Posts Tagged ‘Alfa Romeo 8c2300 ‘Monza’’

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Alf Barrett leads Frank Kleinig, Alfa 8C2300 Monza and Kleinig Hudson Spl, Australian Grand Prix, Mount Panorama, Bathurst 1947…

This was the race within the race, these quite different cars outright contenders but the AGP was a handicap Formula Libre event in those days, the race won by Bill Murray in an MG TC, neither Barrett nor Kleinig finished the race. Alf Barrett and the Monza were the fastest combination in the immediate pre and post war periods in Australia, he was regarded as one of the countries greatest drivers.

Noted motoring writer and journalist Mike Kable wrote in 1998 upon Barretts’ death…’Alf Barrett was known as the maestro. It was an appropriate nickname because of his achievements between and after World War 2 in a supercharged straight 8 Alfa Romeo 2300 Monza at his favourite circuit – Mount Panorama at Bathurst, New South Wales.

The dapper Barrett drove the thoroughbred Italian car with world class finesse and flair with exceptional physical and mental coordination and intense concentration that enabled him to control sliding the car at its absolute limits with a calm smooth flick-of-the-wrist precision. Seeing the black-helmeted Barrett in action, sitting high in the cockpit, wearing his trademark dark blue short sleeved shirt was a never-to-be forgotten treat.

In an era of self funded amateurs who drove for token prize money, the challenging 6.2 mile Mount Panorama circuit was the standard setter by which the best drivers were judged. Barrett became the master in 1940 with an against-the-odds victory in the New South Wales Grand Prix. The classic race was a handicap with Barrett starting from scratch position, many of his rivals had already covered several laps before he started. He went on with a stunning performance where he set a new outright lap record that made the ‘King of the Mountain’. He had started last and finished first’.

bareet dacre stubbs

This quite stunning, evocative shot was taken by racer/specials builder George Reed at Bathurst during the 1947 AGP weekend. Barrett in the car, Alan Ashton being passed ‘plugs by Gib Barrett during a pitstop. Its a wonderful juxtaposition of the ‘high technology’ of the day with the rural NSW backdrop. (George Reed/Dacre Stubbs Collection)

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Barrett was born in 1908 to a well to do family in the affluent Melbourne suburb of Armadale, he and his brother Julian or ‘Gib’ inherited their fathers passion for cars. Before too long the boys were experimenting with all kinds of petrol powered devices in the large grounds of their home.

Not too far away a young mechanic, Alan Ashton was serving his time as an apprentice at AF Hollins Motors, the three of them met and were messing around with cars and bikes which they tested at Aspendale Speedway. Alf and Alan built their first racing car, a Morris Bullnose Special in 1933, initially entering hillclimbs. The car was competitive, winning the Junior 50 and Winter 100 at Phillip Island in 1934.

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Ad for AF Hollins, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ 1947

Barrett then bought the ex-Jack Day Lombard AL3 in late 1935 and raced the car in his first Australian Grand Prix at Victor Harbour, in South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula on December 26 1936,

lombard 1936

It was the first AGP held outside Victoria and has been known over time as the 1937 AGP despite being held on Saturday 26 December 1936…and named when held as the ‘South Australian Centenary Grand Prix’. It seems this ‘corruption of history’ as historian John Medley called it, commenced in the 1950’s, whence it originated nobody seems to know.

The Sporting Car Club of South Australia was formed in 1934 and played an active part in the celebration of 100 Years of European settlement of South Australia, the piece de resistance of the organising committee of the South Australian Centenary Committee was SA’s first real road race held 50 miles from Adelaide on the Fleurieu Peninsula, only a few miles from the mouth of the mighty Murray River on public roads beteen Port Elliott and Victor Harbour, then as now a summer playground. The event was run over 32 laps, 240 miles in total.

The race attracted the best cars and drivers from all around Australia, the limit men of the handicap race drove MG K3’s and Bugatti Types 37 and 43…and over 50000 paying customers came to an event then a long way from Adelaide.

Barrett entered the Morris for Colin Anderson, his MG ‘P type’ for Tim Joshua, driving the Lombard himself. He had a handicap of 21 minutes but lost a supercharger pop-off valve and failed to finish, Andersons Morris was delayed by overheating problems and was flagged off. Tim Joshua drove an exceptional race in the P Type and was leading the event for some laps before a 7 minute stop in the pits for unidentified maladies, he finished the race second behind the winning MG P Type of Les Murphy.

