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1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia Spider

This 8C 2900 B is one of the four team cars built by Alfa Romeo and Carrozzeria Touring for the 1938 Mille Miglia. Driven by Carlo Pintacuda, number 142 led for most of the thousand-mile, Alfa dominated, contest. At the last checkpoint, rear brake problems sidelined it for 14 minutes. While repairs were being made his rival Clemente Biondetti flew by, and the chase was on to the finish. Pintacuda caught up to his countryman, but was blocked by the wily Biondetti and unable to get by, finishing second.

The car was later bought from Alfa Corse by Count Carlo Felice Trossi. In the 1940s it came to the USA, and owner Tommy Lee hired drivers to race it at Pikes Peak and Watkins Glen. After Lee’s death a young mechanic by the name of Phil Hill bought the car from the estate and drove it to victory at Pebble Beach, winning the Del Monte Cup in 1951. Subsequent owners included James F. Magin and industrial designer Brooks Stevens, who commissioned a bare metal restoration on the car in 1967. Ralph Lauren purchased the car from the estate of renowned Alfisti Bill Serri in early 2004. Mr. Lauren commissioned his long time collaborator Paul Russell to restore the car to its 1938 Mille Miglia configuration; authentic in detail, equipment, and color.

When the Alfa first arrived in our shop, we were all impressed with its marvelous patina. But a very preliminary review of the records revealed that the body had been painted by Lee (cream and brown), Hill (back to red), and Magin (blue), before a full teardown by Stevens. During our disassembly, we took special care to look for any evidence of original finishes or materials. We found original primer and Alfa Corsa red under the Magin blue paint beneath the fuel tank cover, in an area which would only be addressed during this level of body panel restoration. A scrap of red leather was found stitched in with the horsehair seat stuffing. These small samples were used as our color guide to restore this Alfa to the 1938 Mille Miglia livery you see here.

A small but important sample of the challenge of such an undertaking was the restoration of the gauge faces. During disassembly we found that the face material was translucent styrene. Upon removal of the MPH over-paint we discovered the original kilometer markings were still visible as very slight depressions in the soft plastic. A masking pattern was created to repaint those original markings, and the speedometer face now looks as it did over 70 years ago.

With the help of extensive pictures from the Corrado Millanta photo archive, Alfa authority Simon Moore, Dr. Fred Simeone, Gordon Barrett and numerous other historians and collectors, we researched the details that made this Jano designed engine and Touring coachwork such a handsome and superb performer. One research trip took Paul to the Alfa-Romeo Museum in Milano. There he was able to finally locate the correct part number for an extremely rare 8-cylinder Bosch magneto. Also catching his eye was a very unique ignition loom, with its edges appearing to be rolled inside out while being made from one piece of tubing. We had previously only seen these in the Millanta pictures. The spark plug holder mounted onto the valve cover just adds to the small details that make this racing engine so period correct.

While this Superleggera body shell was substantially original, the unique wrap-around Mille Miglia windshield had been changed very early on. We made a new one, with the aluminum support and leather skirt as created by Carrozzeria Touring, by scaling off the period pictures. Additionally the front valance, tail lights, license plate lights and spare tire lid latches had to be reproduced utilizing the period pictures. To complete the race day look we replicated the headlight grilles and covers, radiator shade, and finally the hand painted Italian colors and hood decals as they appeared in the 1938 Mille Miglia.

In the spring of 2005, this Mille Miglia Spider was included in the “Speed, Style and Beauty: Cars from the Ralph Lauren Collection” exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. That fall it won Best in Class when Alfa Romeo was the featured marque at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. During the 2006 Goodwood Revival, Phil Hill reclaimed his place behind the 2.9 wheel, driving a few laps during a tribute honoring his racing career. Most recently, this marvelous Alfa was one of the cars featured in the Art of the Automobile exhibit at the Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs in the spring of 2011.

