When Alfa Romeo’s 1900 debuted in 1950, the car’s arrival marked a significant change of purpose for the Milanese automaker. Not only was this the first all-new post-war car to come from Alfa, but it represented a rebirth of sorts for the company. After suffering massive losses in World War II, Alfa was determined to become an Italian industrial powerhouse. During the rebuilding phase of the early post-war era, Alfa scraped by with a series of updated pre-war 6C designs. While these were indeed beautiful and exclusive automobiles, they were expensive to produce, slow to sell, and based on out of date technology. What Alfa needed was a car they could build in sufficient quantity to keep the workforce occupied, recuperate costs, and satisfy the rapidly growing demand for new cars in Italy. The formula was simple yet ingenious: unitary construction, independent front suspension, and a stout, iron-block four-cylinder topped with Alfa’s signature aluminum twin-overhead camshaft cylinder head. Engineers designed a platform that could easily be adapted to accept a body from outside coachbuilders, while also delivering performance that punched well above its weight. The 1900 was a resounding success, with period adverts calling it “The family car that wins races.” As the company’s first real mass-produced car, it paved the way for not only Alfa’s renaissance but also the Italian coachbuilding resurgence of the 1950s and 1960s.
A variety of derivatives followed suit, with the arrival of the 1900 C (for Corto, Italian for short) opening the door for sportier coachwork. Shorter by 130mm, the platform was ideally suited for the likes of Touring, Zagato, Pininfarina, and Bertone to practice their craft. The 1900 formed the basis for the majority of the famous coachbuilt show cars of the fifties - including the “Disco Volante” and the “B.A.T. Series.” In 1954, Alfa Romeo introduced the 1900 Super, with a revised and more powerful 1975 c.c. engine, which, when mated with the Corto chassis, became the 1900 C Super Sprint. Carrozzeria Touring was entrusted with creating a production coupe to suit the sporty platform. Early versions featured styling that still reflected the aesthetic of the 6C 2500, particularly in the curved haunches. However, by 1956, Touring broke with tradition with a new coupe design for the 1900C SS chassis. The so-called 3-window coupe’s styling introduced a new aesthetic – with clean, simple lines that were thoroughly modern. From humble sedan to exotic one-off show car, the 1900 proved to be one of Alfa’s most successful models, testing its mettle in the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio, and remaining in high demand today thanks to their versatility, performance, and style.
Extensively prepared and updated for historic rallying, this 1957 1900C SS Touring 3-Window Coupe is a fabulous example of Alfa’s brilliant GT car. Beautifully turned out in Alfa red with a silver roof, this car was restored in the 1990s in Switzerland; completed in time to take part in the 1992 Mille Miglia Retrospective. Since finishing the Mille, the car came to America where it continued to be enjoyed on the road and in historic events. In recent years, Continental AutoSports of Hinsdale, Illinois handled the care and maintenance. The car remains in excellent condition, with the high-quality restoration pleasingly mellowed with time and use. Carefully judged mechanical and cosmetic upgrades maintain a period-correct appearance while allowing for improved performance and safety for rallies or fast-road use. The bodywork remains crisp and straight, with consistent panel gaps and period-appropriate detailing. De-bumpered and dressed with Marchal Fantastic 660 fog lamps, Carello headlamps, and leather bonnet/boot lid straps, the Alfa takes on a subtly aggressive and purposeful appeal. The two-tone red and silver paintwork is excellent, showing a few minor touch-ups and some well-earned stone chips in the nose. The overall presentation is quite beautiful, particularly for a proven rally car.
The purposeful, rally-oriented theme continues in the two-seat cockpit. A sturdy roll bar occupies the space where the rear seats once were, and pyramid-pattern rubber mats line the floors. Zagato-style front seats in black leather provide significantly more lateral support as well as a degree of weight savings over the Touring-style seats. Original Veglia instruments sit in an engine-turned alloy panel ahead of the fabulous wood-rimmed Nardi steering wheel. Rally-ready fittings include driver and co-driver footrests, battery cut-off, extinguisher bracket and provisions for multi-point harnesses and door bars for the roll cage.
The engine’s basic specification remains true to original, with a cast iron block and aluminum twin-cam cylinder head. However, this car features an improved 2.0-liter Tipo 102 block from the later 2000 model. Competition-style intake trumpets feed the correct twin-choke Solex carburetors. Further enhancements include an alternator and a lovely tubular stainless-steel exhaust header that flows into a full stainless sports exhaust. The engine is backed by a five-speed gearbox that returns effortless high-speed cruising ability and is an utter delight to operate.
This Alfa Romeo 1900 represents a marvelous opportunity to get into a purpose-built car for rallies, fast road use, and informal touring events. It is ready to enjoy as-is or can be further prepared for more rigorous competition use. With its 2-liter engine, finely balanced chassis and powerful brakes, it is an absolute delight to drive. After years of specialized care and enthusiastic enjoyment, it continues to show extremely well and will no doubt serve as an excellent steed for events such as the Copperstate 1000, California Mille, or Colorado Grand.