1955 Alfa Romeo 1900cSS
1955 Alfa Romeo 1900cSS
Make Alfa Romeo
Coachwork Carrozzeria Touring
Type Tipo 3 “Five-Window” Berlinetta
Chassis No AR1900C*01879*
Engine No AR1308*00987*
Touring Body No 4297
Production Date August 25th, 1954
Completion Date March 17th, 1955
Exterior Color “Blu Scuro” (Dark Blue)
Interior Color Not Recorded
Destination USA / North American Market
Alfa Romeo 1900 Background:
Alfa Romeo's 1900 series of automobiles were designed by Ing. Orazio Satta. They were a completely different design and departure from anything Alfa had built previously. The model made it's debut in the Paris Motor Show in the Fall of 1950 where it was an immediate popular and later for Alfa Romeo, commercial success.
The 1900 was the first series of Alfa Romeos built on a standardized production line and they were also Alfa's first production car without a separate chassis as well as the first Alfas offered with left-hand drive steering configuration.
Both a sporting 2-door Coupe and 4-door Sedan were initially offered featuring an all new 1,884cc, 90 bhp, 4-cylinder, twin cam engine. The design was spacious and simple, yet quick and sporty. The slogan Alfa used when selling the new 1900 was "The family car that wins races", not-so-subtly alluding to the car's success in the Targa Florio, Stella Alpina, Mille Miglia and other races and rallies.
Alfa's 1900 was destined for competition success from the moment they made their debut. They all had independent front suspension (double wishbones, coil springs (front & rear) and hydraulic telescopic shock absorbers) and one of the very best live rear axle designs seen up to that point.
In 1951 the short wheelbase 1900C ("C" for corto (Italian for short) version was introduced. It had a wheelbase of 2,500mm rather than the standard 2,630mm standard coupe and sedan. That same year the 1900TI with a more powerful 100bhp engine was introduced. The 1900TI had bigger valves, higher compression ratio and it was equipped with twin-carburetors. Two years later the 1900 Super and 1900TI Super (also 1900SS or Super Sprint) with enlarged 1,975cc engine were introduced. The TI Super with twin carburetors produced 115bhp and featured a 4-speed gearbox with revised ratios but still using the standard final drive ratio.
Alfa Romeo 1900CSS
The ultimate specification of the 1900 line-up was without question the ultra-rare "CSS" variant that featured both the shorter chassis as well as the most developed and best performing engine, gearbox and revised final drive ratios. Brakes were "alfin" double-leading shoe, self-adjusting at all four corners with enhanced cooling and fade resistant features designed in.
Alfa's 1900CSS model also incorporated a fantastically well designed and thoroughly sorted 5-speed gearbox with full synchronization on 2nd, 3rd , 4th and 5th gear. The ratios were carefully selected to match the torque and rpm curve of the high specification, twin-cam "Tipo 1308" series engine. As a result of the performance increase and use of a five rather than four speed gearbox, the standard 4.1:1 final drive ratio was unnecessary. A taller 3.75:1 unit was instead fitted which allowed for far better top-speed as well as far less rpm at speed in any gear.
Alfa had always envisioned making the 1900 a platform for various coachbuilders to express themselves freely. The 1900CSS lent itself to this end quite successfully and Touring, Pinin Farina, Zagato and Ghia produced some strikingly beautiful as well as competitive examples. The standard production 1900s tipped the scales at 2,600lbs while the 1900CSS was significantly less. Less weight obviously translated to better performance on the track and in the tours and rallies that favored these nimble coupes. As such, today, these beautiful "custom coachwork" examples are by any measure the most sought out by both collectors and racers alike.
AR1900C*01879* Background & History
According to Alfa Romeo's archives, this 1900cSS Touring Berlinetta was ordered, completed and sold new to the North American market making it one of just a handful of examples sold new to the States. Alfa's internal records record a production date of August 25th, 1954 at which point the rolling floor pan and drive-train were shipped to Carrozzeria Touring in Turin, Italy. While at Touring, this Alfa was assigned body/job number “4297” which when completd was a light-weight, all alloy body designated internally as "TIpo 3." Touring designated this type of patented coachwork as “Superleggera” or simply “Super Lightweight” and bonnet badges with this designation were fitted on both sides. The Tipo 3 type coachwork featured a very light “greenhouse” effect and today is more commonly referred to as the “Five-Window” design. The car was originally painted dark blue with an un-identifed interior color. Completion of this Alfa is recorded on March 17th, 1955 at which point it was shipped to the West Coast of the United States and delivered to the ordering agent, Hoffman FIAT of 9130 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, California. Hoffman FIAT was Max Hoffman's satellite West Coast Sales and Distributorship for a variety of different vehicles and a way for him to expand and supplement his main Park Avenue, New York based distributor and dealership business of European manufactured automobiles.
