The First Alfa Romeo Race Automobile to Win within the U.S. Is Accessible in Largely Unique Situation
Alfa Romeo, founded in 1910 and one of the world’s oldest automotive marques, has a rich history in motorsport and elegant road-going sports cars, the latter including the stunning 1960s-era Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale. Enzo Ferrari famously drove for Alfa Romeo in 1920, and the automaker continued to gain victories with driving greats like Tazio Nuvolari. But World War II changed everything. Postwar Europe stumbled back on its feet with a new economy and a need for vehicles manufactured on a larger scale than coachbuilt production would allow.
In 1954, Alfa Romeo brought its series-production Giulietta Sprint to market. The Bertone-bodied 2+2 coupe, designed by Franco Scaglione, was followed in 1955 by a four-door sedan and a striking convertible, their bodies styled and built by Pinin Farina. All used a brilliant 1.3-liter, twin-overhead-cam inline-four engine that would be the heart of many Alfas for decades to come, especially when the mill was eventually enlarged to 2.0 liters.
The Veloce was a souped-up version of the Spider, and while the first Giuliettas used the same 1,290 cc engine, the Veloce was fitted with twin Weber 40 DCOE carburetors and, in race tune, developed 125 hp at 7,000 rpm. With a four-speed manual gearbox, coil-spring suspension (independent at the front with a live rear axle), and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes, the frisky Spider Veloce was just the ticket for racers who wanted a lightweight roadster that could compete favorably in its class. Never mind that it looked better than just about anything at twice the price. In the ensuing decades, and well into our century, the Spider’s near-perfect shape and proportions have made it an enduring classic among sports cars.
The Spider Veloce shown here, available by way of private sale through Gooding and Company, is very special, indeed. “Not only is this Spider Veloce among the rarest and sought after postwar Alfa Romeos,” says David Brynan, Gooding & Company’s senior specialist, “this particular example is one of the very first produced and, significantly, it earned Alfa Romeo its first FIA points when it won its class at the prestigious 12 Hours of Sebring. Remaining in highly original condition, this car is a fantastic piece of Italian racing history and surely one of the most significant examples of this rare breed.”
Chassis No. AR 1495 00657 was ordered new by Jake Kaplan, the Alfa Romeo dealer in Providence, R.I., who went on the become the East Coast importer for Lamborghini in 1964. Kaplan placed the order through U.S. importer Max Hoffman of New York, intending to enter the Spider in the 1957 Sebring 12-Hour FIA World Sportscar Manufacturers’ Championship race. The ensuing first-in-class victory gave Alfa Romeo its first class win in an FIA-sanctioned stateside event.
The following year, Kaplan’s car took second in the same 12-hour race. Motorsport in the 1950s was a bit like the Wild West, and the Spider was modified with a cut-down windshield, a fuel filler cut through the trunk lid, and grille-mounted Lucas night-driving rally lights, alterations it retains today. Racing provenance even includes the original 1957 and 1958 Sebring inspection stickers on the glove box. The original vinyl tonneau cover, rubber floor mats, and spare wheel—wearing its vintage Goodyear Blue Streak racing tire—all remain as well. Importantly, the Spider still has its original engine, nearly unheard of in the case of an historic racer.
A light and sympathetic restoration was carried out in 2002 by marque expert and then-owner Keith Goring of Alfas Unlimited. The current owner commissioned an engine rebuild by specialist DV Mechanics, careful to retain the nicely aged finishes. This important Alfa Romeo—accompanied by original photos, documentation, and its FIA Historic Passport and FIVA Identity Card—is presented in its largely original, as-raced condition.
Source: Robb Report