Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Spider Corsa Sperimentale „Balena“ 1941

John LammNicknamed „Balena“ („Whale“), this experimental 180-hp 8 cylinder 2905cc prototype racing car has streamlined bodywork designed by Gioachino Colombo, who also engineered the first Ferraris. It was the last example built of Alfa Romeo’s greatest pre-war sports car – virtually a road-going Grand Prix racer, of which only 30 were made – and was raced in Argentina in 1949-51 by Carlos Perez de Villa. Found dismantled in a Buenos Aires bedroom in the 1980s, it was brought back to Europe for restoration by the Italian nobleman Count Vittorio Zanon.

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The 8C 2900 project began with the 8C 2900A, a very special series of eleven sports-racing cars, not intended for sale to the general public, developed from the Alfa Romeo Tipo B Grand Prix car after a Tipo B fitted with road equipment had won the 1935 Mille Miglia. Raced during 1936 by the Scuderia Ferrari, the 8C 2900A took the first three places in that year’s Mille Miglia and won the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamp in Belgium.

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Late in 1937, the 8C 2900B appeared, powered by a 2.9-litre supercharged engine taken from the surplus factory stock of Tipo B Grand Prix power units remaining after the model’s racing days were over. There were thirty-two of these units, so the production run of the 8C 2900B was limited to thirty cars, available in two chassis lengths. The extremely stiff chassis had trailing-link front suspension and rear swing axles, giving „superlatively high“ standards of road-holding, enabling the 8C 2900 to corner at fantastic speeds.

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This was a true „super car“. Alfa Romeo issued new owners of the 8C 2900B with running-in instructions urging them not to exceed 90 mph (145 km/h) for the first 950 miles (1525 km), and when a contest was held at the Brooklands race track to discover Europe’s fastest road car, the clear victor was the Alfa Romeo 8C2900.

In 1938, 8C 2900B Alfa Romeo’s won the Spa-Francorchamp 24-hour race and took the first three places in the Mille Miglia, while an aerodynamic coupe entered for Le Mans proved to be the fastest car in the race, capable of lapping at over 96 mph (155 km/h).

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