Formerly owned by Charles E.C. Martin and L. Scott Bailey
1931 ALFA ROMEO TIPO 6C-1750 SUPERCHARGED GRAN SPORT SPYDER
COACHWORK BY ZAGATO
Chassis No. 10814368
Engine No. 10814368
Black with black leather interior
Engine: six cylinder, twin overhead camshafts, supercharged, 1,750cc, 85bhp at 4,500rpm; Gearbox: four-speed manual; Suspension: semi-elliptic leaf springs front and rear; Brakes: four wheel mechanical drum. Right hand drive.
The 6C series Alfa Romeo was founded as early as 1924 when engineer Vittorio Jano was detailed "to develop a medium capacity light car with brilliant performance". The great engineer chose the balance and pick-up characteristics of an in-line six cylinder engine and combined them with a very lightweight and nimble handling chassis design. Much experience was gained in the development of his World Championship winning Alfa Romeo P2 Grand Prix car of 1924-30, which was built into this production series.
The prototype, initially known as the 'NR' but subsequently renamed '6C-1500', was unveiled at the Salone dell'Automobile Milano in April 1925, and then reappeared at both the major Paris Salon and the London Motor Show. Deliveries to customers of the original single camshaft version commenced in 1927 and the general reception was so enthusiastic that a second series of twin cam variants followed. Many 6C-1500s were employed in competition, supercharged variants doing particularly well in sports category events in 1928 and 1929.
The subsequent enlargement of a similar basic engine configuration to the 6C-1750 model involved increases in both bore and stroke from the 1500's 62mm x 82mm to the 1750's 65mm x 88mm, displacing 1,752cc. These engines were offered with or without supercharging, delivering respectively 85bhp or 64bhp at 4,500rpm. Perhaps more significantly, the supercharged 1750 engine developed considerably more mid-range torque than the unblown unit, making it a most effective weapon for racing and hill-climbing, while also doubling as a genuine high performance sporting road car. The 1750 Gran Sport is regarded as one of the finest sports racing cars of its time and its race record, with numerous wins in the Mille Miglia, Tourist Trophy and countless other races in the hands of Nuvolari, Campari and Varzi, is nothing short of legendary.
According to the definitive book Alfa Romeo, All Cars From 1910 by Luigi Fusi this striking 'Gran Sport' supercharged model dates from 1931. Based upon the chassis sequence it is the 68th of 76 built in the fifth series that year and comes with the highly desirable Zagato coachwork. This car has an interesting provenance and in 1934 was owned by the famous English racing driver, Charlie Martin. Mr. Martin was an active race driver in the mid 1930s campaigning for several seasons in an ERA, a Type 59 Bugatti and upgrading to a P3 Alfa Romeo which he raced extensively in 1936. While in the United Kingdom, the car was registered AXA 758. Following the war the 1750 passed into the hands of Johnny Spindler and he frequently competed at Prescott Hillclimb from 1947-1950 (see photograph). The Alfa later moved to the US and by the late 1950s it was owned by a Naval Officer from Norfolk, Virginia who sold it circa 1960 to the well-known Alfa Romeo and Bugatti connoisseur, Gene Cesari. Shortly afterwards he sold the car to Mr. Scott Bailey, the founder and long time editor and publisher of Automobile Quarterly. Mr. Bailey recalls that he purchased the car from a professor in Pennsylvania (Gene Cesari) and kept the car for about two years. He later started to strip the car down with the intention of having it professionally restored, however, owing to business commitments the Alfa was very reluctantly sold, indeed he is still regretful to this day! A short while later the car passed through the hands of a collector in Washington, PA.
In the 1980s the car was sold to a prominent collector who had the well-known English restorer, Tony Merrick, undertake a full restoration. This work was gradually undertaken between 1988 and 1993. This body-off restoration included a full engine rebuild with a new cylinder block, pistons, valves and bearings. The gearbox had new gears installed and a new clutch plate was fitted. The radiator was re-cored and the road wheels rebuilt. In 1997 the car successfully completed the California Mille Miglia. In early 1998, the current gentleman owner, who spares no expense in the preparation and presentation of his vehicles, acquired this Alfa Romeo. During this ownership the highly respected Alfa Romeo specialist, David George of D.L. Coachworks, PA, has cared for the car.
Recent work has included a bare metal repaint to the current black livery and a complete interior and upholstery retrim in black leather. Extreme care was taken to exactly replicate the original stitching pattern that these cars came with when new, which was facilitated by having another 1750 in the workshop that retains its original upholstery. A thorough mechanical was carried out upon purchase with special attention paid to the suspension. The wheel bearings, shackles and king pins were all rebuilt and tested. At the same time the brakes were rebuilt. The original Telecontrol adjustable shock absorbers system was also serviced and made to work correctly. New wiring was fitted throughout and all the correct Jaeger instruments, including the clock and Nivex gas gauge were checked over and now fully operate. The clutch thrust bearing was rebuilt along with the Memini twin choke carburetor, fuel system, water pump and supercharger. A correct set of Bosch headlamps were acquired along with an original tail light and another recent improvement was the fitment of an original Scintilla coil. Another superb upgrade to this Gran Sport has been the installation of a large driver's racing Jaeger tachometer to the steering column. This is a feature that some Works cars employed and the original set up and drive system, coming off the back of the other camshaft was faithfully copied from an original Testa Fissa Alfa Romeo. For safety reasons a set of lap seat belts have been installed along with a central seat divider/hip brace to aid the comfort of both passenger and driver. Included in the history file are more original Guy Griffiths photographs of AXA 758 while owned by Mr. Spindler and correspondence from Gene Cesari and Scott Bailey. A complete service and entire fluid change has just been completed on this Alfa Romeo and a comprehensive service file of all work carried out in recent years is provided.
David George reports that he has thoroughly shaken this Zagato spyder down and that it drives beautifully with superb handling and in his experienced opinion is more powerful than most he has driven. It is not only a refreshing change to see an Alfa Romeo finished all in black, but also in this case a truly visual delight set against the discreet chrome embellishments these models have. As presented today it could easily do justice to any concours field or podium, including Pebble Beach. With matching numbers, aforementioned restoration and fine provenance, this example has all of the best ingredients. These supercharged Alfa Romeos are a delight to drive, highly eligible for vintage events around the world and justifiably ranked very high among the archetypal pre-war sports cars. This particular example is without doubt in the finest condition of presentation that Christie's has ever had the pleasure of offering and warrants very close inspection.