1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Supercharged Gran Sport Spider. Coachwork by Zagato. Photo Bonhams.
Chassis no. 10814356 - Engine no. 10814356
1,752cc DOHC Supercharged Inline 6-Cylinder Engine.Single Dual-Throat Memini Carburetor. 85bhp at 4,500rpm. 4-Speed Manual Transmission. 4-Wheel Drum Brakes. Estimate US$ 2.4 million - 2.7 million (€1.7 million - 2 million)
*Superior example of the legendary 6C 1750 Zagato Spider
*Unparalleled authenticity with original body, engine and driveline
*Outstanding 100-point restoration by the renowned Stephen Babinsky
*Shown at Pebble Beach, Amelia Island and Villa d'Este Concours
*Successfully completed the 2013 Mille Miglia
The Alfa Romeo 6C 1750
'The 1750, and for that matter the 1500... must be among the finest ever made both from the point of view of engineering and driver satisfaction' - Michael Frostick, Alfa Romeo-Milano.
It was in 1923 that Enzo Ferrari, 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 program 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. A 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 sports car combining light weight with sparkling performance. The chassis, also a product of Jano's thoughts applied to a clean sheet of paper, was low and lightweight, featuring semi-elliptical springs that passed through the front axle. The 6C 1750 would go on to be victorious over much larger and more powerful machinery, the triumph of balance, quickness and almost thought-control responsiveness over ponderous leviathans.
The 1750's sporting career, aided by its mechanical longevity, extended far beyond its production, amassing countless wins, including 1-2-3 finishes in the Mille Miglia, and top results at Targa Florio, the Tourist Trophy and Spa 24 Hours in 1930. Nuvolari, Marinoni, Campari and Varzi all recorded successes in Vittorio Jano's "light car" and the model is, quite simply, a legend.
Zagato and Alfa Romeo
Now in its 95th year, Zagato has rightfully earned its existence as one of very few surviving coachbuilding houses. That it has persisted where others did not can almost certainly be attributed to the fact that its designs have always been fresh, different and of the very finest quality. And in what may be the ultimate expression of life imitating art, even today, founder Ugo Zagato's name sounds exciting, edgy and modern. Pioneering designs such as the solution to increasing localized head room by creating twin roof bulges brought the expression 'Double Bubble' into existence, a rare example of the coachbuilder creating a hallmark that extends beyond the car brand.
While other houses also created incredible designs for various car manufacturers, frequently in today's collector car market it is the combination of Zagato with the brand that is most prized. It is never more so than when one considers pre-war Alfa Romeos and particularly the 1750.
Amazingly, the company was in its relative incubation when these coveted cars were built, and similarly to Gabriel Voisin, Zagato's skills had been acquired while building fighter aircraft for the Italian Air Force. In transferring these principles to roadgoing machinery he created automobile bodies that were as light as they were beautiful.
His attention to detail was legendary, his bodies were costly, and when a wealthy Milanese family took Zagato to court on the grounds that their son had been "mad" to order a "shockingly expensive" Zagato-bodied 8C2300 Alfa, the judge rejected their claim on the grounds that "the search for beauty is a most normal thing in a man".
Zagato's painstaking approach was highly appreciated by the top drivers of the 1920s, and his circle of friends included Giuseppe Campari, Baconin Borzacchini, Giulio Ramponi... and most notably Enzo Ferrari, who would very clearly link his Alfa successes to Zagato. He recalled in later years: "think of how much motoring history was made in those Zagato spiders, first on the RL, then on the 1500 and 1750. It was a glorious series, the fruit of an avant-garde mechanism and a brilliant improvisation that lasted for years and brought so many victories."
As Alfa Romeo refined their 6C 1750 with systematic improvements in new series, similarly Zagato raised his game with refinements in the details and design. Today, it is generally accepted that the zenith for both was the 5th Series, before the chassis became a little more substantial.
