Near the end of hostilities, Arbuthnot re-acquired the car only to be killed in a road accident in August 1946. He had used the great car as security for a loan he had arranged with the financier – and occasional MG racing driver – Dennis Poore. This British industrialist – and subsequent Aston Martin and Connaught works team racing driver - would maintain and preserve '50013' for the following 40 years-plus. In his most capable hands it became one of the truly iconic cars of Britain's peacetime road racing re-emergence. In 1947 Dennis Poore drove '50013' to win The Gransden Trophy feature race in Great Britain's first postwar circuit event, at Gransden Lodge aerodrome, and in 1948 the duo also starred in the inaugural race meeting right here at Goodwood. Almost every weekend through the later 1940s and up until 1955 'the Poore Alfa' seemed to feature in the pages of the British specialist motoring press. Dennis Poore campaigned it extensively, embarked upon a hectic programme initially of hillclimbs, sprints in which the powerful Alfa Romeo, offering tremendous low-down torque and great traction (often being fitted with twin rear wheels and tyres to exploit this characteristic), absolutely excelled. Poore and his long-faithful mechanic Bill Lawes explored the car's potential in a modification programme which extended over several years, following '50013's debut in his hands at the 1946 Brighton Speed Trials in which the combination finished third, bettered by Raymond Mays's ERA 'R4D' and 'B. Bira's Maserati 4CL. The car's original Alfa Romeo Roots-type superchargers were replaced by aeronautical-type Wade RO15 cabin blowers and also adopted a Wilson pre-sector gearbox which – most unusually – was coupled to the engine amidships with the original rear-mounted Alfa Romeo transaxle left in place locked in whichever suitable gear provided an advantageous final-drive ratio. Poore's programme with the car was interrupted by his overturning it in the Scottish Bo'ness hill-climb, after which the mildly-damaged still red-painted bodywork was beaten tue and resprayed British Racing Green with the industrialist's favourite Pegasus flying-horse emblem blazoned in white upon the bonnet. His greatest triumph with the car was winning the 1950 RAC Hill-Climb Championship title, and after 1952 as his works team racing commitments took more of his time with Aston Martin and Connaught so he reserved '50013' mainly for Vintage Sports Car Club events. He won the Club's prestigious Seaman Trophy – in memory of the late Dick Seaman, killed while leading the 1939 Belgian GP for Mercedes-Benz at Spa – no fewer than three times before retiring it into home storage at the end of 1955. Mr Poore subsequently let the car out of captivity just once – permitting it to star in public at the 75th Anniversary Castrol Extravaganza Show at London's Olympia Exhibition Hall in 1974. He retained the great car until his death in 1987 – and soon afterwards it was consigned by his executors for sale by the Bonhams core team in Christie's 1988 Monaco auction. Present Bonhams racing car historian Doug Nye recalled in the American 'Road & Track' magazine (February 1990 issue): "I helped Robert Brooks unearth this unspoiled time-machine from its Taplow storage about five weeks before the Monaco Sale. "In the gloom. Cramped between stacks of furniture and a jumble of assorted disused cars and motorcycles, I felt almost as if we were penetrating The Mummy's tomb. As we reverently drew back '50013's dust sheet that dark-green paintwork gleamed in the soft light. In places it was cracked, scarred – the story of its long life etched into every subtle dent and scrape. Bare steel suspension parts glinted gold under dried preservative grease, only the lightest dusting of surface rust admitting long disuse. In the cockpit that dark and stained leather seat bore the unmistakable texture of age-old saddlery. "After a day or more's hard work had cleared the way, we pushed the Alfa out into the light for the first time in years. To our astonishment it rolled easily, slickly, seeming almost anxious to escape the place and feel the sun on its shapely back once more... "I know I am perhaps too sentimental about these things, but it was almost as if that old car was talking to us as we wheeled it into the sunlight. Agonizingly, it could not quite give us the answer to the major question we had to ask ourselves...". This still remains true today. The question concerns the August 2, 1936, Coppa Ciano race at Livorno which featured what was one of the legendary Tazio Nuvolari's greatest-ever driving feats. The Scuderia Ferrari fielded the latest 4.4-litre V12-engined 12C-36 models there as its main armament, but the transmission on Nuvolari's example