Classic Sports Car
Over the years, I’ve seen favourite cars crashed while racing or, worse still, learned they’d been melted in disastrous garage fires. I can still remember the horror when, as a boy, I saw a picture of the ex-dick Seaman Delage in the smoking remnants of Rob Walker’s workshop. But even more upsetting is the deliberate destruction of coachbuilt cars to build yet another short-chassis sports model. Thankfully that trend has waned as originality has become better appreciated. It’s now 25 years since one of my all-time favourite Alfa 8Cs had its gorgeous Touring coupé body removed to recreate its first drop-top style. Every time I flick through Simon Moore’s masterwork, The Legendary 2.3, I linger over the entry for chassis 2211053, still angry that this unique hardtop has gone.
The car was born as a fabulous Zagato Spider, which was driven from Milan to Spa where Antonio Brivio and Eugenio Siena won the 24 Hours. At some point in the ’30s, the ex-scuderia Ferrari team car was fitted with a coupé body by Touring and became a star at Italian concours events – including winning Villa d’este’s Coppa d’oro – before it came to England in 1936.
After the war it was enjoyed by a succession of enthusiasts including John Le Sage, The Hon Patrick Lindsay and Bill Summers, all relishing the impressive performance from its hot works spec. Historian Moore has never forgotten the coupé blasting past him as he drove up the M1 in his MGA in 1967. There are rumours that the body is being fitted to a 6C-1750, or a replica 8C chassis, so we may yet see it run again.
I last saw this great car during the 1989 Louis Vuitton Concours at the Château de Bagatelle on my 32nd birthday. It was owned by American Brian Brunkhorst, who’d returned it from Japan where it had been exported in the ’70s. Initially jubilant that the great coachbuilt 8C was back in Europe, I was later stunned to learn that the coupé body had been removed for a new owner by the late Wayne Obrey’s team at Motion Works in Seattle. Paradoxically, the restored Touring coupé would fetch a premium today as a potential Pebble Beach or Villa d’este winner.
I’ve long wanted a miniature of this unique Alfa, but can’t really justify the £1000-plus or the months required to assemble the Pocher 1:8 super-kit. So during lockdown I’ve been buying broken Bburago Alfas on ebay and rebuilding them as my favourite 8Cs. Having done a Zagato
‘During lockdown I’ve been buying broken and tatty Bburago 1:18 Alfas on ebay and rebuilding them as my favourite 8Cs’
Spider and Brianza Monza, I felt confident enough to convert a Touring Spider into the lost coupé. It amused me that I was doing the reverse of the real car but closed bodywork, be it 1:1 or 1:18, is always a challenging construction.
Shielding away from home I was without my tools, but it’s amazing what you can do with a few files, bits of brass, a hacksaw and filler. I expected the roof to be the hardest feature, yet after automotive sculptor Terry Ross suggested Super Sculpey modelling clay, I thought I’d resolved things. A former was carved in wood, on which the roof was moulded prior to baking in the oven. My partner Liz has been amazingly tolerant, not only about the mystery objects appearing in the oven, but also suffering my frustrations with sizing and cracking of the first two attempts. The boiler cupboard proved the perfect drying area for newly sprayed parts.
After two weeks the model began to take shape, first looking like an open-wheeled, chopped-roof hot rod before the new wings were fitted. Final touches included hand-painted Roma plates and tiny doorhandles. It’s not perfect, but the process was more rewarding than buying another expensive, mass-produced miniature. As well as reading up the car’s history, I enjoyed studying pictures, sketching details and planning ‘must do’ lists. Best of all, I now look across my dream 8C line-up and conclude that lockdown wasn’t totally lost time.