The Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 is possibly the most representative sports car of the thirties. Endowed with a mechanical effectiveness typical of the continuation of the brilliant 6C, this model took victory in Le Mans the same 1931 in which it was released. Not surprisingly, its development by the Italian house had victory in this race in mind. Traditionally dominated by the British, although now seriously touched after the absorption of Bentley by Rolls-Royce after the confirmation of its economic problems.
A crisis witnessed and tested by Tim Birkin himself. Winner together with three-time Le Mans champion Woolf Barnato in 1929 aboard a 6.5-litre Bentley and even inspiring and godfather of the legendary Bentley blower. One of the riders most linked to the golden years of the English brand. But still responsible for taking an Alfa Romeo 8C to first place at Le Mans 1931. The first of a total of four consecutive wins for the 8C. Among which the name of Birkin is intermingled with those of Tazio Nuvolari, Luigi Chinetti or Raymond Sommer.
Thus, Le Mans not only brought the Alfa Romeo 8C a prestige only comparable to that of the Bentleys of the previous decade. It was also the race necessary to produce one of the most concrete series in the entire history of the model. We are talking about the 8C 2300 Type Le Mans. A rare model of which only nine units were produced. Recognizable not so much by the mechanical differences but by the bodywork. Interestingly elongated to accommodate two rear seats useless in the race but necessary to meet the homologation regulations at the Le Mans of the time.
ALFA ROMEO 8C 2300 TIPO LE MANS, AN ELONGATED CHASSIS FOR THE RACE
When we talk about the sports capabilities of this or that vehicle, one of the details to take into account is the wheelbase. In this way, the tighter it is, the easier it will be for the vehicle to take curves. If we add to that a good distribution of weights and inertia, we would already have the necessary base for an effective car on twisty sections. Thus, long chassis have never been associated with sport more than rarely related to top speed on straights. In fact, that the wheelbase is extended as much as possible rather has to do with achieving more spacious cabins in family models.
So why is the Alfa Romeo 8C Type Le Mans characterized by a long wheelbase incorporating two extra seats inside a segregated rear compartment? Well for the Homologation rules at Le Mans of the time. Not being a race with the experimental Sport Prototype by flag, but rather one in which only series models were accepted. Obviously sporty and exclusive. But always in series as the winning Lorraine-Dietrich B3-6 in 1925 and 1926 or, of course, the victorious Bentley 3 Liter in 1924 and 1927. One of the best sports cars of the moment, even having produced more than 1.600 units.
In this way, the Alfa Romeo 8C had to adapt its extension to comply with those standards created based on models that normally had two benches of seats. Or at least that's how it had to be in 1931, considering that regulations were changing at the same breakneck speed with which motorsports advanced in those seminal years. A speed that made racing models evolve rapidly towards a size not seen in the twenties more than in specific models such as the Bugatti Type 35.
A UNIT IN EXCELLENT CONDITION
Under the hood, the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Type Le Mans hid the same 8-cylinder, 2.336cc mechanics released in the 1931 Mille Miglia. The baptism of fire for the model, whose bodies were sent by Alfa Romeo to Pininfarina, Zagato, Castagna or Touring among others. In fact, the new units of the 2300 Type Le Mans were made in collaboration with Touring. Being clearly recognizable by a line in which the rear seats required for homologation at Le Mans are integrated in such a way that only the appearance of a tarpaulin covering them reveals the model as a four-seater. A sensational job. Of which the unit with chassis number 2211067 is a sample in excellent condition having been kept by three different owners in the UK since 1934.
Manufactured in 1932, this Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Type Le Mans was part of the squad of six units sent by Alfa to Le Mans that same year. Historical moment in which they achieved a double. Although this unit failed to complete the race. The following year he also participated in Le Mans, also without being able to finish. However, the change in the homologations and regulations changed accepting vehicles with much freer bodies with respect to their adaptation to competition. For this reason, the 2300 Type Le Mans were withdrawn from this race. To the point that the last intervention of one of them occurs in 1935.
Now, heading to the century after the appearance of the 8C, the few extant examples of 2300 Le Mans Type They are true collector's items. like the one treasured by the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese. None other than the 1931 Le Mans winner. Rescued from confinement in a Nigerian tin mine. Condition in which it was treasured by the private collector from whom the brand bought it in 1966. Fortunately, the condition of the 8C with which we have illustrated the text is more normal. Having been offered by tom harley until its sale just a few days ago. A whole piece of history with the relationship between Alfa Romeo and Le Mans by flag.
Photographs: Tom Harley