failed at the start. After a long delay in the pits he insisted upon taking over team-mate Carlo Pintacuda's 3.8-litre straight-8 engined 8C-35 to rejoin the race. He took over the car in sixth place, and ripped into the rival Auto Uniuon V16 team's lead. Hans Stuck had already retired his rear-engined Aut Union but under Nuvolari's intensifying pressure both other AUs – driven by Bernd Rosemeyer and Achille Varzi – broke down. Thus Nuvolari was able to win outright, in fact leading an Alfa Romeo 1-2-3 triumph with Antonio Brivio's sister car second and Rene Dreyfus' third. Immediately after the finish the Scuderia Ferrari Alfa pit crew saw Bernd Rosemeyer striding towards them. Expecting a possible verbal assault because Nuvolari had barged the young German's Auto Union tail during his pursuit, the personnel braced themselves for the onslaught. But instead the charismatic Rosemeyer had simply come to praise the Maestro Nuvolari – calling him "Il Mago" – 'The Magician'. When Hans Ruesch brought '50013' to England later that year both contemporary issues of 'The Autocar' and 'Speed' magazines described his acquisition as "the car in which Tazio Nuvolari won the Coppa Ciano". Despite all best efforts we have since been unable either to prove or definitively disprove this attribution, but if it was indeed Nuvolari's winning mount at Livorno that by-gone August day 77 long years ago then the Monaco Sale price achieved, of some US $2,850,000, contemporarily represented remarkably good value. New owner, British enthusiast Anthony Mayman, sadly died before any restoration work could be begun upon the car and it was eventually acquired and restored for modern-era Historic and Vintage racing by English San Francisco Bay-area resident Peter Giddings. He entrusted it to leading Alfa Romeo specialist Paul Grist in the UK for a complete restoration. The car was returned in general to its 1937 specification with the pre-selector gearbox removed and its Alfa Romeo superchargers replacing the postwar Wade installation. The car was repainted in Mr Grist's favoured representation of Alfa Romeo racing red and Peter Giddings subsequently conducted a long and highly successful racing programme in the car, all around the racing world. In 2000 the car even won the 'Best of Show' award at the Louis Vuitton New York concours. In the mid-2000s '50013' passed to the current owner, who has continued to campaign the car with the regularity, verve and success to match all his predecessors. While in his custody the car has been raced at Mugello in the Ferrari Challenge, returned to Donington for the landmark 'See Red' Race meeting and climbed the hill here at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2006. It has also been successfully exercised at a host of North American events including those at Lime Rock, Road America, Mont Tremblant, Laguna Seca and Sonoma. As recently as this year it ran at the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival and will also have been seen in action at the Labor Day Historic Meeting at Lime Rock from 30th August to 2nd September. Throughout this extensive programme the great car has been painstakingly race-prepared and successfully deployed by its present vendor, frequently winning its class. Prior to this present season it was comprehensively rebuilt mechanically by Auto Restorations of Christchurch, New Zealand. Over the course of its last two ownerships a huge file of material charting its racing career has been amassed, this fascinating archive now being included with the car. Of further interest, aside from its eminent eligibility and potential on any race circuit around the world, during its 1990s restoration a slightly broader centre bodywork section was crafted to accommodate a second person, and road ancillaries of wings, a spare-wheel and battery box made to facilitate road use. Although never actually run in this form, these components remain with the car to increase its general useability . So here we offer not just what many authorities consider to be the finest and only original surviving Alfa Romeo 8C-35 car of the mid-1930s, but also a Grand Prix car intriguingly associated with one of the legendary Tazio Nuvolari's most startling and celebrated race-winning drives. If one adds the car's Hans Ruesch history from the later 1930s, and perhaps above all '50013's iconic – and self-evidently unchallengeable – Dick Seaman connection since he played the lion's share in winning the 1936 Donington Grand Prix in her – and this magnificent motor car's true stature falls into sharp focus. Its postwar Championship-winning Dennis Poore history then provides the icing on this immensely attractive cake. And today it could – it really could – become yours.