The beautiful Alfa Romeo 8C turns 90 this year and the timeless classic with its unforgettable styling remains a wonderful example of the Italian marque’s values from coachbuilder to motorsports champion and on to a global car brand.
Alfa Romeo 8C
Introduced in 1931 as a direct successor to the 6C 1750, Alfa’s first eight-cylinder 8C 2300 road car was designed by the famous Italian automobile designer Vittorio Jano who was one of the first automotive engineers to create a high-performance car that could sustain full throttle whilst driving at break-neck speeds. Alfa Romeo was at the forefront of international motor racing and would do anything to cement that high profile status at just about any cost.
Jano succeeded and the feisty 8C would prove to be a formidable racing weapon with success in the 1930s coming race after race, accumulating four victories at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. Just a few of the iconic pilots achieving success behind the wheel included the homegrown Tazio Nuvolari, Luigi Chinetti and French racing driver, Raymond Sommer.
At the heart of the 8C resided a brilliant and innovative supercharged, straight-eight, twin-overhead-camshaft power unit also created by designer Vittorio Jano, that saw all cylinders following a straight line along the crankcase with a central cam-drive gear amidships. The same 8C engine was mounted to a further two models which were the 8C 2300 (1931–1935) and the even more rare and expensive 8C 2900 (1936–1941).
Bore and stroke were 66 x 88 mm giving 2,336cc, while the twin-lobe Roots-type supercharger was driven at 1.33-times crankshaft speed. The Corto (short) chassis had a wheelbase of 2.75 meters, and the Lungo (long) version one of 3.1 meters.
The transmission was delivered via a four-speed manual gearbox with large drum brakes all round providing the much-needed brakes on a car that could easily reach 100 mph and reliably produce over 140 horsepower at 5,000rpm.
Monoposto 8C 35 Type C
1935 saw the introduction of the instantly recognisable Monoposto (single-seat) 8C 35 Type C which was the first all-independently-suspended, big-engined Grand Prix racing design from Alfa Romeo which the Portello factory tailor-made in 1936 in direct opposition to the enormous State-backed German ‘Silver Arrow’ Mercedes-Benz W25E and Auto Union C-Type cars.
The car was made famous by the legendary Italian superstar driver Tazio Nuvolari who fearlessly competed against the might of the German teams and their own star drivers such as Rudi Caracciola, Bernd Rosemeyer, Manfred von Brauchitsch and Hans Stuck.
Alfa 8C 2900
From the 1930s onwards, designers and coachbuilders were beginning to understand and improve the aerodynamics of automobiles. Low drag was also recognized as a key to increasing the competitiveness of racing cars. In the first step, external elements such as fenders and headlights were integrated into the body. Subsequently, more curvaceous, smoother and streamlined bodies emerged.
Whilst the marque achieved racing success in the early to mid-1930s with the 8C 2300s and 8C 35 Type C, the 8C 2900 became the most advanced, modern, and immortal thirties car of its time with many naming it as their most beautiful car ever produced.
Each corner boasted independent suspension and once again the Vittorio Jano-designed straight-eight engine featured but with two Roots-type superchargers. As exciting and dramatic as the ‘two-nine’ chassis itself was, they benefitted from the addition of some of the most sensuous and well-balanced coachwork of the pre-war era.
Such is the rarity of the exquisite 8C 2900, that recent sale prices of a 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider by Touring and 8C 2900 B Touring Berlinetta accumulated in excess of €35,000,000 between the pair.
Whilst there are many quizzes about quotes from the Alfa Romeo stable, the marque has always believed that ‘everything that is beautiful must also be efficient’.
Alfa’s designers unleashed their creativity skills and delivered some of the most graceful and successful cars of all time – the Alfa Romeo 8C is without doubt one of most alluring classics ever produced…