Despite a rocky recent ride, Alfa Romeo stirs the emotions of car fans like few other brands. Its racing history, and cars like the 1921 G1 you see here, are why.
RM Sothebys will be auctioning this 1921 G1 in Phoenix, Arizona next month, where it’s expected to sell for around $2 million.
Why? Well, it’s the last working example of the first Alfa Romeo sold to the public, back in the USA after a prolonged stint in Australia.
Alfa Romeo competes with BMW and Audi nowadays, but it was chasing a very different market in the ’20s. The G1 was meant to battle with cars from Rolls-Royce and the new-defunct Hispano Suiza brand, with a luxurious interior and powerful (for the time) inline-six engine.
The 6.3-litre engine was reportedly designed with input from Enzo Ferrari, and produced 52kW of power and 293Nm of torque for a 138km/h top speed. It was a successful racer, winning the production class of Coppa del Garda, but didn’t find favour with the public.
Post-war Italy was politically and economically unstable, and buyers didn’t have the money to spend on an extravagant, thirsty automobile – and if they did, they certainly didn’t want to show it. Rather than trying to sell to an unwilling market, Alfa exported all 50 examples of the G1 to Australia.
Chassis 6018 was bought by a prominent Queensland businessman, who went bankrupt shortly afterwards. Rather than let his prized Italian stallion fall to creditors, he hid the car on his farm, where it remained for 25 years. It wasn’t discovered until the late 1940s, well after his passing, at which point it was used as a paddock runaround.
When the rear axle failed, the engine was used to power a water pump on the farm. The car’s remains were discovered by Aussie Alfa Romeo enthusiasts in 1964.
Those enthusiasts set about a 10-year restoration project, combining parts from another G1 with new Torpedo-style bodywork. It won the 1977 Queensland Classic Car Concours and 1978 Millie Miglia Memorial Run, topping 138km/h at one point.
Another complete restoration was carried out in 1995, a process which saw Michelin commission a set of tyres from the original, 1920s mould. Neville Crichton, director of Ateco Australia bought the car in 1998, and entered it in illustrious meets like the Pebble Beach Concours.
During his ownership, Crichton restored the car to drivable condition, as it had only previously been fit for display.
It was also used on a tour of Australia to commemorate Alfa Romeo’s centenary, before being sold to a Californian collector in 2012. Now, it’s up for auction again.
Update: We’ve managed to secure more images of the car during its time in Australia, thanks to Edward Rowe from Ateco Australia. The story has been updated with some of the images, along with information about its life in Australia. Click gallery for the full spread!