Close inspection of a pure unfettered Zagato body, such as on this car, shows just how beautifully crafted they were, with lightness and aerodynamic fluidity incorporated into every aspect from headlight mounts to the intricate windshield, to the sleek way in which the top mechanism rests - they are truly exquisite and this is rarely better evidenced than on this immaculately presented example.
The Motorcar Offered
In the world of car collecting, there are four primary criteria that establish a vehicle's worthiness: authenticity, provenance, aesthetics and engineering. The exceptional Alfa Romeo offered here resoundingly checks all of these boxes.
The history of this incredible Alfa Romeo, chassis no. 10814356, begins in 1931. According to Angela Cherrett's Tipo 6C book, 10814356 was completed as a fifth series Gran Sport Spider, featuring the uprated 1,752cc supercharged dual overhead cam, all aluminum engine, an improved braking system and more refined Zagato coachwork than its predecessors. The new Gran Sport Spider was equipped with engine no. 10814356 and Zagato body no. 987.
10814356 was exported to neighboring France, where it was registered with number 493 XL1 on August 10, 1931, in the village of Saint-Varent in the Poitou-Charentes region in the western part of the country, where Baron Philippe de Gunzbourg became its lucky first owner. A distinguished man with a taste for fast sporting motorcars, airplanes and naturally a connoisseur of the finer things in life, the Baron was just 27 years old when he took delivery of his Alfa Romeo.
The de Gunzbourg's were a wealthy Russian family with a background in banking and property ownership, having moved to France around the turn of the century. Philippe's grandfather, Baron Horace de Gunzbourg, had achieved a tremendous coup when taking a founding interest, along with the Rothschild family, in the Royal Dutch Shell oil company. Philippe therefore grew up with the available means to explore nearly everything he put his mind to, and aviation and motor racing became his preferred interests during the 1920s and 1930s. His schedule of regular aviation adventures and international motor races on the Continent would make many other men of his period rather jealous with envy.
The lithe and sporting Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Zagato Spider must have been a perfect fit for this gentleman driver. Although not confirmed, it is believed that the Baron was driving 10814356 when he took first place honors in the 2,000cc class at the La Mothe Ste Heraye Hill Climb on June 5, 1932, and again on June 12 at the Puymoyen Hill Climb. Philippe's best racing result was achieved the following year, while owning 10814356, when he along with legendary racing driver and Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti piloted an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 to a second place finish at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
By the late 1930s, the Baron moved with his wife and baby son Jacques to Bordeaux. As war broke out across Europe, and fearing prosecution by the Nazis, the Baron's wife and young son took refuge in Switzerland, while the Baron stayed behind in France. He joined the French arm of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), where under the aliases Philbert and Edgard, he worked closely with French Resistance groups around southwestern France. The Baron avoided being captured by the Nazis and survived the war, and was later honored by the De Gaulle Government by having the town square of the village of Bergerac named after him. Baron Philippe de Gunzbourg lived a life full of adventures and honorable doings, becoming a member of the prominent Roland Garros Club among many others, until his death in Paris in 1987.
The Baron did not, however, keep 10814356 for all this time. He sold the car in 1935, to an owner residing in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques region of France, where the 6C 1750 was registered with number 5606 NM2. The car remained there until 1940, when it was sold and registered to Hydravions F.B.A., an aircraft manufacturer situated in Argenteuil near Paris. 10814356 remained in this ownership until June 5, 1944, when it was purchased by yet another French racing driver and motoring enthusiast, Victor Polledry. Polledry, a friend of Luigi Chinetti, raced Alfa Romeos, Aston Martins and later Ferraris at world class motoring events such as the Le Mans 24 Hours. Polledry kept 10814356 for decades in his Parisian collection of racing cars, where the Gran Sport Spider shared the garage with Montlhery record-breaking 6C 1750 Super Sport.
