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Lot 144

2014   |   Pebble Beach Auctions 2014

1939 Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 Cabriolet Sportivo

Coachwork by Pinin Farina

SOLD $4,000,000

Estimate

$5,000,000 - $7,000,000

Chassis

915026

Car Highlights

A One-of-a-Kind Prewar Alfa Romeo Sports Car
One of Approximately 20 Examples of the High-Performance Tipo 256
Beautifully Finished and Highly Infuential Pinin Farina Coachwork
Fascinating Period Competition Record
Beautifully Preserved Original Upholstery

Technical Specs

2,443 CC DOHC Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Three Weber 36 DO2 Carburetors
125 HP at 4,800 RPM
4-Speed Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Hydraulic Drum Brakes
Independent Front Suspension with Coil Springs and Hydraulic Shock Absorbers
Rear Swing-Arm Suspension with Longitudinal Torsion Bars and Dampers
Register to Bid

From a Private Swiss CollectionSigfrido Koelliker, Torino, Italy (acquired new in July 1939)Piero Dusio, Torino, Italy (acquired from the above in December 1940)Antonio Patrignani, Milan, Italy (acquired from the above in March 1946)Societa Collettiva Tessraion di Carlo Puricelli, Como, Italy (acquired from the above in August 1946)Narciso d’Amande, Baron di Huerto, Rome, Italy (acquired from the above circa 1947)Gastone Ziarelli, Italy (acquired from the above in August 1948)Ann Phillis Wood, England (acquired from the above in August 1948)Fratelli Ambrosoli, Zurich, Switzerland (acquired in 1949)Armando Belerini, Ticino, Switzerland (acquired from the above in July 1950)Karl Weber, Zurich, Switzerland (acquired in May 1951)Karl Weber’s Mechanic, Zurich, Switzerland (acquired from the above in 1988)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2008)

Corsa dello Stelvio, July 1939, Mario Tadini (1st overall)Tiefencastel-Lenzerheide Hillclimb, 1951, Karl Weber (4th Place)Albispass Rennen, 1951, Karl WeberSwiss National Slalom, 1953, Karl Weber (2nd Place)Swiss National Slalom, 1956, Karl Weber

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este Como, Italy April 2008 (Best in Class)

Internally designated Yipo 256, the 6C 2500 Super Sport was the last competition Alfa Romeo built prior to WWII.

In 1939, the regulations for sports car racing were drastically changed, proving to be a death knell for the legendary series of supercharged Alfa Romeos. Though the new racing category – Sport Nationale – shifted focus to normally aspirated, production-based sports cars, the change certainly did not stifle innovation.

In reaction to these new regulations, Alfa Romeo developed a special competition variant of the 6C 2500, dubbed the 6C 2500 Super Sport, or Tipo 256 – a reference to the model’s 2.5-liter, six-cylinder engine.

The process of developing the 6C 2500 Super Sport was undertaken by Alfa Romeo’s works racing teams – Alfa Corse in Milan and Scuderia Ferrari in Modena.

The first Alfa Romeo document mentioning the new competition 6C was issued on October 10, 1938, approximately four months before the Tipo 256 was unveiled at the 1939 Berlin Motor Show. In this document, Alfa Romeo describes two types of cars: the “6C S Sport,” which was built on their own Alfa Corse premises in Milan, and the Tipo 256 prepared by Scuderia Ferrari in Modena.

Although both the Alfa Corse and the Scuderia Ferrari-prepared chassis featured the shortened 2,700 mm frame, lowered radiator, larger fuel tank, and stiffer suspension springs, the Tipo 256 version built in Modena was a more ambitious model. In fact, the cars built in Modena had a highly tuned engine with increased compression, three Weber carburetors, special distributor, and exhaust manifold that produced 120 hp. Additionally, the Tipo 256s were equipped with special gear ratios, Borrani aluminum wire wheels, larger diameter torsion bars, a steeply raked steering column, and a lightweight “sistema 8C 2900” scuttle, which was welded to the frame and allowed the battery to be relocated for improved weight distribution.

In total, approximately 20 Tipo 256s were produced with chassis numbers in the following ranges: 915006 to 915015 and 915020 to 915029. Most were campaigned by Alfa Corse, although a number were reserved for Alfa Romeo’s best clients – important figures of the day such as Benito Mussolini and Count Franco Mazzotti. Throughout 1939 and 1940, Alfa Romeo campaigned the Tipo 256 with great success at all the important European venues including the Mille Miglia and Le Mans.

Though very few were ever built, the Tipo 256 is an important model in that it represents the fnal collaboration between Alfa Romeo and Scuderia Ferrari – the two titans of sports car racing before WWII.

The Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 presented here, chassis 915026, was sold new to Sigfrido Koelliker on July 22, 1939, and registered in Turin as “TO 56850.”

Sig. Koelliker, known to many as “Gigi,” was the heir of a long-established Swiss family who immigrated to Italy during the 19th century and made their fortune in the milling and textile businesses. In the mid-1930s, Gigi inherited a large sum of money and formed a partnership with Lombardi Automobili, which subsequently became Lombardi and Koelliker, a famous dealership that sold exquisite coachbuilt automobiles to members of high society in Turin and Milan.

According to copies of the original Italian registration documents, 915026 was frst described as a racing car, namely a Spider Siluro – the nomenclature given to Tipo 256s with open coachwork by Carrozzeria Touring.

In its original form, it is believed that 915026 was the Spider Siluro that Alfa Corse team driver Mario Tadini raced to victory at the Corsa dello Stelvio in July 1939. This claim is, in part, based on physical differences between this car and the two Spider Siluros that Tadini campaigned before and after the hill climb in Stelvio, which had an alloy stripe separating the grille and a much lower position for the starting crank. Additionally, the appearance of 915026 at Stelvio would be in keeping with Alfa Corse’s tradition of providing a works driver with the newest available car in an effort to give him every possible advantage.

As is well documented, most of the Tipo 256 racing cars were rebodied between 1939 and 1942, following the outbreak of WWII and the cancellation of Alfa Romeo’s factory racing program. This is certainly the case with 915026, which Lombardi and Koelliker sent to Carrozzeria Pinin Farina in March 1940.

It is believed that Gigi Koelliker took out a loan of 27,000 lire at the time he placed the order for new coachwork with Pinin Farina. The price of the body speaks to Gigi’s expectations for the Alfa Romeo as, at more than one-third of the price of the new car, it was a particularly expensive exercise. In fact, the price paid for the Pinin Farina body and the Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 chassis exceeded the price of a brand-new Carrozzeria touring-bodied 8C 2900.

As one might expect, given its staggering price, the coachwork fitted to 915026 was exceptional – both in terms of its avant-garde design and the elegance of its execution.

The overall design is credited to Count Mario Revelli de Beaumont who, along with Carlo Felice Bianchi “CiCi” Anderloni, is widely considered the most talented and influential Italian stylist of the late 1930s. While Anderloni devoted his skills solely to Carrozzeria touring, the prolific Count de Beaumont was a freelance designer who worked for a variety of Turin coachbuilders – primarily Pinin Farina, Stabilimenti Farina, and Bertone. Many of the finest Italian bodies built between 1939 and 1940 display his unmistakable imprimatur and show his appreciation for innovative features.

For instance, this Cabriolet Sportiva, which Pinin Farina fashioned for 915026, represents the latest technical advances, particularly in its use of a fully enveloped form.

Undoubtedly influenced by the latest developments in aerodynamics, Count de Beaumont’s design features a streamlined front end with beautifully integrated headlamps and a distinctive air intake arrangement, rather than the traditional Alfa Romeo grille. The profile showcases the body’s rear-hinged “suicide” doors and voluptuous, sculpted lines, which at once recall the splendor of the great Parisian coachbuilders and forecast the styling of many postwar sports cars.

In keeping with its streamlined form, the body was fitted with a V’d windscreen with two individual panes of glass that could be cranked open to allow fresh air into the cabin. Alternatively, the entire windscreen assembly could be folded fat over the cowl to create a most dramatic and sporting appearance.

The Cabriolet Sportiva was fitted with a rakish top that is attractive when raised and neatly disappears under a metal cover when stowed. Even the bi-plane bumpers – crafted from lightweight aluminum and decorated with thin rubber strips – are graceful and modern, demonstrating the cohesive nature of the design.

In each and every feature – from the sophisticated blue-faced Veglia instruments to the beautifully engraved brightwork – this spectacular Pinin Farina creation showcases the extreme attention to detail, quality construction, and old-world craftsmanship that went into the production of this bespoke Alfa Romeo.

Battista “Pinin” Farina was obviously very proud of this Cabriolet Sportiva as he advertised it soon after completion in the July 1940 issue of Auto Italiana. This unique Alfa Romeo – the perfect marriage of a competition chassis and a stylish Pinin Farina body – must have caused quite a stir at the time, as it was surely the most expensive and exclusive Italian car in production.

In December 1940, 915026 was sold to Piero Dusio, the famous Turinese industrialist, football star, and racing driver.