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The Victor Harbour road circuit used for ‘the 1937 AGP’. Used public roads as the map shows close to the Southern Ocean, joining Port Elliott and Victor Harbour. (The Advertiser)

In the 1938 AGP Barrett again raced the 1927 Lombard but the Cozette supercharged car, running off 22 minutes retired from the race held at Mount Panorama. Visiting Englishman Peter Whitehead won in his ERA Type B off a very favourable handicap winning from Les Burrows in a Terraplane Spl.

wirilinga 1938

Barrett racing his Morris Cowley Spl in the 1938 ‘Kings Birthday Grand Prix’, Wirlinga road circuit on the outskirts of Albury, NSW. (Unattributed)

As part of the Albury 150th anniversary celebrations a new 4.2 mile circuit was laid out on public roads at Wirlinga, an Albury suburb.

Albury is a town on the Murray River on the New South Wales/Victoria border. Barrett contested the ‘Kings Birthday Grand Prix’ or ‘Interstate Grand Prix’, the event seems to have been attributed a variety of names, in the Cowley on 19 March 1938. The event was won by local Wangaratta boy Jack Phillips in his self built Phillips Ford V8 Spl.

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Barrett competing in the Morris Bullnose Spl, Lobethal ’50 Mile Handicap’ 1938. Kayannie Corner. The practice would be put to good use the following year. (Norman Howard)

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This is the fabulous cover of John Blandens’ seminal book ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’. The fact that Barrett and the Monza, of the hundreds of cars and drivers written about in the publication made the cover says everything about the noted late historians opinion of Barrett and his place in the pantheon of Australian drivers…the scene depicted is at Bathurst 1938.Alan Ashton and Alf changing a wheel on the Monza.

In late 1938 Barrett acquired and imported the Monza from the UK, it had been raced successfully there by AP ‘Ginger’ Hamilton…

Chassis #2211134 was built in 1932 and sold to Raymond Somner, he won the Marseilles Grand Prix at Miramas in September 1932 and several other events selling the car back to the factory having acquired a Maserati for 1933. Hamilton bought it in late 1933 and raced the car extensively in the ensuing 5 years. There is a more comprehensive record of the cars competition record in Europe in ‘Etcetera’ at the end of this article.

I wrote about the design and specifications of the Alfa Romeo Monza in an earlier article so will not repeat that information here, click on this link to that article. https://primotipo.com/2014/10/09/antonio-brivio-targa-florio-1933-alfa-romeo-8c2300-monza/

When the car arrived in Australia it was prepared by Alan Ashton, Ashton acquired a reputation which recognised him as one of the most talented engineers in the country, he fettled cars for Barrett until the end of his career and later Lex Davison throughout his reign in the 1950’s and 1960’s as well as various international drivers who sought his talents.

The Alfa arrived in time for the last pre-War AGP held on the fast, daunting road course at Lobethal in South Australia’s Barossa Valley...

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Barrett Lobethal 1939 AGP, superb Norman Howard shot. Sandbags, barb wire fences, eucalypts, crowd on the hill, wonderful. Dangerous but wonderful…

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Bucolic Lobethal in the late 1930’s…the race progressed into, through and out of the main road shown in this aerial shot. (State Library of SA)

South Australian, Patrick Atherton in his website ‘Lagler Racing’ paints a vivid picture of the circuit, these are still public roads upon which you can drive thus…

‘From the old start-finish and grandstand area north of Charleston you could be forgiven for thinking it’s nothing special. No really challenging corners just sweeping curves. But put it into context; these cars had spindly wires and tyres, cart springs and beam axles and near useless drum brakes. These ‘curves’ are all blind. There are crests preceding all of them, particularly the bridges, which funnel into chutes. Think of these machines dropping on to their suspension in mid-air whilst turning at 100mph.

Through the little town of Charleston, with it’s pub (still there) the crowds were thick. Stories abound of drivers stopping, mid practice sessions for a pint or two.Out past here are frightening kinks, all blind, all crests and dips. Then a blind right hand kink sucks you into Kayannie corner, the tight right hander leaving Woodside Road and heading towards the township of Lobethal. Here the spectators got off the train from Adelaide straight into spectator areas at the side of the track, driver’s left.

