With the arrival of the government backed German Grand Prix teams, Alfa Romeo's stronghold on motor racing started to weaken. In sportscar and Grand Prix form, Vittorio Jano's marvellous eight cylinder had dominated in the early 1930s resulting in four consecutive Le Mans wins for the 8C 2300 and many Grand Prix victories for the Tipo B P3. The Tipo B combined the supercharged straight eight with a revolutionary chassis and is considered by many as the first true single seater. There is no doubt that the managing skills of a young Enzo Ferrari and the driving talents of Tazio Nuvolari, 'The Flying Mantuan' contributed much to the success as well. Unstoppable in its introduction year 1932, the Tipo B was showing its age by 1935 and despite the gradual increase of displacement from 2.6 to 3.8 litres, it was rarely able to match the advanced German racers. Nuvolari did manage to take a very important victory in the 1935 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in front of a large number of Nazi officials. While the Alfa Romeo drivers struggled on in 1935, the factory was busy building a new chassis and engine.
The biggest problem Alfa Romeo faced was the huge amounts of power the German eight, twelve and sixteen cylinder engines produced. At 3.8 litre the Jano's eight cylinder engine had grown to its maximum displacement, so work was started on an all new V12. In the mean time Ferrari attempted to bridge the gap with the hugely complex 'Bimotore', which as the name suggests sported two engines and was designed for high speed tracks like Avus. Remarkably the Bimotore did manage to finish second, although most of the credits for that result have to go to driver Louis Chiron who was very careful with the tyres. He gained many positions as drivers ahead of him dropped out with blown tyres. The Tipo B Nuvolari drove to take that memorable win in Germany did not only sport the latest specification engine, but also a new independent front suspension through swing axles. Both were carried over to the new Tipo C chassis under construction in Jano's workshop. For the new car he went one step further and followed the German example set in 1934 by fitting independent suspension all-round. The package was literally rounded off with an curvaceous aerodynamic skin, which was quite a departure from the simple, square body panels fitted on the Tipo B.
While originally dubbed the Tipo C, the cars are now commonly referred to as 8C 35 and the later twelve cylinder variant as 12C 36. The Italian Grand Prix at Monza in September 1935 saw the introduction of the new 8C 35, but Nuvolari was still not able to match the Germans for outright performance; there was still a gap of 100 bhp to bridge. The introduction of the 4.1 litre 12C 36 at the Tripoli Grand Prix in May 1936 brought the deficit down to 60 bhp and brought Alfa Romeo somewhat in contention again. Although mostly in minor races, both the 8C and 12C models were driven to several wins in 1936, highlighted by victories in the Donnington Grand Prix and the Vanderbilt Cup in New York. In races with the German cars present a second place at Monza and a third at the Nürburgring, both with the V12 car, were the best results. With renewed confidence work was started on an evolution of the 12C for 1937. Subtle changes were made to the chassis to improve the handling, but most time was spent improving the engine's performance. The displacement was increased to 4.5 litres and with the help of newly developed twin-stage Superchargers the 12C 37 produced a hefty 430 bhp. Still in development, Nuvolari tried the car and decided he would be better off driving for Auto Union. Before 1937 was over both Jano and Ferrari had also left the Milanese company.
Reportedly six of both the Tipo C variants were produced, but we are not sure if that figure applies to the total production of 1935 and 1936 chassis or if six of each (twelve in total) were constructed. Six in total is what we currently believe to be true. Obsolete for racing in Europe, many of this generation Alfa Romeo racers were shipped to South America to run in Formula Libre races. The pictured s/n 50014 was one of them and it only returned to Europe in the early 1990s in dismal state. Alfa Romeo expert Paul Grist worked his magic and returned the worn-out racer to its former glory. Since its restoration Paul's son Matt successfully raced the Grand Prix car, frequently beating much more modern opposition. Today it is one of two 8C 35s known to have survived. The highly original '50013' sister car changed hands at a 1988 Christie's auction for a remarkable $2.85 million, which was a world record for a Grand Prix car. Now in the possession of a new owner, the featured Alfa Romeo 8C 35 is seen here in action in the 2006 Cavallino Classic.