Returning from an exhaustive driving tour from Genoa to Munich, I took time to digest my more recent SuperFinds in the southern parts of Europe.
My book SuperFinds, published by Porter Press last year, helped a lot in terms of gaining new contacts and potential ‘finds’. I had a great time doing book signings at Classic Expo Salzburg and the Padova Auto & Moto d’Epoca fair – all copies sold out at both events. Out of the blue, I received calls and emails from people who wanted to talk to me simply because they assumed I know a lot more about cars than they do. This is definitely not always the case, considering the mostly ultra-rare metal they have stashed away for decades in sometimes very hidden places. Many cars are deliberately stored away from the prying eyes of family members or overly keen bureaucrats, while some just seem to have been purely forgotten about.
I would like to share some of these finds with you. They’re all a bit secretive but some share a little British history, too, so it’s possible that you might know more about them than I do. If that is the case, please share, as we would love more complete histories of these cars.
The first find is a 1930 Alfa Romeo 1750 Gran Sport with body by Zagato, chassis number 312959.
As the picture (below) shows, the car is in pieces and is incomplete. Thankfully, the current owner has a lot of paperwork, telling an intriguing history. Delivered to its first owner, Signore Polluci Camillo Avv – a lawyer in Trieste, the car was sold in 1932 to Prince Giacinno Colonna of Stigliano by Marcantonio. The aristocratic family was well known for its participation in the Mille Miglia, albeit not with this car. Prince Colonna apparently had a big accident in this 1750 and the car was later sold to (or requisitioned) by a prominent member of the Fascist party. The chassis was heavily damaged at the front and back and subsequently very badly cut and repaired.
After the war it found its way to the UK somehow. There are no records about its UK history, sadly. But we know it was there for some time before being returned to Italy where it was finally found in a scrapyard in the Veneto region.
Astonishingly, the engine and gearbox are still matching and clearly numbered. The owner says the cost of a restoration is beyond him at present. If anyone can shed more light on its UK history, please get in touch.
Above: 1930 Alfa Romeo 1750 Gran Sport, chassis no. 312959, was fitted with a body by Zagato. It was found incomplete but still with its matching engine, axles and gearbox. Parts of the body, instruments and the Memini carburettor are missing.
The second find I want to talk about is an Austin Healey BN1 Coupe. Since I am not a great Healey man I would like to find out more about its history for the car’s owner. He says it could have been in the possession of the King of the Netherlands or Belgium at some point in its history. The car is in wonderful condition and indeed very beautiful. I find the cockpit with its big Jaeger instruments and green leather seats particularly fascinating. Any help on the history of this SuperFind?
Above: Austin Healey 100/4 BN1 Coupe. The shape of this SuperFind is simply stunning. So is the interior. The owner believes it has royal provenance. Can anyone help to confirm its origins?
The third find came about via another unexpected call. A reader in Austria told me about a RHD 1962 E-Type Roadster, chassis no. 850522, with matching engine R-5590-9. He’d heard about it from the owner of the local filling station, with whom he’d struck up a conversation when passing through the village in a classic car. I had to see it.
The car lives in the middle of nowhere, high in the Austrian Alps region. Exactly how long it has been in Austria is a mystery, but it was fully registered in 1988 by Ritter Garage (an underground car park) in Graz. Apparently, the car spent a long time there, but the owner says it was in Austria much earlier than that and was used on British plates by a race driver. Is it possible that there is a connection to Jochen Rindt? After all, Jochen came from Graz and used to bring cars over regularly from the UK. Photographs show he campaigned a hardtop equipped E-type Roadster in hill climb events, and we know he also owned a red Fixed Head Coupe. Could it be that he drove this one at some point? It’s probably just wishful thinking but any connection would be amazing. I found an old certificate stating that the registration number, issued in Devon, was 319 LDV. If you know any more about this Jaguar’s history, I am really curious to know.
Anyway, the condition is ‘dans son jus’ as the French say, seemingly never restored but wonderfully mellowed with its original hood. It was once repainted in red and ‘improved' with seats from the later 4.2 model. The car was originally delivered by Henlys, London and the original colour combination was pearl grey with red leather. Thankfully, it has been parked all these decades right next to the kitchen of the alm (Alpine house) and so enjoyed a heated environment, along with the lovely aroma of strudel and Kaiserschmarrn, no doubt.
This RHD Jaguar E-type Roadster apparently came to Austria a long time before 1988 when it was registered on Austrian plates
During another trip to Austria to inspect a magnificent Rolls-Royce Phantom I Maharaja car (a real passion of mine), I was more than surprised to find a rather strange Alfa Romeo 1750 Gran Sport and a Bentley Blower sitting in the shed behind. After bringing the Maharaja Royce back to life with a little help from my good friend Richard (Autovac and tank silted up) I proceeded to have a closer look at the Alfa. It turned out to be the ultimate Alfa Romeo pre-war icon.
Chassis 851 3089 was the 1930 Tourist Trophy winning car, a Testa Fissa driven by none other than Tazio Nuvolari. I felt very honoured to sit behind its original steering wheel. Still to this day, compressor, engine and gearbox are matching. That says a lot about the value of this car. The original James Young body which was fitted after the Tourist Trophy by British Alfa Romeo importer F.W. Stiles was also there. The car has been kept far from the limelight for many years.
Above: 1930 Alfa Romeo 1750 Gran Sport Testa Fissa, chassis no. 851 3089 – this car was driven to victory in the 1930 Tourist Trophy by Tazio Nuvolari. It retains matching engine and gearbox and is a real icon of Alfa Romeo pre-war history.
In the garage behind was a 1930 Bentley 4½ litre ‘Blower’, chassis PL 3481. A very lovely and heavily patinated short-chassis car, its supercharger was a 1970s addition raising its performance substantially. The car has decades of race history with the Bentley Drivers Club and is still a very impressive performer. Both cars are crying out to be repatriated to the UK since the present owner does not use either of them. He is a big Amilcar fan and prefers the light cars of the early Voiturette class. Any takers?
Above: Another 1930s icon, British this time, the supercharged Bentley 4 ½ litre is still a beautiful brute, and a handy performer in the right hands.
Article by Michael Kliebenstein