Not only was Dusio the second wealthiest resident in Torino – second only to Giovanni Agnelli – he had previously campaigned many Alfa Romeo sports cars and was known to work exclusively with his friend Battista Farina. In fact, Dusio already had his Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 – chassis 412008 – rebodied by Pinin Farina in a similar cabriolet style, even choosing the same blue leather for the upholstery.

Based on these connections, and the fact that Dusio was well known to manipulate the extracti automobilistici to avoid paying taxes on his expensive automobiles, he most likely enlisted Gigi Koelliker to serve as his “middle man” in acquiring 915026.

In March 1946, Piero Dusio sold the Tipo 256 to Antonio Patrignani of Milan who, in turn, sold it to Carlo Puricelli’s Societa Collettiva Tessraion in Como. From there, the Alfa Romeo passed through several Italian owners before being sold to Ann Phillis Wood and prepared for export to the UK. Upon its arrival in England, 915026 was issued a provisory registration number, “OC 9633.”

The Alfa Romeo’s rather unexpected journey to England is best explained by an article, which appeared in the August 3, 1949, issue of The Motor titled “Three Generations.” In this fascinating article, D.B. Tubbs tested three closed Alfa Romeo sports cars – an 8C 2300, an 8C 2900, and a 6C 2500 – to compare their respective dynamic and aesthetic qualities. Though the Tipo 256 was not included in the test, the distinctive Pinin Farina Cabriolet is pictured on the last page of the article – wearing its English provisory plate – along with a caption that states, “The coachbuilding house of Pinin Farina emerged as a leader of fashion in the post-war world. This drop-head coupé is mounted on a six-cylinder 2.5 litre chassis; the front end is aerodynamically ‘clean’ and the lines restrained.”

Beyond its appearance in a leading British automotive journal, 915026 may have been an important influence on car design in postwar England – after all, Sir William Lyons always made it clear that the XK120’s design took its origins from Italian roadsters and there is no question that this unique Alfa Romeo was a memorable presence in England just as Jaguar was actively developing their new six-cylinder sports car.

Following its brief sojourn to England, 915026 returned to Italy and was then sold, on April 14, 1949, to Fratelli Ambrosoli, Alfa Romeo’s agent in Zurich.

In May 1951, after a brief time in the hands of Armando Belerini, 915026 was sold to Karl Weber, a successful Swiss-German businessman and Alfa Romeo aficionado in Zurich. Evidently, Herr Weber, who previously campaigned his prewar 6C 1900 in local sporting events, was looking for a more competitive Alfa Romeo to enter in the Tiefencastel-Lenzerheide Championship in Switzerland.

According to his own records, Herr Weber campaigned the elegant Pinin Farina-bodied Tipo 256 in various hill climbs, races, and slalom competitions throughout Switzerland between 1951 and 1956. Amazingly, the Alfa Romeo remained in Herr Weber’s hands until 1988, when it was gifted to his mechanic.

The current Swiss owner acquired 915026 from Herr Weber’s mechanic in 2008 and it has since resided in his stable as the undisputed centerpiece of an exceptional Alfa Romeo collection. Though the coachwork has been refinished in Gunmetal Grey and fitted with a new tan soft top, the Alfa Romeo remains very original throughout and the interior retains its vibrant Mediterranean Blue leather upholstery trimmed by Pinin Farina in 1940.

In May 2008, the Pinin Farina Cabriolet Sportiva was invited to participate in the prestigious Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, where it was displayed in Class B, Kings of the Road: High Performance Models of the 1920s and 1930s.

A powerful testament to the Alfa Romeo’s influential design, fascinating history, and outstanding original features, it was selected from an impressive field as Best in Class.

A superb coachbuilt example of the firm’s final prewar competition car, 915026 is an important part of Alfa Romeo’s rich history. Prepared by Scuderia Ferrari in Modena and campaigned by Alfa Corse in late 1939, this Tipo 256 is the ultimate evolution of the famed 6C 2500 line and one of the most desirable sports cars of the era with its highly tuned twin-cam engine and race-bred chassis.

Not only does this Alfa Romeo possess the best sporting credentials, it is a true masterpiece of the coachbuilder’s art. Designed by the legendary Count de Beaumont, this stunning Pinin Farina Cabriolet was a state-of-the art design in its day, finished with extraordinary attention to detail and sold to Piero Dusio, one of Alfa Romeo’s wealthiest and most important clients.

Considering its competition specification chassis, brilliant Pinin Farina coachwork, fascinating provenance, and uncommon originality, 915026 must be considered among the great prewar Alfa Romeos, and thus one of the most significant sports cars of all time. Those with a deep appreciation of this great Italian marque will recognize the opportunity to acquire this historic Pinin Farina-bodied Alfa Romeo as the chance of a lifetime.