Alfa Romeo 8C

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Alfa romeo 8C .jpg
Alfa Romeo 8C
Manufacturer Alfa Romeo
Production 1931–1939
Class Luxury car, Sport car, Racing car
Layout FR layout
Engine 2.3 L 2336 cc I8
2.6 L 2556 cc I6
2.9 L 2905 cc I8
(road cars)

This article is about the 1930's Alfa Romeo 8C. For the new sports coupe, see Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione.

The Alfa Romeo 8C name was used on road, race and sports cars of the 1930s. The 8C means 8 cylinders, and originally referred to a straight 8-cylinder engine. The Vittorio Jano designed 8C was Alfa Romeo's primary racing engine from its introduction in 1931 to its retirement in 1939. In addition to the two seater sports cars it was used in the world's first genuine single-seat Grand Prix racing car, the Monoposto 'Tipo B' - P3 from 1932 onwards. In its later development it powered such vehicles as the twin engined 1935 6.3 litre Bimotore, the 1935 3.8 litre Monoposto 8C 35 Type C, and the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia Roadster. It also powered top of the range coachbuilt production models. In 2004 Alfa Romeo revived the 8C name for a V8-engined concept car which has made it into production for 2007, the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione.


1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Drop Head Coupe
Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Spider Corsa 1932
ex-Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 Monza in unusual color.
Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Spider 1937 in 2005 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
2300 engine with Roots supercharger.

In 1924, Vittorio Jano created his first straight eight cylinder engine for Alfa Romeo, the 1987 cc P2, with common crankcase and four plated steel two cylinder blocks, which won the first World Championship ever in 1925. Albeit it was a straight-8, the 8C designation was not used.

The 8C engine, first entered at the 1931 Mille Miglia road race through Italy, had a common crankcase, now with two alloy four cylinder blocks, which also incorporated the heads. There was no separate head, and no head gasket to fail, but this made valve maintenance more difficult. A central gear tower drove the overhead camshafts, superchargers and ancillaries. As far as production cars are concerned, the 8C engine powered two models, the 8C2300 (1931-1935) and the even more rare and expensive 8C2900 (1936-1941). The first model was the 1931 8C 2300, a reference to the car's 2.3 L (2336 cc) engine, initially designed as a racing car, but actually produced in 188 units also for road use. While the racing version of the 8C 2300 Spider, driven by Tazio Nuvolari won the 1931 and 1932 Targa Florio race in Sicily, the 1931 Italian Grand Prix victory at Monza gave the "Monza" name to the twin seater GP car, a shortened version of the Spider. The Alfa Romeo factory often added the name of events won to the name of a car.

At the same time, since racing cars were no longer required to carry a mechanic, Alfa Romeo built the first single seater race car. As a first attempt, the 1931 Monoposto Tipo A used a pair of 6 cylinder engines fitted side-by-side in the chassis. As the resulting car was too heavy and complex, Jano designed a more suitable and successful racer called Monoposto Tipo B (aka P3) for the 1932 Grand Prix season. The Tipo B proved itself the winning car of its era, winning straight from its first outing at the 1932 Italian Grand Prix, and was powered with an enlarged version of the 8C engine now at 2665 cc, fed through a pair of superchargers instead of a single one.

The 8C was sold as rolling chassis in Lungo (long) or Corto (short) form, usually to be fitted with bodies from a selection of coachbuilders (Carrozzeria), even though Alfa Romeo did make bodies. They also had a practice of rebodying cars for clients, and some racing vehicles were sold rebodied as road vehicles.

In 1933 the supercharged dual overhead cam straight-8 engine, enlarged to 2.6 litres (8C 2600) for the Tipo B, was fitted to the Scuderia Ferrari 8C Monzas, which had become the "semi-official" racing department of Alfa Romeo, no longer entering races as a factory effort due to the poor economic situation of the company. With the initial 215 hp of the 2.6 engine, the Monoposto Tipo B (P3) racer could accelerate to 60 mph (97 km/h) in less than 7 seconds and could eventually reach 135 mph (217 km/h). For 1934 the race engines became 2.9 litres.

