Racing car

Alfa Romeo 158/159

Alfettas revive as they were

After the war, Alfa Romeo dusted off its 158s and dominated the revival of racing in Europe between 1946 and ’48. The works team took a sabbatical for ’49, then returned for the first world championship season in ’50 — in ’51, the revised 159 was introduced. Here are TG Moore’s thoughts in a Continental Notes column on Alfa and its 158 after the ’48 French Grand Prix at Reims, where Jean-Pierre Wimille and team newcomer Alberto Ascari scored a 1-2 for the Corse.

“When a car firm decides to race its own products, nothing can be left to chance, and the Alfa Romeo racing organisation is comparable with those of Mercedes and Auto Union in pre-war days. At Reims they had eight or nine open and closed five-ton trucks, two spare racing cars, one available behind the pits in case any spares were needed during the course of the race, and a mobile workshop. This was well-equipped, with a lathe, a drilling machine, welding plant, benches and vices, drawers for small parts, and an independent petrol engine and dynamo which supplied power for the machine tools.

“The three Alfa Romeos which ran in the grand prix were all the well-tried Type 158 eight-cylinder cars, giving about 250hp at 7500rpm. The engines are, of course, two-camshaft, with two carburettors and two blowers in series. The gearbox is mounted with the bevel-box at the rear of the tubular chassis. The front wheels are carried on trailing links, with transverse leaf springing. A similar system is used at the rear, while the wheels have a slight cant inwards. The brakes are hydraulic and, on one car I examined, the sides of the brake drums had large openings in them; Ferodo apparently doesn’t mind the weather.

“The car Wimille drove so fast during the practices was something new, with one exhaust pipe and manifold instead of two. Evidently, this arrangement helps to produce more urge, and the new type will probably be used in later races this season.”
October 1948