The climb up the hill is significant, mostly straight for almost two km, but at the top, this track steals straight from the soul of Nurburgring. Lined by trees, the blind crest plummets away left, bottoms out right, drops away again, into a rollercoaster left. Then it flattens, raises slightly, then another drop into the braking area for the hard right hander (Mill corner) into Lobethal’s main street. Even the main street isn’t straight. Past the pub on the right there’s now a little ribbon of paving (Indianapolis-style) across the road and a plaque to commemorate the racing era.

Up the hill it funnels between shops and houses and then there is the blind, off-camber Gumeracha Corner, which claimed lives. The stretch from here to the start-finish hairpin has to be experienced. 5 km of crests, blind curves, feature changes and major undulation. Here is where the truly great drivers would have made up time on nothing more than sheer bravery. Indeed they did, and one in particular, winner Alan Tomlinson.’

barrett lobethal practice

Barrett during practice with a passenger, a fearsomely quick ride on this roller-coaster technically very difficult circuit of the brave, skilful and committed. Kayannie Corner, Lobethal AGP 1939. Railway line to Adelaide, bucolic delights of Lobethal clear to see. (Norman Howard)

Jack Saywell had the car with the most potential, an Alfa P3 fitted with a 2.9 litre supercharged straight 8, Barretts’ Monza, also designed by Vittorio Jano, had a less sophisticated 2.3 litre supercharged straight 8. A big incident in practice involved Barretts’ avoidance of a slow moving MG, the Monza ran off the road at high speed, a rear wheel hitting a gutter and throwing the car high into the air landing 20 metres down the road. Alf brought the car back under control, the incident causing a bent back axle and buckled wheel which were fixed by Ashton overnight, but the wheelbase was 2 inches shorter on one side of the car than the other.

60000 people attended the event, Barrett stalled at the start, losing 5 minutes in the process. He finished 8th, the handicap event won by Alan Tomlinson in a supercharged MG TA Spl.

Despite his handicap Tomlinson ‘punched way above his weight’, his preparation for the race meticulous. He walked the circuit in the weeks prior to the event and drove around it in another TC practicing each section patrticularly the 5Km stretch from Gumeracha Corner to the Start-Finish hairpin, he knew that section would be key for a driver in a notionally slower car, if you were brave enough…Tomlinson was to say after the race that Saywells Alfa held him up on that stretch! Tomlinson returned to Lobethal in 1940 for the SA Trophy and almost lost his life in an horrific accident after colliding with another car, careering off the road through a wire fence, lucky not to be decapitated and hit a tree. The young WA driver did not race again but lived into his 90’s.

Check out this fabulous documentary on the short but sweet history of Lobethal road circuit…https://vimeo.com/83756140

The Monza quickly established lap records at Lobethal, Bathurst, Albury Wirlinga, Nowra, Ballarat and Point Cook. It’s last pre-war start was at Wirlinga in 1939, winning a short handicap and setting a lap record of over 90mph on the gravel course.

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Barrett sorts himself and his new Monza out at the start of the 1939 AGP at Lobethal SA. He stalled the car and was well behind the field by the time he cleared fouled plugs. (Norman Howard)

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Wonderful high speed pan of the 8C2300 Monza, and its dark blue shirted driver, Lobethal 1939. (Norman Howard)

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AGP Meeting crowd scene, Lobethal 1939…captures the atmosphere and undulatig nature of the roads. (State Library of SA)

During WW2 Alf and ‘Gib’ served in the RAAF, returning to racing after hostilities ceased…

barett bathurst 1947

Barrett showing the deftness of touch and relaxed driving style for which he was famous. Monza, Bathurst AGP 1947. (John Blanden Collection)

In late 1946 the Monza was again race prepared.

The first race meeting organised by the LCCA in Victoria was at Ballarat Airfield in February 1947, the RAAF making their facility available for creation of a road circuit. Over 30000 people attended the event which featured all of the stars of the day Barrett thrilled the crowds with his driving and the sight and sound of the fabulous supercharged straight 8 engine. Alf didn’t beat the handicappers on the day, off scratch he gave away 22 minutes to the limitman, Hollinsheads’ MG J2, victory in the feature race, the Victoria Trophy going to Doug Whiteford in ‘Black Bess’, the Ford V8 Spl later to win the 1950 AGP.