In 1936 the 8C 2900A model was introduced, as a twin seater version of the 8C-35 GP racer, with rear-mounted gearbox and full independent suspension. The 8C2900A was also a race car intended for the Sports Car category. Fewer than a dozen were built, followed by the 8C 2900B, very similar but also sold as road car in about 30 examples. At the same time Alfa Romeo's Tipo B 3.2 litre was becoming less competitive, yet Tazio Nuvolari managed the exploit of winning the 1935 German GP at the Nürburgring at the wheel of a 3.2 Tipo B against the more powerful Mercedes and Auto Union. The blocks had reached their capacity limit, and a new casting was needed to further enlarge the engine capacity to its final size of 3.8 litres. This was done in 1935 to be fitted into the Monoposto Tipo C which entered it's first race at the Italian Grand Prix in September 1935. Earlier that year, another attempt to challenge the German car's superior power had been made with the Bimotore (basically a Tipo B modified at the Scuderia Ferrari with a second engine behind the driver), which raced at the 1935 Tripoli GP and AVUS GP, with little success as the tyres couldn't cope with the car's power and weight. The Monoposto Tipo C (aka 8C 35) 3.8 was entered with some success during the 1936 season, followed by the 12C36, a Tipo C now fitted with a new V12 engine of 4064 cc. In the major races, the Monoposto 12C 36 and 37 could not match the Mercedes and Auto-Union cars.

Alfa Romeo Monoposto Type C
Aka Alfa Romeo 8C 35
Manufacturer Alfa Romeo
Parent company
Production 1935 - 1939
Assembly Italy
Predecessor Alfa Romeo Monoposto 8C Type B
Successor Alfa Romeo Monoposto 12C 37
Class Race
Body style Monoposto (single seat) open wheeler
Layout Multi-plate clutch at engine, four-speed rear transaxle.
Platform Light gauge welded box-section frame with all independent suspension
Engine Supercharged 3822 cc straight eight twin overhead cam
Transmission Unsynchronised rear transaxle four speed with reverse gear
Wheelbase 108.2 inches (2748.28 mm)
Length 169.3 inches (4300 mm) including starting handle
Width 34.0 inches (863.6 mm) cockpit
Height 48.0 inches (1219.2 mm) cowl 52.0 inches (1320.8 mm) windscreen
Ground clearance 5-6 inches (125-150 mm)
Front track 53.1 inches (1348.74 mm)
Rear track 53.1 inches (1348.74 mm)
Weight 1646 lb (746.613 kg) unladen
Fuel capacity
Designer Vittorio Jano

1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza Spider


  • 165hp 2,336cc. supercharged dual overhead camshaft inline eight-cylinder engine
  • four-speed manual transmission
  • four-wheel drum brakes
  • Wheelbase: 2,650mm (104 1/2”)

Alfa Romeo built no more than one hundred ninety examples of the 8C 2300. Yet those one hundred ninety automobiles have created a mythical history that is many times greater than their numbers. Conceived by Vittorio Jano and built by the proud artisans at Alfa Romeo, Alfa’s 8C 2300 was, from its inception, a fast, sporting automobile incorporating the most advanced technology and materials of the time. It was expensive. It was – unless a buyer’s purpose was to win races – impractical. That Alfa could build and sell even one hundred ninety during the Depression was a measure of the 8C 2300’s brilliance, performance and style.

While the 8C 2300 mimicked the earlier 6C 1750’s 65x88mm bore and stroke it was an entirely new design which incorporated supercharging from inception. The alloy cylinder blocks (with steel cylinder liners) were cast in 4-cylinder units carried on an alloy crankcase which contained a 10-main bearing crankshaft. A central gear train was interposed between the cylinder blocks to drive the camshafts, generator, water pump, supercharger and oil pumps. Lubrication was by a dry sump system. The Roots-type blower mounted low on the engine’s right side and breathed through a dual-choke carburetor. The engine was intricately and precisely cast by Alfa Romeo’s own foundry. Beautiful fins and ribbing helped cool the engine and the pressurized intake charge for maximum efficiency. It was magnificent, finely finished, sculpture.

