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  Alfa Romeo 512
 

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Country of origin:Italy
Produced from:1940 - 1941
Numbers built:2
Designed by:Wilfredo Ricart
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:Before December 1st, 2004
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIn the second half of the 1930s voiturette racing became increasingly popular. As the name suggests, voiturettes were smaller Grand Prix racers; there was a 3-litre limit for the big boys and 1.5 litre for the voiturettes. The spiralling costs of the 3-litre racers and the dominance of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union made the 1.5 litre class an interesting alternative for the Italian teams. Alfa Romeo's first voiturette racer, the 158, was launched in 1938.

When it was announced that the 3-litre category was to be scrapped and the World Championship to be run under the 1.5 litre regulations, work was started on a replacement for the 158 by Wilfredo Ricart and Gioacchino Colombo. Inspired by the Auto Union racers, Alfa Romeo opted for a mid-engined layout for the 158 replacement. The mid-mounted engine was not the only first for an Alfa Romeo, the construction of the engine was completely new as well.

To lower the centre of gravity of the 512, a completely new flat 12 cylinder engine was fitted. Its stroke of just 54.2 mm was the smallest ever used in a pre-war Alfa Romeo Grand Prix racer. Helped by two Superchargers, the 1490 cc engine pumped out an incredible 335 bhp, which was over 200 bhp/litre. Directly bolted on the engine was a five speed gearbox and a DeDion rear axle. The front wheels were independently sprung for razor-sharp handling. Big hydraulically operated drums took care of braking.

A first prototype was completed in 1940, but development was cut short by the Second World War. A second chassis was built, but the car was never completed. After the War Alfa Romeo started racing again with the 158 and ironically it was the 158 that won Alfa Romeo the first Formula 1 World Championship, for which the 512 was originally designed. Wilfredo Ricart returned to Spain to start his own car company, Pegaso. Colombo left for Ferrari and designed a V12 engine that would be used up into the Sixties.

Featured is the completed 512, which is owned by the Alfa Romeo Museum and is pictured here at the 2002 Retromobile show.

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  Article Image gallery (5) Specifications