A 1937 Alfa Romeo prototype designed to rival German-built supercars has arrived in Australia and is to go on show in Melbourne later this month.
Little has been known until recently about the Aerodinamica Spider, or Aerospider, which Italian dictator Benito Mussolini hoped would restore Italy’s fading fortunes on the racetrack in the late 1930s.
“This car was the Loch Ness monster of the motor world,” Classic Motor Show spokesperson Paul Mathers said today of the prototype. “It was long considered a myth until it was found 10 years ago by its current owner, George Gebhart.”
The Aerospider was designed by Alfa Romeo chief engineer Vittorio Jano and built in secret in Hungary two years before the outbreak of World War II.
“The Alfa Aerospider has a remarkable history,” Mathers said. “It even has the bullet holes to prove it.”
The mid-engined Aerospider was built by brothers Gino and Oscar Jankovits, who used their six-cylinder 2.3-litre creation to flee Hungary after the post-war communist take-over.
The streamlined car was way ahead of its time, the first to have a steering wheel in the centre of the front bench-seat, and the first featuring the aerodynamic cigar shape.
In the mid-1930s, Alfa Romeo started to lose its dominance on the European racing circuit to the latest models by German carmakers Auto Union and Daimler-Benz.
Mathers said vehicles worth $96?million (about R670?million) would be on display at the show.