The 8C chassis was straightforward practice for the time but also beautifully constructed by artisans and craftsmen who were proud of their work and endeavored to give each detail a fine finish and pleasing mechanical function. The frame was formed by two C-section side rails joined by a series of cross members and the rear mounts for the engine/gearbox assembly. Solid axles were used, suspended by semi-elliptical leaf springs. The 8C 2300 came in two wheelbases, Lungo of 3,100mm used for 4-seater bodies and Corto of 2,750mm for more sporting open and coupé coachwork. An even shorter wheelbase, 2,650mm, was introduced for the Spider Corsas in late 1931 or early 1932 and has become known as the “Monza” chassis.

Alfa’s 8C 2300 was intended for a sports market, not lumbering formal cars or opulent showpieces for the wealthy. Weighing some 860 kilograms (1900 pounds) with up to 178 horsepower to make it go, it was a lightweight, powerful and responsive automobile. Buyers were understandably reluctant to load this thoroughbred with luxury coachwork and turned to carrozzeria which specialized in spare, aerodynamic, lightweight bodies.

The most important 8C coachbuilders were Touring and Zagato. These two carrozzeria created essentially all the competition coachwork for the 8C 2300: the 4-seat Le Mans tourers which were then required for competition at la Sarthe, the lightweight Touring and Zagato spiders and, most famous of all, the elemental cycle-fendered Monza corsa spiders. There were, in fact, many more bodies constructed for 8C 2300s than there were 8C 2300s. Fashions change, as do owners’ needs and it made more sense to rebody a still sound and exciting 8C 2300 chassis to meet a new need – or a new fashion – than to look around for a new car. As a practical matter, there was little or nothing available even five or six years after the 8C 2300s were built, that offered its level of performance and handling. Source

1935 Bimotore

1935 Alfa Romeo Bimotore Scuderia Ferrari

In 1935, to compete with Mercedes Benz and Auto Union, Enzo Ferrari (Race team manager) and Luigi Bazzi (Designer) built a racer with two 3.2 (3.165 litre) engines, one in the front and one in the rear, giving 6.3 litres and 540bhp. The drivetrain layout was unusual. The two engines were connected by separate driveshaft to a gearbox with two input shafts, and two angled output shafts, so each of the rear wheels had its own driveshaft. It could never quite succeed against the Mercedes W25 B of Rudolf Caracciola, and was hard on fuel and tyres. The gain in speed was offset by increased pit times. On May 12, 1935, two were entered in the Tripoli Grand Prix driven by Nuvolari and Chiron who finished fourth and fifth. Chiron managed a second at the following 1935 Avus race. On June 16, 1935 Nuvolari drove a special prepared Bimotore from Florence to Livorno and set a new speed record 364kmh with average speed of over 323kmh. After that it was sidelined in favour of the Tipo C. It was the first racer to use the Dubonnet independent trailing arm front suspension. A V12 was under development, but was not race ready. It was noticed that the Bimotore had a traction advantage on rough ground, so a version of the Bimotore chassis with the independent Dubonnet front end, and a new independent rear with swing axles with radius rods and a transverse leaf spring was used for the Tipo C 3.8s.

1935 Alfa Romeo Monoposto 8C 35 Type C

Alfa Romeo 8C-35 Scuderia Ferrari

Eight 3.8 litre versions, sharing no castings with the earlier blocks, were individually built for racing in five months, most being used in the Alfa Romeo Monoposto 8C 35 Type C, as raced by Scuderia Ferrari. (The P3 designation was dropped.) The 3.8 produced Template:Auto bhp at 5500 rpm, and had Template:Auto ftlbf from 900 rpm to 5500 rpm. It had 15.5-inch drum brakes all round, using Pirelli 5.25 or 5.50 x 19 tyres at the front and 7.00 or 7.50 x 19 tyres at the rear. Though not a match for the big Mercedes and Auto Union on the faster circuits, they came into their own on the tighter circuits and races. In 1936 Tipo Cs fitted with the troublesome V12 did not live up to expectations, and the 3.8 continued to be used. From 1933 Scuderia Ferrari had managed the racing, and the Ferrari prancing horse appeared on the flanks of the Bimotore, but Alfa Corse began to become more active, and Vittorio Jano went at the end of the 1937 season. In 1938 four Alfa Romeo Tipo 308 racers were built for the three litre class using 8C engines.