By the late 1960s, Polledry sold 10814356 to Monsieur Barriere, one of the designers for the famed Parisian fusion house Courrèges, so well known for their signature Parisian fashions of the 1960s. Monsieur Barriere used the car sparingly until he passed away, and 10814356 was then inherited by his son. The totally original and unrestored Alfa Romeo had begun to show its age, and with the intention of shining it up a bit, the late Barriere's son stripped the paint off in the 1970's, but failed to get much further than that. Still in complete and original condition, the car was sold in the early 1980s to yet another French owner, who admired its astounding level of originality and authenticity; the finely aged Alfa Romeo would remained in this collection until 2007.
Still in an untouched state, 10814356 finally left France in 2007, when it was sold at the Pebble Beach Auctions. Many enthusiasts admired the well-preserved Alfa, as it was clear that such incredibly well preserved pre-war racing-bred automobiles are few and far between. Most fascinating, the hand-painted Zagato body numbers located on doors and compartment decks, were still readable more than 70 years after they were applied at Zagato's workshop.
10814356 was purchased by a collector from Texas, who set out to find a restoration specialist capable and sympathetic enough to bring the Zagato Spider back to an authentically restored condition while paying special car to preserve the car's remarkable original features. Noted specialist Gary Okoren of Golden, Colorado was chosen for the task, and the restoration process began. To ensure absolute accuracy, the world's foremost Alfa Romeo historians and specialists were consulted for advice and guidance throughout the process. Okoren finished the running chassis, with an accurate and authentic restoration of all the original factory components. The matching numbers original engine was rebuilt, as was the gearbox and differential. Brakes, suspension and the original wheels were refurbished as well.
The 6C 1750 was then sold to the current owner in 2010, an East Coast collector with a discerning interest in only the most original and authentic sports and racing cars extant. 10814356 was carefully transported to New Jersey, where renowned restoration specialist Steven Babinsky and his outfit, Automotive Restorations, set out to complete the restoration of this hugely important pre-war Alfa Romeo. Here the entirely original and complete Zagato Spider bodywork, still showing its hand painted and stamped 987 body number throughout, was carefully fitted to the frame, and refinished in black. All remaining components of the car were restored as needed during this painstaking process, with close attention paid at all times to ensure that the car's myriad original components remained intact. Four large binders with photos and receipts of the restoration are available for viewing, carefully documenting this $600,000 restoration in exhaustive detail.
10814356 was completed in the summer of 2012, and was promptly invited to participate in the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Zagato and Alfa Romeo aficionados were delighted for the chance to admire the well-known ex-Baron Philippe de Gunzbourg 6C 1750 once more. In March 2013, 10814356 was shown at the Amelia Island Concours, where it was awarded Best in Class in the highly competitive pre-war Sports and GT class.
The prize-winning Alfa was shortly thereafter shipped back to its native Italy, where it successfully completed the 2013 Mille Miglia. The car performed faultlessly on the legendary thousand-mile rally, and as the co-driving Bonhams specialist can attest, the excitement of the locals when they saw this very car, a symbol of Italian national pride and engineering excellence, was just fantastic. It was, in fact, like the 1930 and 1931 editions of the original Mille Miglia, when Nuvolari and Guidotti and later Campari and Marinoni piloted similar 6C 1750 Gran Sport Zagato Spiders to victory. After the 2013 Mille Miglia, 10814356 returned to the Concours circuit once more, where it was displayed among 49 other hand-selected motorcars on the banks of Lake Como at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este.
Bonhams are exceptionally proud to offer here an opportunity to buy something truly magnificent, historic, and authentic. Considering its fascinating, well-understood and documented provenance, an ownership history including notable automotive figures of the 20th century, all carefully documented in the substantial history file accompanying the car, 10814356 as presented today offers unparalleled historic value, authenticity and originality. It is a rare occurrence today for a motorcar of such paramount significance to come to auction; among them, 10814356 stands out at the top.
Bonhams. THE SCOTTSDALE AUCTION. Scottsdale. 16 Jan 2014 - www.bonhams.com