Page 1 of 2 Next >> Originally hired in 1923 to design a race winning machine for Alfa Romeo, engineer Vittorio Jano was reassigned to road car development after the company retired from racing at the end of two very successful seasons. The first road car he produced was the 6C 1500 launched early in 1927. While the six cylinder engined Alfa was designed specifically for road use, the higher performance versions proved to be very competitive on the track. In fact the 6C won the Mille Miglia for three years running. Encouraged by the success of the 6C, Alfa Romeo brought out Jano's old P2 Grand Prix car for 1930 and commissioned him to design a brand new sports racer and GP car for 1931. The new GP car was a hugely complex twin engined machine that was hardly competitive, but the new 8C 2300 sports racer has gone into history as one of the finest and most successful racing cars ever constructed.
Jano's biggest priority was designing a new and most importantly larger engine to take on the ever growing competition. As with the P2 of 1924, he opted for a straight eight configuration, but he started with a clean sheet. The engine was built up from two blocks of four cylinders with the gear drive to the overhead camshafts sandwiched in between. This effectively cut the length of the camshafts, which are prone to flexing in engines this long, in half. The two blocks were initially cast in steel, which was soon replaced by a lighter aluminium alloy. Also driven from the centre of the engine was a Roots-Type Supercharger. The displacement was set at just over 2.3 litre engine by virtue of an exceptionally long stroke of 88 mm compared to a bore of 65 mm. In standard trim the engine produced between 155 and 165 bhp. The competition engines were good for around 180 bhp. Towards the end of the 8C 2300s life, many engines were bored out to keep the cars competitive.
One of the reasons the 6C was so successful was the nimble and lightweight chassis. Its sheet steel ladder frame was carried virtually unaltered and offered in short (2750 mm) and long (3100 mm) wheelbase versions. Suspension was also very conventional by live axles, semi-elliptic leaf springs and friction dampers all-round. Stopping power was provided by cable operated drums. Bolted to a four-speed gearbox, the straight eight engine was installed behind the front axle. A short wheelbase rolling chassis weighed in at 1000 kg. The chassis were delivered to preferred coach builders Touring and Zagato, who bodied both the street and racing cars. Between 1931 and 1934 a total of 188 chassis were produced in three series, many of which were raced in period.
The first 8C 2300 was ready in time make its debut at the 1931 Mille Miglia, a gruelling race even for thoroughly developed cars. Two Zagato bodied cars were entered for Tazio Nuvolari and Luigi Arcangeli. The new 8Cs were blisteringly quick, which could be taken very literally as both suffered from tyre problems throughout the race. This handed the lead to Rudolf Caracciola in the massive 7.1 litre Mercedes-Benz SSK. In a desperate attempt to close the seventeen minute gap, Nuvolari went all out, but eventually crashed out; blinded by the dust cloud of the leader. Revenge came a few weeks later when a fully recovered Nuvolari took the 8C 2300's first major victory during a very wet Targa Florio. It marked the start of many successful years in these great Italian road races, which were both won by the 8C 2300 three times in a row. Page 1 of 2 Next >>