This fantastic bit of footage shows both the Ballarat 1947 event and 1961 International Meeting contested by Dan Gurney, Graham Hill and many others. Don’t be put off by the commentary, Barrett is driving his Monza not an Alfa P3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2uwd7m6UGo barett ballarat

At Nowra, a new airstrip venue in June Barrett won both the over 1500cc event and 110 mile NSW Championship in the Monza achieving both the fastest lap at 93mph and time despite a pitstop.

Whilst motor racing recommenced post war in Paris on September 9 1945 the first post war Australian event seems to be a Hillclimb at Foleys Hill out of Sydney.

The first post-war AGP was not held until 1947 at Bathurst…despite problems with the police in getting the requisite permit and dissension in the ranks of the drivers there were 29 acceptances and 22 starters of the race.

monza bathurst 1947

The caption of this photo is of ‘Alf Barrett receives the chequered flag October 1947’, he DNF’d the AGP so perhaps this is the finish of a preliminary race. Wonderful shot all the same. (Unattributed)

Barretts’ Monza was off scratch due to the absence of Saywells faster P3, it’s engine was dispatched by sea prewar to Italy for a rebuild, never to survive the voyage. Lex Davison entered a Mercedes SSK 38/250, the first of many successful AGP’s for the Victorian, other fast cars the Kleinig Hudson Spl of Frank Kleinig, Hope Bartletts’ Dixon Riley and Ewings’ Buick Spl.

davison and barrett bathirst 1947

Lex Davison leads Alf Barrett AGP 1947. Mercedes 38/250 and Alfa Monza respectively…it would not be long till Lex impoted a Jano designed Alfa of his own, he imported a P3 in 1948 Davison set the fastest overall race time in the fearsome 7.6 litre SSK but was classified 3rd under the handicap system. (Byron Gunther)

Practice was on the preceding Thursday and Sunday, Barrett enlivening proceedings by taking all and sundry for rides around Mount Panorama in the Monza, as did Lex Davison in his Merc complete with linen helmet, goggles, coat and tie!

Barrett gave away 37 minutes to the first car away, Alf lapping at 3:08 and 124mph down the ‘narrow, bumpy and spooky Conrod Straight between the trees’ but retired on lap 27 with valve insert trouble. He didn’t ever have a surplus of AGP luck! The race was won by Bill Murrays’ MG TC.

‘Alf in his 8C2300 was the fastest driver in Australia in 1947’ according to John Medley but for 1948 the level of competition increased with Tony Gaze and Lex Davison importing a 2 litre supercharged Alta and Alfa Romeo P3/Tipo B respectively.

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Barrett with a passenger sans helmet…before the 1947 AGP at Mount Panorama. What a wild ride it must have been. (Byron Gunther)

The 1948 AGP was held at Point Cook…

Its easy to forget the context of the post war times in a low key year for motor racing in Australia, John Medley in ‘Cars and Drivers #3’…’The post war age of austerity with its restrictions and ration books still prevailed with a shortage of fuel, oil, paper, steel, food and power. In fact fuel rations were tightened during the year which placed a limit on the number of events…The mainstay of Australian motor racing still remained the homebuilt sprecial, a few of them single-seaters but most two seaters used on the road with number plates and lights, and for racing’.

barrett point cook

With ‘B24 Liberator’ and 1 Bristol Beaufighter aircraft as a backdrop Barrett leads Bill Fords’ Hudson Spl (7th) and Dennis Currans’ Willys Ford V8 Spl (5th) during his brief race in conditions which were amongst the hottest of any AGP. Fantastic evocative shot. (George Thomas)

Point Cook is in Melbourne’s inner western suburbs, the first time the AGP was held at an airforce base and the first AGP not held on a course using public roads.

