1935 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Sport SpyderCoachwork by Touring
“Sports cars and tyrants don’t usually go together, but Fascist president Mussolini had different ideas.” Mick Walsh, Classic & Sportscar, March 2008.
This Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Sport Spyder is one of two built and was destined for the most important man in pre-war Italy: ‘Il Duce’, Cavaliere Benito Mussolini, as recorded in longhand on the car’s original registration documents- which gave his address simply as ‘Roma’. Mussolini was a keen driver and a faithful supporter of Alfa Romeo, even decreeing that it receive much needed government funding during the early 1930s economic depression which gripped most of Europe.
Mussolini’s 6C 2300 received an engine tuned to a specification developed by Scuderia Ferrari during the 1934 competition season and Touring’s body design was altered extensively immediately after delivery until it was exactly to Il Duce’s liking. “Throughout the summer of 1935 the Spyder, often festooned with flowers, was used as the parade car for propaganda tours, including on the Ligurian Riviera. Mussolini would stand boldly on the passenger side with little apparent concern about attempts on his life” added Mick Walsh.
The following year, Mussolini entered the 6C 2300 in the Mille Miglia for his chauffeur Ercole Boratto but, in the light of sanctions imposed on Italy following its invasion of Abyssinia, he ordered the car to be converted to run on alcohol in the ‘alternative fuels’ class. Mussolini had been instrumental in facilitating the birth of the Mille Miglia, aware of its propaganda value for Italy, even putting 80,000 troops at the organizers disposal to marshal the route of the inaugural race in 1927. Alfa Romeo’s long serving test driver Giovanbattista Guidotti, who was tasked with preparing Il Duce’s Alfa for its Mille Miglia entry, recalled many years later: “A second tank for the alcohol was fitted in place of the dickey seat, but there was a hidden lever beneath the dashboard allowing us to run the car on normal fuel after we had passed the checkpoints. The car did actually manage to use a few drops of alcohol. Anyway, the publicity value was worthwhile and the Royal Italian Automobile Club wrote to congratulate the Duce whose car ran the entire course with the greatest reliance on this alternative fuel!”
In the event, Boratto and co-driver Mancinelli ran a flawless race to place 13th overall and 3rd in class and their performance is immortalised in an Istituto Luce film which shows the frenetic pace and emotionally charged atmosphere which was so much a part of the original Mille Miglia.
Il Duce kept his personal Alfa Romeo until November 1939 when it passed to a lesser party official who painted it army green, hostilities having now opened. He hid it later in the war but the car remained in his ownership until the 1960s when, after his death, it was inherited by a relative in a sorry state. Eventually in 1972 pioneering motoring historian, collector and plastic surgeon Dr Luigi Fittipaldi was able to acquire the car and it remained in his ownership until, exactly 50 years after the end of WW2, it was sold at auction in May 1995 by Simon Kidston to Giuseppe Calgaro, an Italian sports car collector.
At this stage the Alfa Romeo was complete and running but largely preserved. Calgaro ran the car in the Mille Miglia retrospective before selling it to restorer/ dealer Ugo Isgro of Treviso, near Venice. He embarked upon a complete rebuild which was carried out by Dino Cognolato, Italy’s best-known restorer, and finished in time for the car to be shown at Pebble Beach in 2005 where it received a class award. Sold in 2008 to a private collector in the UK, the car has since participated in the Mille Miglia once more where its arrival in Rome was greeted by applause from the crowd when its illustrious original owners name was announced.
This beautiful Alfa Romeo’s appeal goes beyond the motoring world and offers the new owner his pick of exclusive gatherings and enjoyable tours. As Mick Walsh observed: “Just imagine the conversations conducted here- be they political gossip or lascivious chat- between Mussolini and his passengers.” It is truly unrepeatable (black shirt not included).
Photographs courtesy Ned Lawler.