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Featured Articles & Publications

1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia Spider

Dale Drinnon, “Above Fashion”, photography by Martyn Goddard
Octane, April 2008

Mick Walsh, “On Cloud Two Nine”, photography by Tony Baker
Classic & Sports Car, April 2007

Jean Jennings, “25 Greatest Cars-Alfa Romeo 8C 2900”, photography by Tim Andrew
Automobile Magazine, September 2007

Ivar Engerud, “1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia Spyder”
Carburetti, Nr.18 2006 [Norway]

Jack Smith, “Alfa Tale”
Robb Report, August 2005

“ Curvy cowls, long bonnet, red headlamp covers casting a warm glow over the wings and radiator shroud - all serve to heighten expectation. Then comes the drama of that fabled engine. Push the ignition key - press the starter and the straight-eight fires, then 'settles' into a rough idle, spitting and coughing like a race-tuned V8. But dab the centre throttle and the response is instantaneous: the wonderful whoop-whoop only a supercharged Alfa can produce, its whirring gear tower and whistling blowers intensifying as the light dips, air cools and engine warms. ”

Mick Walsh, “On Cloud Two Nine”, Classic & Sportscar

The Mercedes-Benz factories sustained massive damage from Allied bombing during World War II. Utility vehicles were the first post-war product, and helped the company toward recovery. But something more spectacular needed to be done to attract the world’s interest. In 1951, it was decided to re-enter the racing circuit. In order to do so with the least financial strain, a sports car was developed using the existing 300 engine. Because of the relatively heavy weight of that engine and drivetrain, an unusually light body needed to be constructed. And so, the tubular steel framed, aluminum bodied 300SL (Sport Light) was born. Approximately fifteen of these race cars were made, winning many events and earning the world sports car championship.

In 1952, the 300SL caught the interest of racing fans in the United States. New Yorker Max Hoffman was one such enthusiast, who used his car dealership to bring many of the European makes into this country. One might even say that he is responsible for the creation of the 300SL, as his order for 1,000 cars convinced the Mercedes-Benz officials to go ahead with the production of a street car based upon the 300SL racing sports car. The prototype 300SL was shown at the International Motor Sports Show in New York City in February 1954.

The first production car with a fuel-injected gasoline engine, the 300SL was one of the most reliable sports cars of the ’50s and ’60s. The proven 300 engine was tilted to the left to accommodate a lower hood line. The body style was designated Sport Leicht (Light) due to its aluminum doors, hood, decklid, rocker panels and belly pans, though the main body shell was constructed from steel. Unusual for the period, 300SLs came equipped with dependable heat, defrosters, and wiper motors.

Ultimately, three different versions of the 300SL were offered. The 300SL Coupe was produced from August 1954 to May 1957, during which time twenty-nine all-aluminum bodied cars were made as well. Production of the Roadster version was between February 1957 and February 1963. Whichever style is your preference, they are now highly valued for their pure driving pleasure in the Mille Miglia, Colorado Grand, and other vintage events.

Factory photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Archives.

Pininfarina or Pinin Farina? In 1930, Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina founded Carrozzeria Pinin Farina. This company designed and built car bodies for a number of manufacturers, including Alfa Romeo, Hispano Suiza, Lancia, Fiat, and, most notably, Ferrari. Battista is quoted as saying “The interrelation between the body of a beautiful woman and that of a Farina-designed car is that both have simplicity and harmony of line, so that when they are old one can still see how beautiful they were when they were young.”

In conjunction with Battista’s retirement in 1961, the President of the Italian Republic authorized the family name to be changed to Pininfarina “in consideration of his achievements in social and industrial activities”. As a result, the correct usage of the family name as Pininfarina or Pinin Farina depends upon the year it was used.

The Mercedes-Benz factories sustained massive damage from Allied bombing during World War II. Utility vehicles were the first post-war product, and helped the company toward recovery. But something more spectacular needed to be done to attract the world’s interest. In 1951, it was decided to re-enter the racing circuit. In order to do so with the least financial strain, a sports car was developed using the existing 300 engine. Because of the relatively heavy weight of that engine and drivetrain, an unusually light body needed to be constructed. And so, the tubular steel framed, aluminum bodied 300SL (Sport Light) was born. Approximately fifteen of these race cars were made, winning many events and earning the world sports car championship.

