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  Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Le Mans Berlinetta
 

  Article Image gallery (6) Specifications  
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Country of origin:Italy
Produced in:1939
Numbers built:one-off
Designed by:Touring
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:Before December 1st, 2004
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Click here to download printer friendly versionFrom the late 1920s, the six cylinder or 6C cars formed the main-stay of Alfa Romeo's limited production line-up. Much of the technology used in these road cars were directly derived from marque's dominating racing cars of the day. The six cylinder engine was developed throughout the 1930s and increased in size from its initial 1487 cc to 2443 cc at the end of the decade. The Vittorio Jano designed engine featured a cast-iron block with a light alloy double overhead camshaft head.

Introduced in 1939, the 6C 2500 was available in many different configurations. The line-up ranged from the 6C 2500 Turismo with a long wheel base chassis and 87 bhp engine, to the 6C 2500 Super Sport or ss, with a short wheel base and 110 bhp engine. These performance figures are factory quotes, when running on good fuel these figures are easily exceeded. The racing pedigree of the ss chassis was quickly proven by a handful of competition models produced, before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Like the road-going versions, the competition cars were delivered as rolling chassis for coach-builders to body. The six cylinder engine was fitted with three Weber Carburettors, replacing the single unit used on the road cars. This increased the power output to (a factory quoted) 120 bhp. Further modifications to increase the performance of the all-around independently sprung chassis were not necessary. It was very similar in design to that of its bigger brother, the 8C 2900, which had already proven itself against stiff competition.

In the spring of 1939 Alfa Romeo sent three chassis to Carrozzeria Touring to be bodied for that year's running of the Mille Miglia. A huge accident resulted in the cancellation of the event, the three roadsters now made their debut at the Tobruk-Tripoli race. In good Alfa Romeo tradition, the race was dominated, resulting in a one-two-four finish for the three cars. The fourth chassis completed is featured above and was sent to Touring to be bodied with an aerodynamic 'berlinetta' body for the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Driven to Le Mans from Milan on public roads, the berlinetta was barely in time for scruteneering. At first glance it resembled the 8C 2900B Le Mans which dominated the 1938 running, leading with over 100 miles at one stage, until it retired with a broken valve. Together with the aerodynamic body, a larger fuel tank was the only difference between the berlinetta and the successful spiders. With Raymond Sommer and Prince Bira as pilots the 6C 2500 ss Le Mans was a strong contender for the overall victory.

Poor reliability again led Alfa Romeo's effort down. It was first dogged by plug problems and then lost an hour when the head gasket needed replacing. After all these repairs, it still didn't make it to the finish. After the disappointing result at Le Mans, the berlinetta was entered in a race once more, the 1940 Mille Miglia. It failed to record an impressive finish and Alfa Romeo missed the victory with a spider version of the 6C finishing in second place. The racing career of the berlinetta and spiders was cut short by the Second World War.

Unfortunately the unique Le Mans Berlinetta has not survived. In recent years at least two replicas have been built on existing 6C chassis. The featured example was built by Raoul San Giorgi in The Netherlands. It is shown above during the 2003 Paleis 't Loo Concours d'Elegance alongside other competition Alfa Romeos. During the 2008 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance a second replica appeared, wearing a different chassis number.

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  Article Image gallery (6) Specifications