Written by Eric Becker
Every decade there’s a new top team in Formula One. Currently, it’s Mercedes, but before that – in the 2000s – it was the tour de force of Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. In the ’80s and ’90s McLaren and Williams ruled the Formula One podium. But before all of that, before the Senna and Prost rivalry, before Colin Chapman and Jack Brabham ran their respective teams – there was Alfa Romeo.
It was Alfa that pioneered and drove innovation in the world’s most premiere motorsport series.
Alfa Romeo that won the first ever Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1950, and Alfa Romeo so dominated F1’s inaugural season that it won every single race entered. It’s a record that has stood for 71 years. The winning car was the 1938 Alfa Romeo 158, or Alfetta, meaning “little Alfa.” One of the most important racing cars of all time, it took 47 wins from 54 Grands Prix entered and gave rise to some of the biggest names in racing history, including Juan Manuel Fangio and Enzo Ferrari.
On offer with No Reserve at the 2021 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction is the ultimate homage to one of racing’s all-time greats. Hand-built by automotive TV personality Ant Anstead, this 1938 Alfa Romeo Alfetta 158 Re-creation (Lot #1044) is the stunning fulfilment of Anstead’s dream project and the Season One star of the 12-part series “Ant Anstead Master Mechanic.”
“I could’ve built any car, but I’m a British guy living in America, so I feel that as a British car guy I’ve got a duty to share my passion with Americans,” Anstead said. “What better car than an unknown Formula One car that happens to arguably be the most successful Formula One car of all time? Even hardened Formula One fans are unaware of the history and heritage of this car.”
The entire car is bespoke, a labor of passion for one of Grand Prix racing’s most iconic cars. Anstead’s vision to re-create the iconic boattail, open-wheeled champion is reminiscent of the creativity and tenacity that all hot-rodders share. The Alfa’s two-piece composite bodyshell and tailor-made spaceframe sit atop a period MGTD ladder-frame chassis. The car uses Alfa Romeo’s all-aluminum twin-cam inline-4; however, the 2.0-liter engine has been fully built to track specifications. The engine is fed by Weber side-draft carburetors and features ported, polished and gas-flowed cylinder heads to maximize air intake for the combustion chamber.
In true race car fashion, the engine is fitted with a dry sump oiling system, lightened flywheel and electronic ignition to improve drivability. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an Alfa Romeo 5-speed manual gearbox, and the limited-slip-differential-equipped rear axle has been cleverly engineered and offset so the driver’s legs don’t have to straddle the driveshaft (as they do in the original).
The Alfetta rides on adjustable coilover dampers and features a superior stopping power to the original car thanks to a set of disc brakes. The car’s rakish and race ready stance is wonderfully complemented by wire wheels wrapped in period-correct Blockley rubber.
The cockpit is perfectly suited to the driver’s needs; a custom-milled aluminum dash hosts all the necessary switchgear, as well as a period-correct Alfa Romeo instrument cluster. Rounding out the cockpit is a 4-spoke steering wheel and leather-wrapped seat. Everything is tailored for a spirited drive, and a quick climb behind the wheel will have anyone feeling like Fangio.
The car’s singular “go-fast” purpose guides the Alfa’s styling. The stunning bodywork is finished in Alfa’s signature red paint and sports a racing livery complete with Alfa’s trademark four-leaf clover (Quadrifoglio) – the latter bestowed by Alfa Romeo itself when the car was featured in the company’s display at the 2019 running of the United States Grand Prix. Solidifying the car’s distinctive look is an aluminum grille that was laser-cut to exacting specifications, then hand-assembled and TIG-welded to give the 158 its Grand Prix character.
Anstead went to painstaking detail to create an exact replica of the legendary Alfa Romeo 158. It is truly a labor of devotion that will resonate with one lucky bidder at the 2021 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction. As they say, every gearhead should own an Alfa Romeo at least once.