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1938 Alfa Romeo 8C2900B Mille Miglia (part 1)

Alfa Romeo Mille Miglia

Over the next several months I will write short articles (tech-spec) for the Capital Chapter newsletter about some of the famous race cars of the Simeone collection. I will show pictures I took of many of the mechanical attributes of these cars and try to point out some of the features that made them outstanding race cars...

I am Alan Yankolonis a retired Mechanical Engineer and a volunteer at the Simeone Automotive Foundation Museum with the unbelievable good fortune to be able to work on many of these great race cars. The first car up is the “crème de la crème” of Alfa Romeo race cars, the 1938 8C2900B MM serial # 412031 which won the 1938 Mille Miglia.

For the 1938 Mille Miglia, five 8C2900Bs were built, four cars would race. Our car is the last one on the right. (cars lined up for the drive to tech inspection) (Alfa Romeo via Simon Moore) The 1938 racing season was a change for Alfa Romeo with the establishment of Alfa Corse, the in-house racing organization, after the disbanding of Scuderia Ferrari with the new team still under the direction of Enzo Ferrari. A new car was developed; the 8C2900B MM building on the success of the 8C2900A cars, featuring double overhead cam straight 8 engine, twin non-clutched supercharges, 4-wheel independent suspension, a transaxle, and driver controlled adjustable suspension dampers. (Simeone Museum “The Spirit of Competition”) The chassis is a welded boxed ladder frame design with independent suspension made of high grade chrome-molybdenum steel.

The front suspension is trailing arm and has a cylindrical chamber that contains a coil spring and a hydraulic damping system. It is fixed to the chassis at the bottom and connects to a lever arm at the top which connects to the top of the king pin. (Rear view of left front suspension showing the hydraulic damper.) The rear suspension is a swing axle design with a 4 speed non-syncro transaxle, adjustable damping of the rear transverse leaf springs (a pair of shock absorbers on each side, one hydraulic, the other an adjustable friction type done hydraulically from the driver’s compartment), and hydraulic brakes. (Rear view of left side of the rear axle is shown with transverse leaf spring.)

(Front view of left rear wheel showing the air scoop which directs air to the rear brake. Our car had larger brakes than the other 3 factory cars.) The body is of Touring design utilizing the “Superleggera” fabrication technique.

 

The below photo shows the lightweight tubular frame that is under the body. The car shown is an 8C2900B that was modified for the 1938 Le Mans to encompass a coupe design. (Bianchi Anderloni Family Archive via Simon Moore)

This chassis enabled the winning driver Clemente Biondetti to average a little over 84 MPH for 11hr 58min over paved and dirt roads for a distance of 1000 miles to win the 1938 Mille Miglia. Below is the route that was follow in the 1938 Mille Miglia.

 



 A note of interest: Between Firenze (Florence) and Pisa via the autostrada at the time, a distance of 51 miles, one of the 8C2900B’s averaged an astounding 132MPH for that distance! No roll bar, no seat belts and the road was lined with trees on both sides!! There is an old saying which says “very few race drivers during that era, died in their sleep”. Next time I will write about the engine and more information about the race. Till then, keep driving your Alfa. Al ( The history and other details were derived from two outstanding books, Simon Moore’s “The Immortal 2.9” and Dr. Fred Simeone’s “The Spirit of Competition”)

 

 

 

 

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