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Comment by Bernard Martin on July 23, 2009 at 11:38pm
This is a 1939 Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 with reconstructed aerodynamic berlinetta Touring coachwork. It is the only correct example in existence. The underlying Tipo 256 chassis and drive train were rediscovered in 1993 with postwar cabriolet coachwork of unknown origin. The reconstuction of this highly complex superleggera (super-light) aluminum body was realized through a collaboration between the former head of Carrozzeria Touring, Carlo Felice Bianci Anderloni; master coachbuilder Dino Cognaloto; and rare archive documents provided by Alfa Romeo. The coachwork was completed in Italy in 2003 just prior to Anderloni’s death. It was the famed designer’s final project.

In 1939, Alfa Romeo created this very special aerodynamic design for the Le Mans 24 hour race. The Tipo 256 featured four-wheel independent suspension; perfect 50/50 weight distribution; and a 6 cylinder 2500 cc un-supercharged race engine tuned by Ferrari for the Alfa Romeo racing organization (Alfa Corse). This is one of approximately a dozen surviving examples of the 1939/40 Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 model. All of the Tipo 256 cars were originally bodied with superleggera bodies by Carrozzeria Touring – but nearly all were spiders (open race cars). Few, if any, are believed to retain their original coachwork as these former race cars were typically rebodied during the WWII to make fastest cabriolets for senior German and Italian officers. Unfortunately, the Alfa Romeo production records for these cars were destroyed during the war.

This aerodynamic berlinetta design was both beautiful and extremely advanced for 1939. Vestiges of this seminal design can be seen more than 20 years later in the Corvette split-window coupe, Jaguar E-type coupe and many fastback coupés that followed.

The design also has an important link to BMW – the honored marque of the 2009 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. In 1939, BMW management saw the Alfa Romeo berlinetta being built at Carrozzeria Touring and requested a similar body be built for one of their BMW 328 chassis. This famous car won its class at Le Mans in 1939, won the Mille Miglia in 1940, and today is the centerpiece of the BMW museum collection in Munich.

The 1939 Alfa Romeo Tipo 256 Berlinetta Touring is owned by Mark Gessler of Potomac, Maryland and is presented here courtesy of Destination Cellars – a sponsor of the 2009 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.

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