26 cars entered the race, held on Australia Day , 26 January which was over 42 laps of a 3.85 km circuit comprising airfield runways, taxiways and service roads. A total distance of 100 miles. Only 10 cars completed the race which was held in excruciating hot conditions. No shade was to be had on the desolate airfield. The handicap event, AGP’s not held as scratch events until 1951 was won by Frank Pratt a Geelong, Victoria motorcycle racer/ dealer in a BMW 328.

Barrett started the race poorly having some issues which slowed him down then was the fastest car in the race for a while before withdrawing from the event with heat exhaustion on lap 22. He was far from alone, only 10 cars completed the event.

Alf contested the Easter Bathurst meeting which comprised some short handicap races, he didn’t win but set fastest lap in his. Gaze blew the Altas’ 2 litre engine and Davison retired early after troubles arising from a spectacular practice crash. The feature, handicap race, the ‘NSW 100′ was won by John Barrcloughs’ MG NE with a fine battle between the Barrett and Davison Alfas’, Barrett in the older car breaking the lap record at 3m 01 seconds with Davo recording 144mph down Conrod in the P3, a new straight line speed at Mount Panorama.

Melbournes’ Cup Weekend in November seems to be Alfs’ final race with the Monza, winning his class at Rob Roy Hillclimb at the Australian Hillclimb Championship. With a growing family and a business to run Barrett sold the Monza and retired from racing, not entirely though!

Alf retired at the top, John Medley commenting about 1948 as follows…’Cars new to the scene included Lex Davisons’ Alfa P3 and Tony Gazes’ two Altas with Alf Barretts’ Monza Alfa Romeo still the car to beat in major races’

The Monza passed into the hands of Rupert Steele in late 1949…a Victorian who was very quickly on the pace, practising the car on the back roads between Beaconsfield and Dandenong to help get the feel of the fabulous car.

He raced at Fishermans Bend, was 6th in the SA Championship at Nuriootpa, SA in 1949 and put that practice to good effect in the 1950 AGP which was also held on that quick road course in the Barossa Valley. The race was still a handicap event, Steele finished 2nd to Doug Whitefords’ Ford V8 Spl ‘Black Bess’ and shared the fastest lap with Whiteford, a formidable driver with vastly more experience than Steele albeit a much less sophisticated car. ‘Black Bess’ famously based on an ex-Victorian Forestry Commission Ute!

Steele didn’t own the car for long, later in life he became a notable Victorian in business and horse racing, the car was advertised again for sale.

rupert steele monza nuriootpa

Rupert Steele in the Monza contesting the 1950 AGP at Nuriootpa in the SA Barossa Valley. He finished second and shared the race’ fastest lap with Doug Whiteford, the winner. (John Blanden Collection)

Ron Edgerton was the buyer… Victorian ‘Racing Ron’, a very experienced driver was very competitive in the Monza racing it around the country, an initial win at Ballarat Airfield in the 1950 Victorian Trophy against strong opposition was impressive.

edgerton victorai atrophy 1950

The car raced at the Bathurst October meeting in 1951, finishing 4th in the ‘100’ and 3rd in the 50 Mile ‘Redex Championship’. The year was capped with a 4th in class at the Australian Hillclimb Championship at Rob Roy, in Melbournes’ Christmas Hills.

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‘Racing Ron’ Edgerton in the Monza ‘2211134’ ahead of Frank Kleinigs’ Kleinig Hudson Spl, Hell Corner, Bathurst in the 50 Mile ‘Redex Championship’ in October 1951. (WJ Farncourt)

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Alf Barrett hadn’t entirely retired, here he is at Bathurst in 1950 driving Tony Gaze’ 2 litre Alta Monoposto ’56S’, whilst the latter was overseas. (John Blanden)

The Winter 2012 issue of ‘Loose Fillings’ the wonderful Australian Newsletter about air-cooled racing cars had an article by the late lamented Australian Historian/Enthusiast/Racer Graham Howard…

‘He (Barrett) was at Bathurst in October 1951 as a spectator when offered a drive in Misha Ravdell’s Firth-prepared Mk4 Cooper Vincent… after Ravdell himself had been injured in a local road accident. Not having driven a racing car of any kind for more than a year and with no experience whatever of a Cooper-style car, he won a six-lap under 1500cc handicap and was well placed in the main event when he ran over a displaced sandbag and broke a driveshaft universal joint. He vividly remembered the Cooper’s vibration. ‘It was like driving a lawnmower– dreadful. You’d get out of it as if you’d been driving a lawn-mower.’ But everything else compared to his beloved Alfa was a revelation.

