Story by Daniel Vaughan, published on www.conceptcarz.com
Photos by Pawel Litwinski, courtesy of Bonhams
Alfa Romeo had been dominating Grand Prix racing and motor sports racing during the early 1930s. Their cars were innovative, powerful, agile, and driven by some of the greatest drivers of their times. The engineering prowess of Vittorio Jano and the management skills of Enzo Ferrari combined with the driving skills of Tazio Nuvolario, the Alfa Romeo team was a dominant force. The German government's decision to provide financial support for German Grand Prix teams meant Alfa Romeo's stronghold on the sport would soon dwindle.
Vittorio Jano's eight-cylinder engine had proven its potential by capturing four consecutive LeMans victories and many podium finishes in Grand Prix competition for the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 and Tipo B P3. The Tipo B had been powered by a supercharged eight-cylinder version of the engine which was far superior to the competition. The Tipo B was introduced in 1932 and for the first few years it was unbeatable. Within a few years the Alfa Romeo team was in need of a new machine to match the competition. The eight-cylinder engine had been modified to its highest capacity and a twelve-cylinder engine was needed.
The Tipo C, commonly known as the 8C 35, was given a round, curvy, and aerodynamic body. The prior vehicles had been square and boxy so this was a rather large leap in design. Borrowing German innovation, the 8C was given independent suspension in both the front and rear which greatly improve the vehicles performance. When the Tipo C began to loose ground to the competition, the 4.1 liter 12C 36 was introduced. It made its inaugural appearance at the Tripoli Grand Prix in May of 1936. Throughout the season the 8C and 12C would score a few wins for the Alfa Romeo team. Their best result came at Monza where the 12C finished in second place. The 12C had proven its potential and Alfa Romeo continued work on a updated racer for 1937.
The Alfa Romeo 12C 37 was Alfa Romeo's next iteration and introduced for the 1937 season. It was powered by a twelve-cylinder 4.5-liter engine with twin-stage superchargers and capable of developing 430 horsepower. Though Alfa Romeo had a formidable contender, other key ingredients began to fall apart. Their star driver, Nuvolari, left to join the Auto Union team. This was the same year that Enzo Ferrari and Jano made the decision to leave Alfa Romeo.
The Alfa Romeo 8C 35 shown carries chassis number 50014 spent most of its early life in South America competing in Formula Libre races. It returned to Europe in the early 1990s and Paul Grist was commissioned to perform a restoration. In modern times, it is one of only two examples that are known to exist.