Nov/Dec 2020 edition
Issue #13 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
It’s hard to believe (if you are a certain age) that it is 34 years since Simon Moore’s original biography of all the 8C 2900 models. “The Immortal 2.9" was acclaimed then as one of the best histories of a uniquely desirable sports racer. His 2008 revised edition raises the bar considerably.
Alfa Romeo’s 8C 2900 represented the pinnacle of the company’s sport-racing program in the late 1930s, when Enzo Ferrari managed the Alfa Romeo team. The 8C 2900 won four Mille Miglias; 1936 (Brivio/Ongaro); 1937 (Pintacula/Mambelli) and 1938, when Biondetti/Stefani won at 84.6 mph – a record which stood until 1953. In the same period Alfa Romeo also placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th in 1936; 2nd 4th and 5th in 1937 and 2nd, 3rd and 6th in 1938.
The first post-war Mille Miglia in 1947 was won by Biondetti/Romano in a 1938 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta, helped by appalling weather which nearly drowned Nuvolari in his Cisitalia roadster.
The 8C 2900 also won the Spa 24 hours twice and led the Le Mans 24 Hours twice. In 1935, Howe/Lewis blew up in the 14th hour while leading. Helde/Stoffel took over, but finished second to Hinsmarsh/Fontes in the Lagonda Rapide. In 1938, Raymond Sommer and Biondetti led Le Mans by 14 laps before their engine failed in the 20th hour.
Simon Moore is exceptionally well-qualified to write both of these volumes, since he owns Alfa Romeo-bodied 8C Spider #412007. It’s usually referred to by its UK registration DKY 163 and has an extraordinary history.
What Moore learned about his own car between the dates of these two books brilliantly encapsulates the difference between the editions. His 2008 edition is more than double the size of the first book. Much additional information came to light, prompting numerous changes and corrections throughout.
Moore’s own car illustrates why his latest volume is so significant. Originally, he believed his car was #412002, and his entry on #412007 was merely that he knew it was an Alfa Romeo-bodied Spider. In the second edition, his car merits 25 pages, including 31 period photos, (six in color), and an extraordinary history. Moore’s car began life as a “Botticella” raced by Scuderia Ferrari, then was re-bodied as a Spider by Alfa Romeo for the 1936 Milan Motor Show - with a new engine and chassis number #412007. When the car came to London, it was registered DLY 163.
The first owner was unknown until Moore’s original book was read by Ian Bowden, whose grandfather A.H. Bowden bought DLY 163 new and drove it to Monaco twice in 1937-38. Bowden had photographs of his grandfather at Thomson and Taylor at Brooklands, and 16mm color film.
During World War II #412007 belonged to Flt. Lt. Tony Crook (who later owned Bristol Cars), and was driven fast whenever possible. In 1946, Crook bought Biondetti’s 1938 Mille Miglia winner #412031 from Hugh Hunter and sold #412007. Simon found chassis #412007 under a holly tree in Washington State, the body on a hot rod in California and a correct spare engine. Luckily, a mechanic in the UK recognized welds he had made to the chassis in 1939 to complete the picture. [Editor’s note: Want to know all the great details and the rest of this fascinating history? Then you’ll have to buy the book!]
Happily, the history of Moore’s car is only one of 40-odd stories vastly expanded or rewritten in the second edition of his “Immortal 2.9” book. While the 2008 volume is superior to the 1986 edition, a true aficianado would buy both.
The revised edition was printed in two versions: a Regular Edition $275 and a Collector’s Edition $375. The latter is numbered, and signed by Simon Moore, and comes in a leather-bound slipcase.
[Editor’s note: 2,500 copies of the 1986 edition were printed; prices today range from a low of $300 to around $650. I bought mine in 1986 for its original issue price of $60! The Society of Automotive Historians awarded the book its Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot Award as the best automotive book of 1986. The revised 2008 edition is not a reprint or a rehash, it’s practically all new, and it’s terrific. Both editions should be on your book shelf.]
To read more great columns like this one from collectible book expert Paul Duchene...