Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS Villa d'Este
The Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 was the final flowering of a noble line of sports models that had originated in 1925 with the 6C 1500. The latter was the first expression of the genius of designer Vittorio Jano, who had masterminded the Italian firm's meteoric rise to international prominence in the mid-1920s. His P2 and Tipo B Monoposto Grand Prix cars proved virtually unbeatable at premier level in their heyday, while his family of six-cylinder sports-racing cars has passed into the annals of motoring history as the standard-setter of its time.
Jano visualised the 6C 1500 as a fast touring car that would capitalise on the favourable publicity generated by the success of his Grand Prix racers. Intended as 'a small chassis of very high quality... no expense was to be spared in attaining this object', the 6C 1500 was first revealed in prototype form at the Milan Motor Show in April 1925, though production did not begin until 1927. Jano had settled on a six-cylinder model with a capacity of 1,500cc as he believed that its combination of low weight with a high specific power output would result in superlative performance.
These principles would be maintained throughout the 1930s as Alfa's six-cylinder range evolved through 1750, 1900 and 2300 models before arriving at its zenith in 1939 in the form of the 6C 2500. Destined to be the last of the separate-chassis Alfa Romeos, the 2500 was a development of the preceding 2300 and the final Alfa model to be designed by Jano. The engine was, of course, the latest version of Alfa's race-developed double-overhead-camshaft 'six', its 2,443cc displacement having been arrived at by enlarging the bore of the 2300. Owners included King Farouk of Egypt, The Shah of Iran and Prince Rainer of Monaco.
Its Portello factory devastated by wartime bombing, Alfa Romeo did not resume car production until 1946 with, inevitably, a pre-war carry-over, the 6C 2500 in a variety of new guises forming the basis of the Milanese marque's post-war recovery. Styled in-house but strongly influenced by Touring, the five-seater Freccia d'Oro (Golden Arrow) sports saloon was built alongside coupé and cabriolet versions featuring bodies by the likes of Pinin Farina, Touring, and Ghia, plus a six/seven-seater berlina on a longer wheelbase.
The Alfa tradition of building driver's cars par excellence was upheld by the 2500, for although the box-section chassis was no longer state-of-the-art it boasted all-independent suspension, generously-sized brakes, fast-geared steering and an unusually slick, column-mounted gearchange. All 6C 2500 models were exceptional performers for their time. Maximum power ranged from 87bhp in the long-wheelbase saloon to 95bhp in single-carburettor Sport guise, while the triple-carburettor Super Sport (SS) had 110 horsepower on tap. Considerably lighter than the saloon, the latter could easily exceed 100mph. The Super Sport chassis was manufactured until 1951, by which time 383 had been produced, and being on the shorter wheelbase was typically more than 300lb (136kg) lighter than the saloon.
Most of these bespoke, hand-built cars were bodied as Superleggera coupés by Touring, while the remainder received cabriolet coachwork by Pinin Farina. Of the various designs, Touring's Villa d'Este is perhaps the most desirable. It was named after one of Italy's most celebrated hotels, situated on the shores of Lake Como, which used to host a world-renowned Concorso d'Eleganza (and now does again). When a 6C 2500 SS with a special body by Touring won the event, it was decided to make a limited run for select clients. Only 36 were built, all two-door coupés, though few cars are identical.
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