In the 1930s, Europe’s dictators saw motor-racing success as excellent publicity for their countries, and German-Italian rivalry saw the production of some very seductive racing cars.
Italy’s contributions were impressive. The Alfa Romeo P3 – the world’s first single-seater Grand Prix car – was one of the 8C Series. Its successor was the 8C 2900A, powered by a bored-out version of Vittorio Jano’s 8C engine. This advanced flying machine was soon winning races, and Alfa Romeo decided to cash in on its supercar status by producing a road-going version.
Thus was the 8C 2900B conceived and born, a sibling of the Grand Prix car with a road body and slightly detuned engine. There were two versions – long and short chassis – and such was the cost of these magnificent machines that only a few were ever made, making them incredibly rare, with some two-thirds of the run being open-topped Spiders and the rest being sports coupes. Although one or two 8C 2900Bs had factory bodywork, most were supplied to external coachbuilders in rolling chassis form for finishing.
The results were stunning – as all those enthusiasts who regard the 8C 2900B as one of the very best pre-war passenger sports cars will testify. They are true masterpieces of elegance with a beauty and charm that make them irresistible, always gathering an admiring crowd when they appear at classic car shows. Most of the bodies were made by the Touring company, who used an innovatory lightweight metal framework developed by Zagato. Their long-wheelbase convertibles are the crème de la crème visually, but every single 8C 2900B is a masterpiece, including one or two special racing versions. The varying body styles are invariably slender and elegant, introducing the ala spessa concept that incorporated previously separate (‘lenients like mudguards and lights into streamlined bodywork.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1935 (until 1939)
2,905 cc DOHC Straight Eight
Top speed of around 120 mph (175 km/h), depending on bodywork.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Finding an 8C 2900B Spider for that thrilling ‘must drive’ moment won’t be easy – only 30 were ever made (20 short wheelbase, 10 long wheelbase) and anyone lucky (and rich) enough to own one guards it like the Crown Jewels.