‘The Cooper made my hair stand on end. It ran so straight and it stopped straight. The brakes were like running into cotton wool. With the Alfa you always felt you were a foot off the ground and it would get such dreadful brake tramp. ‘The thing I noticed with the Cooper, it held on until all four wheels went together. You could go too far with the Alfa and cars like that, and they’d still hang on, the Cooper would just go snap. ‘But that little Cooper – it just went straight, it stopped straight. So when I say the Alfa was good, it was good-until the Cooper’.

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Barrett in the borrowed Cooper Mk4 Vincent, Bathurst October 1951, he finished 1st in a race despite not having sat in the car before! He is in his ‘civvies’ collar and tie…and with a noticeable smile on his face! (John Medley)

Its fascinating to get the insights of the day from a top driver of the comparison between ‘the old and new paradigms’ of front and mid engined cars…Cooper won their first Grand Prix in Argentina 1958, in Stirling Moss’ hands, himself a former Cooper 500 exponent.

The Monza was offered for sale by Edgerton in ‘Australian Motor Sport’ in April 1951 and was bought by Toorak, Melbourne enthusiast Earl Davey Milne, it is still owned by the family and whilst in good hands and complete it remains disassembled and unrestored…

alf bwa 1953 agp

Alf racing and sharing brother Gibs BWA, in the early laps of the 1953 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park. The car was a fusion of MG TC Chassis, Lancia front end and steering box, Lancia wheels, brakes and 1935 Chev truck driveshafts powered by a 1.5 ltre supercharged Meadows 4 cylinder engine from a Frazer Nash! (Unattributed)

Alf made a comeback of sorts in the 1953 Australian Grand Prix, the first held at Albert Park…Alfs’ brother Julian or ‘Gib’ was also a racer and built a 2 seater sports car called BWA, colloquially the ‘Bloody Work of Art’ pre-War but actually named after the cars builders Barrett/Ashton/White.

The BWA was converted into a single-seater post war, the 1953 AGP regs allowed 2 drivers so Alf started the race and handed over to Gib. It wasn’t their best of races the pair losing 15 minutes at the start with fouled ‘plugs and then managed to set fire to it after a fuel spill at a pitstop. Still, they finished 12th, Doug Whiteford won the race in his first Talbot Lago, it was his third and final AGP win, the Lago as aristocratic as Black Bess, his 1950 AGP winner, was proletariat having won the AGP at Bathurst in 1952 in the Lago as well.

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The BWA ablaze at the Albert Park pits…this was the end of the conflagration, the ‘BBQ’ was immense at the point of ignition…the Barretts got the car going and finished the event. (Youtube)

Barrett remained a motor racing enthusiast and in a neat bookend to his careers commencement also finished it in a Morris…

He contested the 1969 Bathurst 500 in a Morris 1500 shared with Kyneton, Victoria motor dealer/racer Mel Mollison. They finished 37th Barrett driving the car with the same verve and flair for which he was famous if not wearing the blue T-Shirt for which he was also renowned…he died in 1998.

barrett morris 1500

Tailpiece…

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Barrett and Monza, descending the mountain thru ‘The Dipper’, Bathurst 1939. (Unattributed)

Etcetera…

barrett bwa rob roy

Alf Barrett racing brother Gibs’ BWA in early unbodied form. The car was a fusion of MGTC chassis, mainly Lancia componentry and supercharged 1.5 litre Meadows engine. 16th Rob Roy Hillclimb. (State Library of Victoria)

barrett wirlinga 1938

A close up of Alf Barrett and his Morris ‘Bullnose’ Cowley Spl, Wirlinga, Albury 1938. Car built together with brother ‘Gib’ and Alan Ashton. Historian John Medley noted that this car was destroyed in a bushfire, the engine only survived. (Unattributed)

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Barrett AGP Lobethal 1939. (Norman Howard)

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Yet another stunning Norman Howard AGP Lobethal 1939 Barrett shot.

