Alfa Romeo Monoposto Tipo B

Alfa Romeo Monoposto Tipo B

When the Monoposto Alfa Romeo made its first appearance, at Monza in 1932, it not only set new standards of aesthetics in racing car design, it also created something of a legend in Grand Prix history. The factory team virtually swept the board that year, and though they did not reappear until late in the 1933 season, they continued their sweeping successes. Those first cars, from the drawing board of Vittorio Jano, were the narrow-bodied 2.6-litre cars and they were rebuilt with wider cockpits to conform to new rules for 1934 and were fitted with 2.9-litre engines of the classic straight-eight engine, the increase in capacity being achieved by increasing the cylinder bore from 65 mm. to 68 mm. six of these early cars were built with spares for a further three, and to augment the team in 1934 a further seven cars were built to the new specification, with another four in the form of spares, and of these second series cars, six of them were modified again for the 1935 season. First the rear suspension was changed from ½-elliptic leaf springs to reversed ¼-elliptic leaf springs, then the front suspension was changed from the original ½-elliptics to independent suspension on the Dubonnet system, the coil-spring units being operated by a leading swinging arm through a bell-crank. These suspension units were pivoted on stub-axles at each end of a tubular cross-member attached to the chassis frame. At the same time hydraulic brakes were adopted and later in the 1935 season a bore increase to 71 mm. took the capacity up to 3.2-litres. While the original cars had a four-speed gearbox, the increase in power necessitated strengthening the gears and the number was reduced to three to avoid changing the gearbox casing. The enlarged engines were so good on torque that three gears were adequate. There is a school of thought that suggests that 3.8-litre versions of the straight-eight engine were used during 1935, before the Monoposto came to the end of its useful life as a factory team car for Grand Prix racing.

During the latter stages of the career of the Monoposto the cars were run by the Scuderia Ferrari, and there were numerous versions extant, as many of the earlier cars were sold off to private owners, some of whom continued to compete in Grand Prix racing. Seven cars found their way to England, two in early 1934 form for C. S. Stainland and R. O. Shuttleworth, two in "interim" form with ¼-elliptic rear suspension, for C. E. C. Martin and L. Fontesthough the former never raced his, and two of the "ultimate" versions with Dubonnet i.f.s., for Austin Dobson and A. F. Ashby; later in 1938 Mrs. Thomas acquired a 1934 car from Georges Raph, who acquired it originally from the Scuderia Ferrari. Of these seven, only two remained in the country by the 1950's when they were no longer any use, even for Club racing. These were No 5003 which Stainland had bought of Raymond Sommer after the Frenchman had driven it in the 1935 Donington Grand Prix and 5006 which Anthony Powys-Lybbe acquired form Mrs. Thomas. In 1938 No 5003 was extensively modified into the Multi-Union, the engine being improved with stronger pistons and connecting rode to permit 6,500 r.p.m., instead of the standard 5,500 r.p.m. In 1939 the car was further modified with Tecnauto i.f.s. and became Multi-Union II, in which form it exists today owned by the Hon. Patrick Lindsay, who has loaned it to the Donington Park racing car museum. In contrast, 5006 remained completely oroiginal to 1934 specification.

Shuttleworth's car was updated with ¼-elliptic rear suspension and subsequently was converted to a 2-seater road going sports car, complete with starter, and was sold to the U.S.A. where it still resides. Martin's car went to Australia, and the two Dubonnet-sprung cars found their way to New Zealand, while the Fontes car went to the U.S.A.

Around 1950 Powys-Lybbe was racing 5006 in Irish road-racing. As late as 1953 this car was winning races in Ireland, driven by Powys-Lybbe, and after that it joined the ranks of historic racing cars taking part in VSCC events, owned by Vessey, Crowther, Thackaray, Corner, Summers and again by Corner, who owns it today. It is the only 1934 car remaining complete and in running order, with the widened cockpit from 1932/3, and the louvred skirting under the cockpit 1966, when Bill Summers was racing it at Oulton Park in a VSCC meeting, it broke a connecting rod which damaged the crank-case severely. This has now been repaired and will be refitted to the car. Fortunately there were some spares with the car and among them a crank-case complete with a brand new crank-shaft and a set of Multi-Union strengthened connecting rods. This crank-case was from the Bi-motore Alfa Romeo, a fearsome device built by Ferrari in 1935 using a lengthened Monoposto chassis frame with a straight-eight engine in the rear as well as the front. The rear engine had the driving flange on the front of the crank-shaft for transmitting power forward to the central gearbox and the crank-case bearer arms of the Monoposto were machined away to fit this engine in the rear. It was one of these crank-cases Summers had, so he was forced to fabricate a sheet-metal engine mounting to use it in 5006 and this mounting is shown in the accompanying drawing of this car. The fine section drawing of No 5006 was made with the co-operation of the present owner, Neil Corner, and the Donington Collection, where the car is on view. Further help with details was given by Alan de Cadenet, who recently acquired No 5001 from Argentina and this car, in 1935 form, is being extensively rebuilt at the moment.

There are two further Monopostos in England, these being No 5002, the third i.f.s. car, which went to Australia around 1937 and is now owned by the Hon. Patrick Lindsay, and No 5003, the Charlie Martin car, which has returned from Australia and is owned by Robert Cooper.

The Alfa Romeo factory still retains a working example of the original 1932 Monoposto, while there are two further examples of later cars in America and another in Argentina.

Specification of the car illustrated

Eight cylinders in-line, 68 x 100 mm. - 2905 c.c. Two overhead camshafts driven from the centre of the crank-shaft by a train of gears in a housing between the cylinder blocks. Twin super-chargers on the left of the engine, with eight branch exhaust on the right. Three-speed gearbox attached to the rear of the engine, driving to a differential mounted at the head of the V transmission layout with a prop-shaft running diagonally to a crown-wheel-and-pinion assembly for each rear wheel with short half-shafts to the hubs. 255 b.h.p. at 5,400 r.p.m. Maximum speed approximately 160 m.p.h. Wheelbase 8' 8". Track: front 4' 7", rear 4' 5". Tyres: 6.00 x 19". Rod operated brakes, ½-elliptic leaf springs all round, rear ones mounted on out-riggers from the 5" deep channel-section chassis frame. - D.S.J