Your feature in the June issue on the Alfa Romeo RLTF brought happy memories flooding back.
I drove this car many hundreds of miles on the road while it was being campaigned by my good friend, Chris Mann. Later we used it as a tender car at race meetings as well as for social forays. In the late 1970s, when Chris was racing other splendid machinery, he suggested with typical generosity that I should do some VSCC events in ‘the Targa’, as we always called it. I competed in it at Wiscombe Park and in several races at Silverstone including the 1978 Fox & Nicholl Trophy race, in which fellow competitors included Victor Gauntlett in his 4-litre Bentley and Jenks in one of the three 1931 Talbot 105 team cars in the race.
The Targa had acceleration and brakes best described as modest, but its good torque and roadholding and agile handling were all outstanding for a 1924 car. For hillclimbs we retained the domed cycle-type wings that complemented the rather handsome pointed tail which, to my mind, made for a more aesthetically pleasing rear end than the slab tank.
According to David Owen in his authoritative book Targa Florio -70 epic years of motor racing, Count Giulio Masetti’s RLTF finished second in the 1924 Targa Florio and inherited second place also in the Coppa Florio when Antonio Ascari was disqualified, presumably as a consequence of the assistance he received when a crowd of helpers pushed his car over the line at the end of the fifth lap. After the race Alfa Romeo sold off the specially prepared TF team cars, which could explain how Tony Lago came to acquire this car for Agostino Lanfranchi to race in 1925, although its 2996cc capacity leads me to speculate that the engine may have come from one of the 1923 cars.
I can sympathise with Richard Heseltine’s initial problems with the “on-off” clutch and central throttle, but once I got used to it the Targa was very tractable and a sheer joy to drive.
I have been fortunate to own a number of enjoyable cars over the years but this Alfa, which I never owned, retains a special place in my affections.