1929 Alfa Romeo 6C


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1929 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Sport Tourer
Coachwork by Phippen
Registration no. UL 1489
Chassis no. 0211459

'The 1750, and for that matter the 1500... must be among the finest ever made both from the point of view of engineering and driver satisfaction.' - Michael Frostick, 'Alfa-Romeo-Milano'.

It was Enzo Ferrari, no less, who persuaded Vittorio Jano to leave FIAT's racing department and join him at Alfa Romeo. One of the most gifted and influential automobile engineers of all time, Jano would not only supervise Alfa Romeo's Grand Prix racing programme but also design its road cars. This happy state of affairs resulted in the latter emerging as some of the most exciting of their day, establishing the Milanese marque's reputation for producing sporting driver's cars second to none.

Jano arrived at Alfa in 1923 and by the following year had produced one of the most fabulous racing automobiles of all time - the legendary P2. As well as bringing Alfa much valuable publicity by virtue of its outstanding Grand Prix successes, the P2 provided the basis for Jano's first production model. Announced in 1925 but not produced for another two years, the 6C 1500 was designed as a fast touring car combining light weight with sparkling performance. The latter was achieved courtesy of a 1,487cc inline six-cylinder engine based on the P2's straight eight and producing 44bhp in single-overhead-camshaft Normale form. Twin-overhead-camshaft Sport and supercharged Super Sport models followed, the latter being the first of its type to feature the classic open two-seater coachwork by Zagato forever associated with sporting Vintage Alfas.

The Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Sport was officially launched in 1928 specifically for competition use. Boasting an increased compression ratio and twin-barrel carburettor among other modifications, its twin-cam engine produced 54bhp, 10 horsepower more than the single-cam unit, while the Sport's fuel tank was relocated to improve weight distribution. The model made its racing debut in 1927 when Enzo Ferrari - at the time works driver for Alfa Romeo - won the 360km Circuit of Modena at an average of 107.6km/h in what was believed to be a prototype twin cam Sport. The 1500's sporting career, aided by its mechanical longevity, extended far beyond its production, which ceased in 1929 on the arrival of the 6C 1750. Of the 171 chassis built, only 20 1500 Sport models are known to survive today, one of which won the 2005 Mille Miglia Storica in the hands of Viaro/De Marco.

This particular Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Sport was delivered new to the UK in 1929 and was raced at the Brooklands JCC High Speed Trials on 6th July that year by A P F Dempster, owner of Kingston Hill Garage (see photograph on file showing the original two-seater body). There is a further photograph on file showing the 6C sporting two-door fabric coachwork, believed to date from the late 1930s.

In 1943, 'UL 1489' was the subject of an article in Autocar magazine (April 9th edition, copy on file) while it was owned by Mr A J Phippen of Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, who had purchased the car in 1939. By this time the Alfa's original two-seater and subsequent Newns-built two-door fabric saloon bodies had been converted into an open tourer by Phippen, who rebuilt the chassis at the same time, a process that included moving the centre cross member back 8" to increase the leg room. He also lowered the floor beneath the front seats; dispensed with the Autovac, fitting an electric fuel pump instead; and replaced the Marelli dynamo, starter, switchboard and distributor with Bosch equivalents. Phippen also fitted Zeiss headlamps and Lucas spotlights, replacing the originals. A fuel gauge and ammeter were added to the dashboard instrumentation, and twin SU carburettors fitted in place of the original Zenith carburettor, the result being 'greatly improved starting, acceleration and petrol consumption'.

Phippen observed: 'Top gear could with advantage be higher, for 4,500rpm can quite easily be reached on this gear, corresponding to a road speed of 80mph, but the car's roadholding, steering and acceleration combine to provide the high average it is able to maintain for long periods'. Like many of its contemporaries, the Alfa was laid up for the duration of the war, though Mr Phippen concluded by saying that he looked 'forward to the time we can take to the road once more'.

Issued in 1953, the accompanying old-style logbook shows that the car was owned then by a Mr Kathro, and in 1957 by Marcus Niven, who at the time was racing against the likes of Graham Hill and Jim Clark. There is an invoice on file issued by Thomson & Taylor (Brooklands) Ltd to Mr Niven for an engine rebuild carried out in January 1957.

In November 1961, the Alfa was purchased by the vendor's late father and has been in the same family ownership ever since. The vendor's father carried out an extensive restoration and engine rebuild during the 1970s/1980s, and enjoyed driving the car to various Vintage events throughout his life. After the father's death in 2010, the car passed to his children, who agreed to put it on display at the Donington Grand Prix Museum where it was exhibited until 2016. A recent inspection by the registrar of the Alfa Romeo Pre-War Owners Club, Carol Corliss, who has known the car since the early 1960s, has confirmed its originality. Benefiting from a recent clutch rebuild undertaken by IN Racing of Nottingham, 'UL 1489' remains in excellent working order, driving beautifully.
In addition to the documents mentioned above, the history file contains 'as purchased' photographs; photographs of the 1970s/1980s restoration; hand written notes concerning the rebuild (perusal highly recommended); a quantity of expired MoTs dating back to 1999; and hand written notes detailing journeys made and miles covered. An original Alfa Romeo 6C Maintenance and Care handbook is included in the sale.

This is a very rare opportunity to acquire a matching-numbers 6C 1500, a model that not only inaugurated an unprecedented period of racing success for Alfa Romeo but also played a significant role at the very start of the Ferrari legend.