The oldest known owner of this Alfa was Mr. Neil McKay, during his ownership the car wore California “Black and Yellow” plates “LXC 795” which would have been issued sometime after 1963. Ownership and registration prior to 1963 remains unknown at this time. A color photo of this Alfa showing the "Black and Yellow" plates indicates the car had been painted at some point to a dark burgundy and the bumpers front and rear had been removed early on during the car's life in the States. McKay is believed to have sold the car circa 1969 to Bill Biggs.
Biggs offered the car for sale in 1977 and it known to have still owned it in 1978. It then was sold by Biggs and purchased by Robert Rajski but by 1983 it has passed onto the prominent collection of Jack Becronis. His son, Peter then acquired the car and it remained with him until 1989. During the Becronis ownership years, the car remained without bumpers and now was painted bright red. It was then seen and photographed wearing Italian plates “ROMA E57492.” It was photographed wearing these plates and sporting race number “175” at the Monterey Historic Races in August of 1985. The Italian plates appear to have been purely cosmetic and not actually assigned to the vehicle formally at anytime. In fact, sometime prior to 1983, the car was issued the very famous California “Blue and Yellow” plates “ALFACSS,” There are many famous published and on-line photos of this Alfa sporting these plates. During this same time frame, it was featured prominently in Joe Benson's original 1983 Illustrated Alfa Romeo Buyer's Guide and featured again in subsequent follow-on editions.
In 1989 mostly likely with the assistance of Enrico Ciabattoni's European Imports, in Temple City, California, this Alfa was sold to Mr. Mitsuo Hayashi, from Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan. Based on a very nice documentation album, photos and correspondences he provided, we understand Hayashi San has owned this Alfa exclusively until our recent purchase from him and subsequent import to the States.
While in Hayashi San's possession, this Alfa wore Japanese plates “77 64” and later “72 31.” After receiving this Alfa, Hayashi San had it completed stripped to bare metal and completely restored. After completion of the work, he entered and toured with this Alfa frequently over the next 28 years completing on at least three occasions in the Festa Mille Miglia as well as many other organized tours and rallies.
After arrival in the States and release by US Customs and delivery to our San Diego Showroom and Shop Complex, we completed comprehensive inspections and evaluations on this rare vehicle. Alfa's 1900cSS models were the most developed and best performing of the 1900 Series of vehicles Alfa built from 1950 to 1959. These “Short-Chassis, Super Sport” models incorporated a variety of specialized components all fitted to a lightened chassis and lightened, custom coachwork. Under the skin they used improved performance oriented features such as a specialized engine and gearbox combination, improved suspension, brakes, oversized fuel tank and stronger, reinforced wire wheels. The main focus of our initial inspections were to verify that the rare and unique “cSS” specific components remained with this Alfa. Specifically we found the following:
-Engine Original numbers matching engine with high compression pistons and head, competition exhaust headers, specialized intake manifold and Solex carburetors.
-Gearbox Correct original Tipo 1308, five-speed, floor-shift gearbox.
-Rear Axle Correct original Tipo 1308 axle assembly with taller 3.75:1 final drive ratio.
-Brakes Correct special "alfin" double-leading shoe at all four corners.
-Rims Correct Double "Outside Lace” Boranni Wire Wheels
-Carburetors Correct special SOLEX unites with proper original special intake manifolds and unique air cleaner / silencer assembly.
-Fuel Tank Correct original special over-sized fuel tank with cut out to clear rear differential assembly.
In addition to the above special “cSS” features, this Alfa also retains the original, rare "Elephant Trunk” cold air duct to help cool the exhaust headers. The double-belt water pump and generator pulley system unique to the “cSS” models remain fitted as does the special alloy cooling fan shroud.
After arrival, this Alfa was given a complete strip-down and disassembly. All major and minor services were completed including a reconditioning of the brakes and suspension as well as full rebuild of the carburetors. New tires were fitted and the cosmetics completely attended to. All safety checks and services are now complete current and up to date with only minimal set up and sorting time since all work was completed.
There are no vehicles of this era in this price range that offer so much for so little money. Ultra beautiful lines combined with true-modern world performance and a fully functional five-speed gearbox that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Combine this with the absolute best brakes available at the time and you have a compact, light-weight, excellent handling, performing and braking machine with few equals. This 1900cSS Alfa Romeo is eligible for the Mille Miglia Historic Rally in 2018 as well as many of Europe's other prestigious touring and racing events. It would likewise be a fantastic candidate for a variety of organized tours, rallies and races here in the States as well. It would be a prime candidate for an entry in the California Mille, Colorado Grand, Coperstate 1000 and many other long-distance tours and rallies.