Alfa Romeos were wonderful clothes horses for the Italian coach builders back in the day. The likes of Zagato, Touring and Superleggera made such a great job of providing all different kinds of bodywork for the Milanese purveyors of speed and mechanical innovation.
Britain of course had its own esteemed coach builders like James Young, HJ Mulliner, Hooper, Vanden Plas and Park Ward. But they catered principally for the likes of Bentley and Rolls Royce customers who required something more substantial and luxurious to the lithe, lightweight, pretty styles beloved of the Italians which allowed the high performance nature of their cars to shine through.
There were occasions when Italian firms bodied some of the British chassis, but the union rarely resulted in anything which caught many people’s imagination. On the other hand the British could claim to have had marginally more success clothing Italian cars, with James Young in particular drawing praise for its work on the ex-Fred Stiles 6C-1750 Testa Fissa (pictured above.) Proof that the British could suitably body a pared-down Italian racer.
The car we’re discussing here was also bodied by James Young and sits somewhere in between the two worlds of British luxury and Italian raceyness. What we have is a 1930 5th series Alfa Romeo 6C-1750 Gran Turismo which has been in the same family now for 56 years (the last 20 of those having accounted for its restoration.) ‘My father bought the car in 1958 and as far as I recall he paid £100 cash for it (around £4,000 in today’s money) and there might have been a trade-in of some old banger’ recounts Mike Toynbee who owns the car along with this brother Mark. Toynbee is only the second name in the log book …
The first name belonged to a lady who had acquired it in 1940, although what it did for the first 10 years of its life remains a mystery. We do, however, know that it left Alfa’s Portello factory in 1930, went straight to James Young (via the Alfa Romeo concessionaire, the aforementioned Fred Stiles of Baker Street, London) and was registered a year later. By the time Mike and Mark’s father acquired the car it was ‘…a bit tired. I think it had been painted with emulsion’ recalls Mike. Undeterred by some iffy paint, Mr Toynbee enjoyed the car for around 18 months before the work it warranted considerable attention. Parts were gathered and work was indeed started, but then it was parked in a garage and stayed there for 30 years. After Mr Toynbee’s passing in 1993 the brothers decided to get it back on the road.
When the body was removed from the chassis the remains of the wooden frame disintegrated, however Mike insists ‘it’s pretty original. The wings and door panels have all been repaired rather than replaced, so I’d say it’s probably about 90 percent original.’Rees brothers of Aldershot completed most of the work and would appear to have done a fine job. The engine work was carried out by Jim Stokes Workshops in Waterlooville. Work could only be done when funds all0wed, hence the two decades it’s taken to complete. Apparently now the car drives beautifully and its 55bhp un-supercharged straight-six sounds wonderful.
Historics at Brooklands will be selling the car in its November 29th sale and it’s the car we’d most like to take away with us. Sadly the guide price of between £320,000 -370,000 means that it shall remain beyond our reach, for the time being at least, which is a shame because we think it’s rather pretty. Mind you, how much is that Euromillions rollover up to now?