1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Supercharged

1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Supercharged Gran Sport Spider Coachwork by Zagato
Often times it is our decisions in the midst of seeming impossibility that makes the difference. Two such important decisions would surround a seemingly innocuous 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750.
The first of these important decisions would take place in 1923. Enzo Ferrari was a man with a vision, but getting others to believe in that vision, to even listen to it, were few and far between. What he needed was a trump card, that carrot he could dangle that no one would deny as proof his vision would come to pass. That trump card was Vittorio Jano. Unfortunately, Jano was already employed at FIAT. He knew Ferrari, but knowing the man from Modena was entirely different from believing in his vision for the future. Jano, however, would decide against the established notion and would leave FIAT to come to Alfa Romeo.
The carrot Ferrari dangled before Alfa Romeo and Jano was a racing program that would be greater than any other in Europe. It would be grand vision but both sides would buy into it, although it was Jano that put the argument over the top for Alfa Romeo.
The other important decision would take place more than a decade later when the Germany military was marching, at will, across Europe. Philippe de Gunzbourg was a young man with means. The de Gunzbourg family was a wealthy Jewish family originally from Russia. Philippe's grandfather, Horace, was into banking and property ownership. And, early in the 20th century he would be presented an opportunity to invest in a Dutch petroleum company by the name of Royal Dutch Shell. Along with the Rothschilds, Horace would invest in the company. The result would be that by the time Philippe came of age he would have his choice of outlets as to where he would put his time and efforts.
It was the 1920s and 30s, it was a time of great adventure and intrigue. No longer did the affluent remain in the back, chauffeured around in immense limousines. The majority of the affluent youth would use the wealth available to them to live lives of adventure and discovery. Philippe would be no exception, but the wealth did not mean he was weak of will.
Gunzbourg would reject the elite social scene, the life of lavish parties and stuffy environments. Instead, he would be drawn in by the adventure of aviation and motor racing. If he wasn't pushing the limits in an airplane, he was skirting the ragged edge in some of the best motor racing cars of the period.
However, by the late 1930s, the German military was on the march. A world war was inevitable. Philippe was married with children. He had the means to escape and enjoy his wealth while being protected from the current events of the world. He would do this for his wife and children, but not for himself. Though he would purchase a home in France seemingly far out of the reach of the war, it would soon become apparent there was little escape from the battle of arms. Still, instead of fleeing, the Jewish boy would determine to make himself useful to the French arm of the Special Operations Executive, or, SOE. Disregarding safety for himself, Gunzbourg would work closely with the French Resistance and would barely avoid capture by the Nazis more than a couple of times over the course of the war.
When the war came to an end, his selfless act would be recognized. As a result of his efforts, De Gaulle himself would honor Gunzbourg having the town square of the village of Bergerac named after Philippe.
So these would be two examples where decisions in the midst of great danger or impossibility would have profound consequences. But what is even more incredible is that these two events would be connected by none other than a car.
Jano's first effort for Alfa Romeo would be the 6C 1500. This car would serve as a good basis for the future, but it was not the racing machine Ferrari envisioned. But Jano wasn't done; he was just getting started.
His follow-up to the 1500 would be the 1750, and this car would end up being a leap forward for Alfa Romeo and its racing aspirations. The 1750 would be practically identical to the 1500 with the exception of an engine with a larger displacement. The Sport model would be debuted after the first model of the 1750 would be unveiled. The Sport would have a shorter wheelbase and a supercharged engine producing nearly 100hp. When combined with the 6C chassis, Alfa Romeo would have the basis from which grand prix and sports cars would come for nearly the next decade.
While Alfa Romeo would build the chassis and the engine, coachbuilders like Zagato and Touring would be tasked with creating tidy bodies to sit atop the lightweight chassis. One of the most romantic examples, one of the most evocative would be designed and built by Zagato.
Based in Milan, Zagato would get its start in automobiles and airplanes. Therefore, the company was already familiar with aerodynamic and tight designs and how they affected performance, and this was at a time when aerodynamics was still very much a new and under-investigated science.
One example of the 6C 1750 Zagato would have a hand in building would be 10814356. It would be this car that would connect the story of Ferrari, Jano and Alfa Romeo with Gunzbourg and war-torn Europe.
Alfa Romeo would complete its work on the chassis in 1931. The chassis would be a fifth series Gran Sport Spider meaning it would have a supercharged 1750 cubic inch dual overhead cam, all aluminum, engine. The place within the series in which 10814356 occupies also meant that when the chassis and engine made the trip to Zagato it would receive the updated, and more refined, body.
The car would be completed and shipped to France in August of 1931 where it would be united with its first owner—Philippe de Gunzbourg. Though 27 at the time, Gunzbourg was deeply motivated in his racing career. After having scored so impressive results in hill climbing events, he would turn his attentions to sports car racing. In fact, Gunzbourg's name would pass down through Le Mans history as a result of his partnering with the legendary Luigi Chinetti in the 1933 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In spite of his relative inexperience, Gunzbourg would partner with Chinetti to finish an impressive 2nd with an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300. It is widely held that the 6C 1750 was his personal car that he used to get around Le Mans at the time of the historic race.
Although Gunzbourg would remain in Paris, even with the coming Germany military fast approaching, the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 would actually be separated from him by 1935. That year, he would sell the car to a resident living in the region near the Pyrenees. The car would remain in this area until 1940 when it would again be sold and moved to Paris. It would actually be registered at that time to an aircraft manufacturer, Hydravions F.B.A.
Interestingly, the car would remain with its owner until June 5th, 1944, one day before the launch of Operation Overlord. At that time, another French racing driver would purchase the car. The driver was one Victor Polledry. He was a friend of Chinetti and would have an impressive racing career in his own right.
Descriptions & pictures by conceptcarz & bonhams
Production Start 1931
Country of origin Italy