PEBBLE BEACH, Calif.
The largest gathering on record of the legendary Alfa Romeo 8C sports car will be a special feature of the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance here.
Only about 110 remain of the original 230 8Cs built between 1931 and 1939; organizers here expect nearly 30 of the survivors to be on display at the Sunday, Aug. 18 gathering on the concours field. Cars from all over North America, Europe and a number of other foreign countries are expected to participate.
After the concours, the 8Cs will head to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to begin a special 1,000-mile Tour of the Rockies organized by Alfa enthusiast and 8C owner Tom Price of Belvedere, Calif. The tour will take them up to British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, through Glacier National Park and along Going-to-the-Sun Road before concluding in Whitefish Lake, Montana. The 8C faithful have done such tours before, every three years or so, but Mr. Price notes, with sadness, that this will likely be the last one.
It is rather mind-boggling, given the seven-figure values attached to an 8C these days, that owners are willing to put them through such a grueling event. But the car has proven more than equal to the task. An 8C, entered in almost any kind of tribute rally such as the Mille Miglia, is still usually the car to beat.
The 8C has a well-deserved reputation as the ultimate race car of its time. Vittorio Jano, Alfa’s chief engineer in the 1930s, designed its potent, supercharged, 8-cylinder engine, which came in 2300, 2600 and 2900 cc versions; a long straight exhaust pipe gave the engine a sound like that of a fighter plane (not surprisingly, it was also adapted to aviation use).
As someone who has had the privilege of being behind the wheel of one, I can tell you that piloting an 8C is an unforgettable, visceral, exhilarating driving experience. As my co-driver David Gooding so eloquently put it afterward, “Every time I drive one of these, I tell people they make me feel like a Greek god. Like I can throw lightning bolts from my fingers. They are pure magic.”
The Alfa Romeo 8C had an auspicious racing debut. It won three straight grueling Targa Florio rallies in Sicily, 1931-1933. It won the 24 hours of Le Mans four years in a row, 1931-1934. It not only won its first time out in the infamous 1,000-mile Italian street race, the Mille Miglia; it ultimately won it seven times in a row, 1932-1938 (plus 1947, after a break for World War II, for good measure)! It also won the Monaco Grand Prix, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and the Spa 24 Hours.
Despite its popularity, only 188 Alfa 8Cs were manufactured with the 2300 cc engine between 1931 and 1934 and another 42 cars with the more powerful 2900 cc engine between 1935 and 1939. It was something of a beast as a street machine, and only a driver with an exceptional level of skill could master the 8C’s potential.
“If pressed to choose just one collector car, many car guys would opt for an Alfa Romeo 8C,” said Sandra Button, the concours chairwoman. “These cars offer both style and performance, and many have a stellar racing history. They are to be revered, but they also beg to be used and enjoyed.”
The Pebble Beach gathering could be the first and last time so many come together in one place.
August 2, 2013