In 1952, the 300SL caught the interest of racing fans in the United States. New Yorker Max Hoffman was one such enthusiast, who used his car dealership to bring many of the European makes into this country. One might even say that he is responsible for the creation of the 300SL, as his order for 1,000 cars convinced the Mercedes-Benz officials to go ahead with the production of a street car based upon the 300SL racing sports car. The prototype 300SL was shown at the International Motor Sports Show in New York City in February 1954.

The first production car with a fuel-injected gasoline engine, the 300SL was one of the most reliable sports cars of the ’50s and ’60s. The proven 300 engine was tilted to the left to accommodate a lower hood line. The body style was designated Sport Leicht (Light) due to its aluminum doors, hood, decklid, rocker panels and belly pans, though the main body shell was constructed from steel. Unusual for the period, 300SLs came equipped with dependable heat, defrosters, and wiper motors.

Ultimately, three different versions of the 300SL were offered. The 300SL Coupe was produced from August 1954 to May 1957, during which time twenty-nine all-aluminum bodied cars were made as well. Production of the Roadster version was between February 1957 and February 1963. Whichever style is your preference, they are now highly valued for their pure driving pleasure in the Mille Miglia, Colorado Grand, and other vintage events.

Factory photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Archives.

In March of 1926, Felice Bianchi Anderloni founded Carrozzeria Touring in Milan, Italy. A “gentleman” race driver and coachbuilder for 1930s Isotta-Fraschini and Alfa Romeo, Felice was well respected for creating beautiful, aerodynamic designs. He developed the patented “superlight” Superleggera construction method, a marvel of metal tube frames welded to a solid chassis, then skinned with aluminum body panels.

When Felice died suddenly in 1948 it was up to his son Carlo Felice, known as “Cici”, to save the business. Cici did so in no uncertain terms, when he presented his 1/10-scale model of the distinctive Barchetta to prospective client Enzo Ferrari. Enzo accepted the “little boat” design as presented. The superleggera concept became so closely associated with Touring that it was incorporated into the name of the company, becoming Touring Superleggera Milano in the 1950s.

Pictured: Cici Anderloni proudly displays the original Barchetta model to Paul Russell. Lake Como, 1998.

Scraping is done with a long, wood-handled chisel. First, the surface is cleaned, made level, and marked in pencil with a grid pattern. The chisel is held with both hands, with further pressure applied by the shoulder pushing against the wooden handle. As the blade of the chisel digs into the aluminum surface, the chisel is pushed and ‘flicked’ with a rotating motion. Once this is repeatedly accomplished in one direction, the part is turned 90 degrees and the entire process repeated again. Finally, the part is hand-sanded with a very fine-grade paper to remove the aluminum shards and burrs.

For many years, conventional wisdom had it that there were 3 Atlantics built. Fortunately enthusiasts like L.G. Matthews and historians like Pierre-Yves Laugier continue to study all things Bugatti, and new information and analysis becomes known and shared. The revival of the Bugatti Marque in the ownership of the Volkswagen Group has facilitated a reorganization of the company historic archives, in the hands of the esteemed Julius Kruta.

It is now acknowledged that there was a prototype (pictured here) named the Aerolithe built on a modified T57 chassis and later disassembled to form the basis for the first production car, now on the S chassis number 57374. This first car was labeled the Aero, and resides at the Mullin Automotive Museum.

Chassis 57473 was the second car produced and the first to be called the Atlantic. There were two more Atlantics made, one of which has not been seen since it disappeared in Belgium in the 1940s. The last of the Atlantics produced is chassis number 57591.

Professor Ignacio Barraquer who owned the Autobahn-Kurier for more than 60 years, was not just any eye doctor, but possibly the most famous ophthalmologist who ever lived. He developed procedures and surgical instruments that are standard to this day, mostly associated with cataract surgery, and many named after him. His father was Professor of Ophthalmology at the School of Medicine in Barcelona, Spain, a position Ignacio was appointed to following his father’s retirement. Ignacio’s son, José, developed the keratomileusis, or LASIK operation, today a common surgical procedure.

