Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Zagato
*Please note that this car is equipped with a Tipo 1306 engine and is accompanied by two additional Tipo 1306 spare engines, and does not feature a correct Tipo 1308 engine as specified in the catalogue.
Luigi De Paoli, Italy (acquired new via the Alfa Romeo Dealer in Lucca, Italy, in May 1955)Colonel William Kelly, Camp Darby, Italy (acquired from the above in November 1957)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
Brilliantly engineered by Orazio Satta Puliga, Alfa Romeo’s 1900 series debuted to great acclaim at the 1950 Paris Motor Show and quickly achieved commercial success. As Alfa Romeo’s first model built on a standardized production line with unitized construction and available left-hand drive, the 1900 swiftly evolved into the short-wheelbase 1900C – with the “C” denoting “corto” or “short” – and the more-powerful 1900TI of 1951 was followed in 1953 by the 1900 Super and 1900TI Super, also known as the “1900SS” or Super Sprint, with enlarged 1,975 cc engines.
The ultra-rare “C SS” combined the short chassis with a racing-specification engine, gearbox, and revised final-drive ratios, plus air-cooled “Alfin” self-adjusting brakes. The excellent five-speed manual gearbox featured synchronized second, third, and fourth gears, with carefully selected ratios matching the power curve of the twin-cam Tipo 1308 engine. The 1900 series basked in competition success and particularly that of the 1900C SS, with the 1900’s racing credentials earned at the major races and rallies of the era, including the Targa Florio, Stella Alpina, and Mille Miglia.
July 1959 marked the end of nearly a decade of 1900 production. While over 21,000 1900-series cars were built along many variations, only 854 were the ultimate-specification 1900C SS. From introduction, the 1900 received the deft touch of Italy’s finest custom coach builders, including Touring; Ghia; Vignale; and those endowed with bodies from Zagato, which utilized ultra-lightweight alloy panelwork, yielded even greater performance.
Finished in gray and delivered on May 13, 1955, this Zagato-bodied Alfa Romeo 1900C SS, chassis AR1900C*01947, was sold through the Alfa Romeo dealership at Lucca in Tuscany to Luigi De Paoli, who was known to have owned a succession of fascinating cars. The vehicle returned to Alfa Romeo soon thereafter and it was next acquired by Charlie Daniels, a member of the US military in Italy, and Colonel William Kelly – with the men campaigning the car jointly until 1957, when Colonel Kelly took sole ownership of the car.
Colonel Kelly was an officer serving in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stationed during this time at Camp Darby, an Italian military base for American and NATO military operations beginning about 1951. Colonel Kelly piloted a De Havilland Beaver plane throughout Europe as part of the massive postwar reconstruction effort and President Dwight Eisenhower’s drive to enhance the efficiency of troop, tank, and supply movements in Italy, particularly in Brescia, where Allied forces faced legendary hardships during the war.
Colonel Kelly served 28 years in the Army, eventually rising to the rank of brigadier general. While traveling through Europe, he entered club tours and rallies with 01947, with the majority likely organized by the “Scuderia Aurelia” club at Camp Darby. The cloisonné badge of this exclusive club is still affixed to the front of the 1900’s thin aluminum bonnet. Following Brigadier General Kelly’s return to the US and a new posting in North Carolina, the SSZ was stored unused, in relative secrecy from 1977. The Alfa Romeo was retained by Brigadier General Kelly for nearly 60 years in all, until its recent discovery and acquisition by the consignor.
As now offered, 01947 is accompanied by a large cache of exceedingly rare parts, spares, trim pieces, manuals, and tools, plus a color image of the Zagato coupe, complete with racing number, taken in period at a club event. While the front bumper and left-front brake cooling duct – along with various other items – are no longer with the car, 01947 is accompanied by the partially assembled 1900 engine that has been with the car since 1956. In sum, this extremely rare and important Zagato garage find is sure to excite the Alfisti everywhere, with wonderful design cues and patina that can only be fully appreciated upon closer examination and consideration by the true enthusiast.