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Monza in the Lobethal paddock 1940. To the left is the Jack Phillip’s Ford V8 Spl which won the main event at that meeting ‘The South Australian 100’ and at far left a Bentley Ute used as a tender vehicle. Barrett DNF with rear axle failure but set fastest lap at 5m 48sec, 92mph avg. (Ean McDowell)

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Barrett and the Monza at Ballarat Airfield February 1947. (John Blanden Collection)

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Barrett, Monza, Bathurst AGP 1947…the fastest car driver combination again that year. (Byron Gunther)

lago and monza

Doug Whitefords’ Talbot Lago in front of the Monza, then owned by Ron Edgerton at Bathurst in 1951… a happy hunting ground for both cars. (Unattributed)

Monza # 2211134 History…

The following article was published in ‘Motor Sport’ by Denis Jenkinson in 1976 with input from Earl Davey-Milne, a Melburnian who still owns the car. monza m spoort 1 monza m sport 2

Bibliography and Credits… John Medley in Graham Howard’s ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’, John Blanden ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’, ‘Loose Fillings’ Winter 2012, Motor Sport, MotorMarque, Patrick Atherton Lagler Racing, ‘Cars and Drivers’, John Medley

John Blanden, George Reed, Dacre Stubbs Collection, John Blanden Collection, Ean McDowell, John Medley, autopics, State Library of Victoria, W J Farncourt, George Thomas, Byron Gunther, Norman Howard, Allan Griffin Collection

Finito…

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Brivio won the race, 7 laps of the 72Km ‘Piccolo Madonie’, 504Km, in his Scuderia Ferrari entry, ahead of 4 other ‘Monzas’…

He took 6 hours 35 minutes to complete the race at an average speed of 76.3 KMH, an endurance test to be sure!

Scuderia Ferrari had a busy and victorious weekend, running three Monza’s at the Eifelrennen at the Nurburgring, Nuvolari winning and another three in Targa.

Borzacchini lead the Scuderia Ferrari Targa assault in a Monza 2.6 but retired after hitting a wall near Collesano, Brivio winning with Carraroli third in the other SF entry, both 2.3 Monza’s .

One of Vittorio Janos’ greatest designs, the supercharged straight-eight ‘Monza’ is one of the most successful racing cars of all time.

Vittorio Jano…

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Vittorio Jano and Phil Hill later in Janos’ life. Pictured in Maranello in 1962, Jano designed the V6 engine which powered Hills’ 1961 World Championship winning Ferrari 156…the car was a ‘slug’ in 1962, the problem the chassis not Janos’ engine…Jano died by his own hand aged 75, frustrated by illness and his diminishing powers. He was 65. (Klemantaski Archive)

Alfa ‘pinched’ Jano from Fiat, where he was a key designer of their 804 and 805 GP cars. He was the leading figure in the design of Italian racing cars for over 30 years, Fiat in the 20’s, Alfa in the 30’s and Ferrari in the 1950’s, mind you his ‘Dino’ derived V6 engines were still winning rallies in the Lancia Stratos well into the 1970’s.

As soon as he joined Alfa he worked on supercharging the P1 GP car whilst also designing the very successful straight-8 P2 for 1924, the car immediately victorious in the French GP.

Alfa won the ‘World Championship’ in 1925 but withdrew from racing in 1926/7, allowing Jano to concentrate on a new series of road cars, the revered 6C 1500/1750 cars the result.

Alfa wanted to return to outright success in motor racing, the first step was the creation of the 8C2300, ‘unquestionably the ultimate sports car of its time and marked the pinnacle of the era for sports cars with cart-sprung flexible chassis and crash-gearboxes..’ according to marque expert Simon Moore.

Context of The Time…

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The world was still in recession as a consequence of the collapse of the global economy after the 1929 Wall Street Collapse, Bentley were going through liquidation, Mercedes were entering the market for ‘mass-produced’ cars, whilst Alfa introduced this upmarket car.

Alfa themselves were not immune to any of this, passing through and into the hands of government agencies to make grants to aid industry, ultimately being taken over by the ‘Instituto Ricostruzione Industriale’ in 1933.

8C2300 Design…

monza outline

Jano laid down a chassis which was conventional for the period in having channel side and cross members with semi-elliptic leaf springs and friction shock absorbers.

