Artcurial Motorcars headline consignment for its annual Retromobile auction in February 2019 is a Touring Berlinetta bodied Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B, chassis number 412024.
Alfa Romeo built only a handful of its masterpiece, the 8C 2900, in the late Thirties. They are some of the most purposefully beautiful sports cars of the era and, by all reports, far and away the best driving automobiles of the period.
Since there are so few (about 40 built), and because once they come into a collection they tend to become favorites that never leave, the appearance of an 8C 2900 for public sale is an historic event.
While the Grand Prix-derived 2,905cc 180 horsepower dual overhead camshaft, dual supercharged engine is at the Two-Nine’s heart its benign driving and handling characteristics would do any GP car of the era credit. Four wheel independent suspension with a transverse leaf spring and swing axles at the rear and parallel trailing arms with enclosed combined coil springs and hydraulic shocks at the front promotes a smooth ride with ambitious cornering capability. The gigantic hydraulically-actuated drum brakes are legendary both for their stopping power and for their reliability.
412024 is the sublime berlinetta by Touring, with all the right features: steeply raked Alfa grille, sweeping pontoon fenders, low-set headlights, long nose over the deliciously mechanical supercharged eight-cylinder engine, fastback greenhouse and, to top it all off, rear wheel spats with six brake cooling slats that are so much more eloquent statements of speed than “stylists” add-on chrome spears.
There were only five Touring Berlinettas built but their singular style and sleek, streamlined design make them collector favorites.
Three Alfa Romeo 8C 2900s have won Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Two of them have been Touring Berlinettas including David and Ginny Sydorick’s 2018 winner, an impressive 2 of 5, .400 batting average for Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Touring Berlinettas at the world’s most important concours.
412024 being offered by Artcurial Motorcars is unusually pure with a known history since 1939 in the United Kingdom and Holland. The bodywork has been altered only by the addition of small trapezoidal rear quarter windows — added by Lord North in the Fifties — for better visibility. It has been owned since 1976 by Jan Martens and his son Jan Willem in Holland.
In his exhaustive and entertaining history of “The Immortal 2.9” [available, and highly recommended, in its second edition from Parkside Publications in Seattle for a reasonable $275] historian Simon Moore quoted Bunny Tubbs’ 1949 Motor impression of 412024: “… the Alfa is not a dual purpose car; it appeals directly to the motoring sportsman, by whom it is used like a pair of skis, a sailing dinghy or a shot gun – not for daily chores, but as an article of sport.”
Only some 40 Two-Nines were built. Only five of them have Touring’s masterful Berlinetta coachwork.
The last Two-Nine to come to auction, Sam and Emily Mann’s 412041 with Touring Spyder coachwork, fetched $19.8 million at RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction in 2016.
There is absolutely nowhere in the known universe where this Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta would not be welcomed. On the historic Mille Miglia it would be greeted with effusive delight and enthusiasm. It is an entry ticket to the occasional Alfa 8C Tours where the performance of the escorting Montana Highway Patrol’s vehicles would be tested by this relic of the Thirties.
Artcurial Motorcars estimates it at €16-22 million, $19-26 million at current exchange rates.
It is hard to imagine a better way to employ discretionary capital, either in value or in return for physic income.
[Photos courtesy of Artcurial Motorcars.]