When the Scuderia Ferrari could no longer keep up with the German cars from Daimler-Benz and Auto Union, with their 2.9-litre “monoposto” Alfa Romeos, they made a brave attempt to salvage some prestige in the Formula Libre events at Avus and Tripoli in 1935 with remarkable twin-engined cars. Known as the Bimotore this model used a 2.9-litre straight-eight Alfa Romeo engine in front of the driver and another similar unit behind him; both drove to a central gearbox and then to the rear wheels. It was incredibly fast but consumed tyres at a phenomenal rate and really defeated itself. It proved its speed by taking records at 200 m.p.h. on an Italian autostrada, clocking 200.803 m.p.h. for the flying kilometre.
After one brief season in 1935 the project was abandoned and one car was dismantled (it had used two 3.2-litre engines) and the other was sold to the English racing driver Austin Dobson (seen in the accompanying photograph) in 1937. It proved to be too much of a good thing, and in the winter of 1938/39 the Hon. Peter Aitken had it cut in half and made into a front-engined Monomotore, which he called the Alfa-Aitken. This single-engine Alfa Romeo special raced in 1939 and again immediately after the war and subsequently went to New Zealand, where it got “used up”.
Tom Wheatcroft has acquired the remains of the Alfa-Aitken and hopes one day to resurrect the Austin Dobson Bimotore for his Donington Collection. Recently Alfa Romeo SpA became aware that the Bimotore was a racing landmark in their history and authorised Luigi Fusi, head of the Arese Museum of Alfa Romeo, to construct a third Bimotore for their collection.
Although the original two cars were built from Alfa Romeo parts and with the blessing of the Milan firm, they were designed and constructed at the Scuderia Ferrari in Modena. Engineers Bazzi and Roselli did the work with the blessing of Vittoria Jano, the chief designer of Alfa Romeo. This new project authorised by the management of Alfa Romeo will involve making new 2.9-litre straight-eight engines, gearbox, transmission and all the other complicated bits of this remarkable design, for nothing exists of the second car that was broken up. Not a lot exists of the first car that Wheatcroft has acquired, but there is enough to make a resurrection. The question arises as to whether the third car that will be built by Alfa Romeo can be viewed as a genuine “third car” or as a reproduction, bearing in mind that the first two were built in Modena by the Scuderia Ferrari, not by the Alfa Romeo factory in Milan. That it is to be built is the most exciting “old car” news for a long time, for the Bimotore was one of the wonders of the racing world. — DSJ.