Born into an Italian banking family, Count Carlo Felice Trossi was an amateur inventor and a noted motor sportsman of the 1930s. Known as ‘Didi’ to his friends, he enjoyed racing boats and airplanes in addition to his pursuits in the field of engineering. As an early financial backer of Enzo Ferrari, he become President of Scuderia Ferrari in 1932 while continuing to be a primary driver for the team.

Reproduced here is a picture dated 1932, and supplied by his family, of his SSK in front of Castello di Gaglianico. The records of the Automobile Club of Italy show that Count Trossi sold and bought back this singular car several times from 1931 until his death in 1949.

In March of 1926, Felice Bianchi Anderloni founded Carrozzeria Touring in Milan, Italy. A “gentleman” race driver and coachbuilder for 1930s Isotta-Fraschini and Alfa Romeo, Felice was well respected for creating beautiful, aerodynamic designs. He developed the patented “superlight” Superleggera construction method, a marvel of metal tube frames welded to a solid chassis, then skinned with aluminum body panels.

When Felice died suddenly in 1948 it was up to his son Carlo Felice, known as “Cici”, to save the business. Cici did so in no uncertain terms, when he presented his 1/10-scale model of the distinctive Barchetta to prospective client Enzo Ferrari. Enzo accepted the “little boat” design as presented. The superleggera concept became so closely associated with Touring that it was incorporated into the name of the company, becoming Touring Superleggera Milano in the 1950s.

Pictured: Cici Anderloni proudly displays the original Barchetta model to Paul Russell. Lake Como, 1998.

For many years, conventional wisdom had it that there were 3 Atlantics built. Fortunately enthusiasts like L.G. Matthews and historians like Pierre-Yves Laugier continue to study all things Bugatti, and new information and analysis becomes known and shared. The revival of the Bugatti Marque in the ownership of the Volkswagen Group has facilitated a reorganization of the company historic archives, in the hands of the esteemed Julius Kruta.

It is now acknowledged that there was a prototype (pictured here) named the Aerolithe built on a modified T57 chassis and later disassembled to form the basis for the first production car, now on the S chassis number 57374. This first car was labeled the Aero, and resides at the Mullin Automotive Museum.

Chassis 57473 was the second car produced and the first to be called the Atlantic. There were two more Atlantics made, one of which has not been seen since it disappeared in Belgium in the 1940s. The last of the Atlantics produced is chassis number 57591.

In March of 1926, Felice Bianchi Anderloni founded Carrozzeria Touring in Milan, Italy. A “gentleman” race driver and coachbuilder for 1930s Isotta-Fraschini and Alfa Romeo, Felice was well respected for creating beautiful, aerodynamic designs. He developed the patented “superlight” Superleggera construction method, a marvel of metal tube frames welded to a solid chassis, then skinned with aluminum body panels.

When Felice died suddenly in 1948 it was up to his son Carlo Felice, known as “Cici”, to save the business. Cici did so in no uncertain terms, when he presented his 1/10-scale model of the distinctive Barchetta to prospective client Enzo Ferrari. Enzo accepted the “little boat” design as presented. The superleggera concept became so closely associated with Touring that it was incorporated into the name of the company, becoming Touring Superleggera Milano in the 1950s.

Pictured: Cici Anderloni proudly displays the original Barchetta model to Paul Russell. Lake Como, 1998.

Born into an Italian banking family, Count Carlo Felice Trossi was an amateur inventor and a noted motor sportsman of the 1930s. Known as ‘Didi’ to his friends, he enjoyed racing boats and airplanes in addition to his pursuits in the field of engineering. As an early financial backer of Enzo Ferrari, he become President of Scuderia Ferrari in 1932 while continuing to be a primary driver for the team.

Reproduced here is a picture dated 1932, and supplied by his family, of his SSK in front of Castello di Gaglianico. The records of the Automobile Club of Italy show that Count Trossi sold and bought back this singular car several times from 1931 until his death in 1949.