1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Le Mans Speciale

Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lemans

Alfa Corse, the racing department set up by Alfa after having bought the Scuderia Ferrari shares, entered a single 8C 2900B for the 1938 Le Mans. The car featured an innovative an stunning streamlined coupe body, when Le Mans racers had almost always been open cars. The aerodynamic coupe was built by Touring. In 1987, an Italian magazine had the car tested at the Pininfarina wind tunnel, where a Cx of 0.42 was measured, down to 0.38 with air intakes closed. The coupe performed particularly well initially gaining a 160 km lead over the next car, but tyre trouble was then followed by a broken valve.

This was the only time the coupe raced officially. After the war, it was entered in minor races under private ownership, was then displayed at the Donington museum from the 60s before being added in 1987 to the Alfa Romeo museum which now uses to show the car, in running conditions, at many events.

Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia Roadster
Aka Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia Corto Spyder
Manufacturer Alfa Romeo
Parent company
Production 1937 - 1938
Assembly Italy
Class Sportscar/Race
Body style Roadster, aka Spider or Spyder.
Layout Multi-plate clutch at engine, four-speed rear transaxle.
Platform Light gauge welded box-section frame with all independent suspension
Engine Supercharged 177 cubic-inches (2905 cc) straight eight twin overhead cam
Transmission Unsynchronised four speed rear transaxle with reverse gear
Wheelbase 110.2 inches (2800 mm)
Length 176.4 inches (4480 mm)
Height 42.2 inches (1071 mm) cowl. 49.0 inches (1245 mm) windscreen
Ground clearance 5.7 inches (145 mm) sump
Front track 53.1 inches (1348 mm)
Rear track 53.1 inches (1348 mm)
Weight 1250 kg (2755 lbs)
Fuel capacity 38 gallons (173 litres)
Designer Engine,Vittorio Jano. Body,Touring of Milan.

1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia Roadster

1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia from the Ralph Lauren car collection

The 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia Roadster (or Spyder) pictured is the ultra-light short-chassis (Corto) competition version, with a Carrozzeria Touring (patented) Superleggera body. The motor was 2.9 litres. This was the fore-runner of modern Alfa Romeos, in that the 2900B had hydraulic 17in brakes, fully independent suspension and a four speed rear transaxle, instead of the live rear axle of earlier models. It had 19-inch rims and used 5.5in Pirelli Corsa tyres front and rear. In the 1938 Mille Miglia, Clemente Biondetti and Carlo Pintacuda took the first two places. Biondetti's car used a 300bhp Tipo 308 engine, while Pintacuda's used a 225bhp 2900B. Phil Hill won several west coast United States races in Pintacuda's car in 1951 before driving for Ferrari.

The engine in a production 2900B is a dry sump twin Scintilla magneto supercharged inline 8-cylinder 2.9 litre using two Roots type superchargers fed by two updraught Weber carburettors. The output was 180bhp and was the world's fastest production road car in 1938. (Competition versions gave 220bhp at 5200 rpm) About 30 short-wheelbase (2800mm) 2900B models were built, mostly with spyder bodywork by Touring and Farina, about ten Lungo, long wheelbase, (3000mm) models were built and only five with the Mille Miglia bodywork also by Touring of Milan. All were coachbuilt to the owners specification, so few, if any, are exactly alike.

The last time a roadster was auctioned, in August 1999, by Christie's at Pebble Beach, it brought four million and seventy two thousand US dollars, making it one of the ten most expensive cars ever auctioned. The Mille Miglia roadsters are even more valuable, so valuable that some owners of the more usual Farina or Touring Spyders have had them professionally rebodied to match the Touring Mille Miglia Spyder, as driven by Biondetti.

(Technical drawings of the 2900B Mille Miglia by the American historian Jonathan Thompson, also a qualified technical illustrator, survive. They are included in Simon Moore's book, The Immortal 2.9, and are available online, accompanied by a short history of the model, all in .jpg, as published in a modelling magazine. See External links)

External links

  • Page 3. A modellers plan website; featuring Jonathon Thompson's plans for the 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Mille Miglia Roadster, front, rear, and RH side views, as used in Simon Moore's book, "The Immortal 2.9"
  • Page 4.The LH side and above views of the above mentioned plans. The other pages not linked here are readable .jpg s of an article on the Mille Miglia Roadster.
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