Alfa Romeo at the 1954 Carrera Panamericana

 As Art was kind enough to set up a blog for my meanderings I felt I should give it a go. What to write about, how long should it be? Perhaps I could use a blog as an excuse to dig a little more into subjects I was interested in, and if anyone else learned a bit, then so much the better. Of course the first one would have to be a subject near and dear to my heart (and so as if you didn’t know) Alfa Romeos!

But what Alfa story? As the company with the oldest racing history there are so many stories. So, where to start?? Lets just choose a convenient and timely one, the upcoming Carrera Panamericana proxy race. Over the five years that the race was held there were many Alfas to write about, both factory and private entries. For a first go lets just use the alternate photo posted for the upcoming proxy race. Easy, a bit obscure, quite pedestrian and definitely all Alfa!! I’m sure Art put it in for my benefit!!

A little bit of background on the Carrera Panamericana first. In 1950, Mexico became the first Latin-American country to complete its part of the Pan-American Highway. To celebrate this achievement, the national government decided to organize a five-day race along the new road. It consisted of a total of 9 stages and ran from Ciudad Juárez on the US border to the Guatemalan border. The original version of the Carrera Panamericana was held from 1950 to 1954 and during its short existence it developed a reputation for being one of the most dangerous races in the world. Due to the start line being close to the US, most of the cars and drivers for the first 1950 race came from the US. The first winners were an American team of Hershel McGriff and Ray Elliott in an Oldsmobile 88.

From the second edition onwards, the route was switched, going from the southern to the northern border. Over the ensuing years competition grew and attracted more teams from abroad. Along with most American manufacturers and many ‘specials’, Ferrari, Lancia, Porsche, Borgward, Alfa Romeo, Austin Healey, OSCA, Jaguar, Mercedes, Talbot Lago, Gordini, VW and Pegaso all sent or supported teams headlined with seasoned road, track and rally drivers.

Of particular interest here is the 1954 race and the picture used for the alternate in the upcoming proxy races announcement. (Hopefully Alfas from other years will follow in later posts).

1954 was the last of the original races and the picture was taken in front of the Monumento de la Revolition in Mexico City, probably sometime after the third day of racing or just before the start of the fourth day. The Monumento de la Revolition commemorates the independence of Mexico from Spain. It is located in Plaza de la República, near to the heart of major thoroughfares in downtown Mexico City.

The structure was initially intended to be at the centre of the Federal Legislature and the first stone was laid in 1910 during the centennial celebrations of Independence. The project was not finished due to the Mexican Revolutionary War and after several regime changes in 1913 it was cancelled and abandoned. It’s steel inner structure stood rusting for more than twenty years. Later it was proposed to convert the abandoned structure into a monument to the heroes of the Mexican Revolution. After this was approved, the structure began its makeover.

Monumento de la Revolition

Four stone sculpture groups were designed and built over the existing cupola structure. The structure also functions as a mausoleum for the heroes of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. It was eventually completed around 1938.

For the1954 running there were thirteen Alfas entered. Eleven participated and 2 were listed as Did Not Arrive.

(From Racing Sports Cars)

No. Drivers Entrant Make Type Model Engine Gr.
251 Sanesi / Cagna Alfa Romeo Finmeccanica Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9
252 Velazquez / Ruiz Atoyac Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9
254 Mancini / Mijares Anaconda Nacional Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9
255 Carini / Sambrotta Alfa Romeo Finmeccanica Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9
256 Mantovani / Chiappa Alfa Romeo Finmeccanica Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9
257 Solana / Leguizamo Alfa Romeo Finmeccanica Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9
258 Pedro J. Llano Pedro J. Llano Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9
260 Guillermo G. Airaldi Guillermo Airaldi Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9
265 Cerezo / Palacios David Cerezo Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9
267 Della Favera / Campigotto Alfa Romeo Finmeccanica Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9
268 Bonini / Zanavoni Alfa Romeo Finmeccanica Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9

And entered but did not arrive:

264 Pedro J. Llano Pedro J. Llano Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9
266 Enrique Fluchaire Enrique Fluchaire Alfa Romeo 1900 TI Alfa Romeo TE1.9

Clearly shown in the picture are four Alfa Romeo 1900 Ti cars. Quite possibly these are four of the five cars entered by Finmeccanica. The 5th Finmeccanica entered car is possibly the car to the right in the photograph.

Like many of the early automobile manufacturers Alfa Romeo had gone through turbulent times since it’s inception. Ugo Gobbato the head of Alfa Romeo in 1945 had been shot and killed by an unknown gunman as he cycled to work. Thus after WW2 Alfa thus found itself without a leader and with most of its factories destroyed by the war.

A new chairman, Pasquale Gallo, was appointed to demilitarize Alfa Romeo, and responsibility for design was handed to the engineer Orazio Satta Puliga. He made significant contributions towards re-launching Alfa Romeo into a new era.

After introducing several upscale models based on pre war models, in 1950 he introduced the Alfa Romeo 1900, a family car that would be capable of winning races. Modern and practical, Puliga considered the 1900 to be the ultimate choice for the middle class. It offered great performance and a heritage of brilliant sporting achievements at a competitive price.

Alfa Romeo 1900 Sedan (Berlina)

The Alfa Romeo 1900 was produced from 1950 to 1959. It was an important development for Alfa, being it’s first car built entirely on a production line and it’s first production car without a separate chassis. The Engine was a 1.9 L DOHC Inline 4, developing 90 bhp, which was later enlarged to 2.0L It was produced in several variants, a 4-door saloon (Berlina), a 2-door coupé (Sprint) and a 2-door convertible. It was the first Alfa Romeo offered with left-hand drive. After introduction it was later offered as a 1900C(Short) and then as a 1900TI with a more powerful motor producing 100bhp. Later came Super and Super Ti versions. A total of 21,304 were built during the production run, including 17,390 of the saloons. The chassis was designed specifically to allow it to be re-bodied and several coachbuilders developed some beautiful variants, including a 4-wheel drive version (Matta) based on the 1900.

Finmeccanica, the entrant of the cars we are interested in was established in 1948 as part of the efforts by Italy’s government-controlled industrial holding company IRI (Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale) to restructure Italy’s devastated industrial and engineering sector after the war. IRI had itself taken over effective control of Alfa around 1928 when Nicola Romeo left the company. After it’s establishment Finmeccanica effectively became Alfa Romeo’s parent company until it sold Alfa to the Fiat Group in 1986.

The 1954 race was run from south to north over 8 stages and 3,070 kilometres (1,910 mi). 150 cars started the race, and 85 finished all 8 stages. The European stock car class was won by Consalvo Sanesi and Giuseppe Cagna in Alfa Romeo #251 finishing 15th overall.

      

1900 Motor                                                  Modified interior for the Carrera

             

Finned Aluminium Brake Drum                                     Finishing Line

Other Alfa finishers were car # 256 driven by Mantovani / Chiappa finishing 18th overall, car # 267 driven by Della Favera / Campigotto finishing 19th overall, car # 255 driven by Carini / Sambrotta finishing 20th overall, car # 252 driven by Velazquez / Ruiz finishing 30th overall. Car # 268 driven by Bonini / Zanavoni was a DNF due to an accident. All considered, an excellent showing for Alfa.

         

Consalvo Sanesi and Giuseppe Cagna                         Carini/Sambrota in car #255

        

The Velazquez / Ruiz car

There are several good smaller scale models of most of the Alfas that participated in the 1954 race, but I haven’t found a 1/32 scale kit that could be used as the basis for an S32 car …yet.

       

 

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