Now that summer's and the fall's automotive shows are over, it is time to appreciate the jewels that we have seen. My personal favourite is the Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegace, because of the quality and exclusivity of the vehicles. Many of them are one of a kind or they have been produced in small quantity, and even fewer survived to be restored. One can be lucky to see some of these vehicles once in a lifetime.
This year, the honours of the best of the show went to 1946 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Pininfarina Cabriolet Speciale. This car, while it does not immediately strike you as a extremely beautiful, is very special indeed. It is not very typica prototype of late 1940's and 1950's era. The Alfa is functional and practical. It incorporates fresh ideas in a whole new shape that did not exist before the war. It was radically different from cars of its age, but 10 years later it looked very ordinary. You can look at Austin A90 Atlantic, Mercedes Benz 300 SL, Porsche 356 and even some Studebakers and you the influence of this wonderful car. This car has also been called as the foundation for the design house of Pinin Farina.
This where all the boring stuff is located, but I will try to be brief. The Chassis was sold to Battista "Pinin" Farina on October 1942. In 1946 construction of the cabriolet began for wealthy Milanese perfume designer, Guiliana Tortoli de Cuccoli.
This car was exhibited at 1946 Paris Salon, where it was parked outside the exhibition building. The cars from Italy, Germany and Japan were prohibited entry Pinin Farina was forced to park his car at the entrance to the show.
In 1947 car was sold back to Pinin Farina, who used it as his personal vehicle. In 1948 it was sold to tthe chairman of Austin Motors -Leonard Lord. Later Mr. Lord gave the car to one of his chief designer, Holden "Bob" Koto, who eventually shipped it to the United States. Mr. Koto was a chief designer at Studebaker and in 1952 car was sold again. From there this car disappears from history until 2005-2007, when it surfaced in Japan in the estate of a high ranking member of Yakuza. It was then sold to Chris Ohrstom and restored by David Grainger and the Guild of Automotive Restores. Considering that the car arrived in a box, rotten, rusty and vermin infested it took over 6 years and estimated 2 milijon dollars
As I mentioned, when the container was opened, it was bit heartbreaking according to David Grainger. In his words it was "Wow"- horrendiously expensive pile of limp tortured aluminiun, sprinkled with abused and rusted steel, greasy, broken mechanical parts and mouldy vermin infested leather and horse hair.
There were few complications from missing parts. As there were no replacement parts - car being one of a kind - these were least of the troubles. In order to create parts, usually from photographs, the machinery to make the parts had to be created as well. Some of the examples were hubcaps and the steering wheel. Shoddy workmanship due to inexperienced labour pool showed up in splattered welds, and poorly fitting internal panels showing lack of experienced coach builders. Materials car was built were also second rate. Aluminium body was more than likely built from salvaged drop tanks from P51 Mustang fighter planes. Impurities and weaknesses bled out and disrupted primers and paint causing blisters and irregularities.
In conclusion this car was one of the first truly revolutionary designs by Pinin Farina. Not only it was total departure from Art Deco style of the pre war designs, but it was a decade ahead of its' time. It was first to show the wheel arch eyebrows made famous by Mercedes 300 SL. Upside down bathtub design show by Porsche 356 is also present in the Alfa. And finally it did all but bring the design house of Pinin Farinas' start to long and illustrious legacy.
Owner: Christopher Ohrstrom, The Plains, VA, USA
Engine: 2442cc Straight-six, DOHC, single carburator
Power: 95bhp @ 4600rpm
Transmission: Four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Steering: Worm and roller
Suspension: Front - double wishbone, coil springs, hydraulic dampers. Rear - trailing arms,torsion bars,hydraulic dampers
Weight 1400 kg (3086 lbs)
Performance: 97 mph
Daniel Vaughan 2009 Conceptcarz
David Grainger -Drive 2016
BRIAN HARPER | JUNE 4, 2015 Driving
exhibition catalogue essay by Ken Gross Frist Center for the Visual Arts
919 Broadway, Nashville, TN