Classic and vintage car restoration expert Thornley Kelham is going for its most challenging project yet; a complete nut-and-bolt restoration of a super rare Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS. This particular Alfa Romeo 6C comes complete with documents proving the car was delivered to its first owner, ‘II Duce’ Benito Mussolini, on the 13th January 1930, for 60,000 Lire.
Success in Mille Miglia rally
The Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS was one of the most popular and successful racing cars of its day. In 1929 at the now-famous Mille Miglia, no fewer than 13 cars competed, of which eight cars finished. Seven were to find in the top-ten, including overall winner and third place.
Through extensive research by Thornley Kelham, they found black and white images from 29th April 1931, showing the exact car in Archivio Luce in Italy. Mussolini himself sitting behind the steering wheel on the photos, as well as footage of Mussolini driving the car whilst leading ‘II Radio Auto-Raduno’ on a section of the Mille Miglia rally from Roma to Ostia. It will be these early images and video footage that’s going to help Thornley Kelham to get an idea of the Alfa Romeo’s original appearance.
By enlarging one of the period photos, Thornley Kelham was able to conclude that Stabilimenti Farina originally built the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS, thanks to a badge on the body near the rear wheel. And at some point later in its life, the chassis was modified into the stripped racing body it sits on today.
On 21st March, 1937, the car was sold to a Renato Tigillo and then allegedly shipped to Asmara that same year. Since no change of ownership is to be found, it seems Tigillo took the car with him as he moved to Eritrea.
Images sourced of the car in Asmara reveal much of the bodywork had been removed to create a stripped-out racing car, bearing only a passing resemblance to the beautiful Farina creation it was born with. At the time, Eritrea was an Italian colony and many young Italians would take their cars to Asmara to live and race on hill climbs and street circuit races like the Coppa di Natale or the Coppa Governatore.
Simon Thornley, co-founder of Thornley Kelham, said: “We’ve undertaken many challenging restorations here at Thornley Kelham but this Alfa Romeo presents us with perhaps our greatest test to date. Over the course of its extraordinary life it has been graced with a beautiful hand-crafted body from Stabilimenti Farina, owned and piloted by one of the world’s most (in)famous dictators, and stripped out for motorsport and raced on the streets of North Africa. Our challenge now is to restore it to the condition it first left Stabilimenti Farina’s carrozzeria, based on further painstaking research and thousands of hours of expert craftsmanship. Automotive history like this has to be preserved, and we are delighted to be involved in the latest page in its amazing story.”
Original Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS chassis, rear axle and gearbox
When this car was eventually inspected by Thornley Kelham, the bodywork had been fitted with an unoriginal grille and other few parts. The chassis, rear axle and gearbox are, however, original to the car. With in-house paint, engine and body shops, Thornley Kelham is widely regarded for the quality of its award-winning restorations of historically significant, often unique vehicles across a variety of marques. The team have now been tasked by the car’s new owner with recreating the car’s original 1930 appearance which will involve thousands of hours of fabrication, engineering and assembly by its highly skilled workshop technicians.