1932 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 5th Series Gran Turismo

1932 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 5th Series Gran Turismo Compressore Coachwork by T Bowhill

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. Production of the 6C 1500 ceased in 1929 on the arrival of the 6C 1750.

Logical derivative of the Tipo 6C 1500, itself directly descended from Jano's all-conquering P2 that had won the World Championship in 1925, the Tipo 6C 1750 arrived in 1929 boasting a derivative of the 1500's six-cylinder engine enlarged to 1,752cc. Built in single-cam Turismo and twin-cam Sport (later renamed Gran Turismo) variants, the 6C 1750 was an exciting fast touring car combining light weight with sparkling performance, more than 120km/h (75mph) being attainable, depending on coachwork. Aimed at gentleman racing drivers, there was also a limited edition Super Sport, or 'SS', version, which later evolved into the Gran Sport. Most of these cars carried coachwork by Carrozzeria Zagato or Carrozzeria Touring, with James Young being responsible for bodying the majority imported into the UK.

In 'SS' form, the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 was one of the most popular and successful sports-racing cars of its day, as demonstrated by the fact that no fewer than 26 competed in the 1929 Mille Miglia, of which 25 finished, six among the first ten. The race was won, for the second consecutive year, by Giuseppe Campari and Giulio Ramponi driving, of course, a 6C 1750 SS. Other high profile victories for this model include the 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, Grand Prix of Ireland, and the 12 Hours of San Sebastian - all in 1929 - plus the 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps and RAC Tourist Trophy in 1930. The 1750's sporting career, aided by its mechanical longevity, extended far beyond its production, which ceased in 1933.

According to Luigi Fusi's authoritative work on the marque - 'Tutte le Vetture Dal 1910' - this car, chassis number '101014946' with identical engine number, is a 5th series 6C 1750 Gran Turismo Compressore built in 1932. It is understood that the Alfa was exported to Australia in 1932 for an English doctor, almost certainly in rolling chassis form for bodying locally, though the original style of coachwork is not known. In the early 1940s the car was damaged in a serious road accident, remaining laid up in a garage until the 1970s when it was rediscovered by Nick Langford, an Alfa Romeo specialist, who set about its restoration, which including having a replacement chassis made using the irreparably damaged original as a pattern.

The rolling chassis, complete with the original engine, gearbox, running gear, brakes and axles, was purchased in the mid 1980s by well known historic-car exponent Werner Oswald. Mr Oswald then sold the car to a German private collector who continued the restoration. All mechanical elements of the car were overhauled or rebuilt, including having a new alloy cylinder head fitted to allow the use of unleaded petrol. Extensive work was done on the mechanicals, electrical system, clutch, gearbox, rear axle, brakes, etc.

Tom Bowhill of Cheltenham was then commissioned to build a new body in the style of Carrozzeria Touring's 'Flying Star'. This was an inspired choice, as the first 1750 Alfa Romeo to carry this 'Flying Star' coachwork, created by Touring's Giuseppe Serigni for Josette Pozzo, won 1st Prize at the 1931 Villa d'Este Concours d'Élégance. Tom Bowhill had previously restored the original Josette Pozzo 'Flying Star' Alfa, and had the correct drawings and wooden bucks for this model so was perfectly equipped to carry out this vital part of the restoration. There is no denying that he did a superb job, as the standard of finish is among the very best. (It is worthwhile noting that the Josette Pozzo 'Flying Star' Alfa Romeo 6C won 1st Prize at the 2014 Hampton Court Palace Concours d'Élégance).

Descriptions & pictures by bonhams

Production Start 1932
Country of origin Italy