The ‘Corto’ had a wheelbase of 9 feet, and the ‘Lungo’, 10 feet 2 inches. Rod operated drum brakes were fitted of 15 3/4 inches internal diameter and were very powerful by the standards of the day. Knock-off wire wheels were standard competition fare , 5.5 inches wide and 19 inches in diameter.

The rear axle and 4 speed gearbox were of the same design as the 6C 1750.

The engine was both the heart of the car and it’s outstanding design feature.

A straight 8, with a bore and stroke of 65x88mm, the cylinders were cast in two identical blocks of four to allow for a train of auxiliaries to be placed between them. The crank was supported by ten main, plain bearings.

The crank was made of two halves, with two helical gears bolted between them in the centre, one driving the (two) camshafts by two intermediaries, and the other the supercharger, oil and water pumps.

The cylinder blocks were fitted with dry liners, and had separate, alloy detachable heads. The engine was dry-sumped.

A ‘Roots type’ two lobe blower was mounted low down beside the alloy crankcase, fed by a Memini carburettor . The fuel system used two Autovacs from a twenty-four gallon rear mounted tank.

Ignition was by Bosch coil and distributor with the manual control in the centre of the steering wheel.

The engine developed between 165 and 178 BHP at 5400RPM.

monza engine

Scuderia Ferrari workshop in 1933. Eugenio Siena left, and Giulio Ramponi right, working on an 8C2300 engine on the test bed. Ramponi a notable figure as a mechanic, riding mechanic and driver for Alfa. He also had a key role in the ascent of  both Whitney Straight, and Dick Seaman as drivers, preparing their cars (@Zagari)

Race Record…

nuvolari

The ‘Monza’ won 2 championship Grands’ Prix, the Italian Grand Prix in 1931, a 10 hour epic won by Nuvolari and Campari, the victory from which the car took its name, and the 1932 Monaco GP. Nuvolari is pictured in his Monza in that race, he won it over a duration of 3.5 hours from Rudy Caracciola, by only 2.7 seconds!, in a similar car. (Unattributed)

The 8C2300 sports cars were incredibly successful winning Le Mans 1931-4, the Spa 24 Hour in 1932/3, Targa 1931-3, and the Mille Miglia 1932-4.

Alfa developed the P3 as it’s pure racing car, during the same period, a straight 8, twin-supercharged , fixed cylinder head car which was incredibly successful in 1932-5. As a consequence the 8C2300 based racing cars won only two championship Grands’ Prix (Italian GP in 1931 and Monaco GP in 1932) as well as many second tier events, not bad for a ‘sports car’ all the same!

Minoia was also crowned European Champion in 1931 driving ‘Monzas’.

Production History…

188 or 189 cars were produced from 1931 to 1934, in three series, with ten ‘Monzas’ officially built by the factory. The number built by Alfa according to Simon Moore is greater than that, ten works racers and a number of customer racers built to similar specifications…where definition of a Monza is ‘ a 2.3 racer with a narrow body, outside exhaust pipe, short front springs and a tail comprising a fuel tank with a pointed crush cone’.

Without doubt a landmark car and one of the very few to be both a great sports car, sports racer and Grand Prix winner…a GP car in which to do the shopping!

image

Antonio Brivio beside his Monza. He won the Targa twice, in 1933 and ’35, the Mille Miglia in 1936 and Spa 24 Hour race in 1932. He was also a world class bobsledder competing in the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch. (Pinterest)

Etcetera…

monza

monza engines by 2

Both sides of the 2.3 litre DOHC straight-8 and 4 speed gearbox. Roots type 2 lobe blower mounted low on RHSide, fed by Memini carburettor. Engine comprised 2 blocks of 4 cylinders with centrally mounted drives from 2 piece crank visible (Alfa Archives)

monza engine cutaway

Section of the 8C2300 engine showing how it was divided into 3 levels; one piece cast crankcase, 2 blocks of 4 cylinders in line, and the heads. Both the cam drive, and 2 piece crankshaft are clearly seen (Simon Moore/ Alfa Archives)

monza zoom

Photo and Other Credits…

‘The Legendary 2.3’ Simon Moore, ‘Alfa Romeo’ Hull & Slater

Pinterest unattributed, tintoyslife, @zagari, Klemantaski Archive, Alfa Romeo Archive

Finito…