HomeThe MarketDramatic Argentine racer with ties to Fangio going to auction

Dramatic Argentine racer with ties to Fangio going to auction


A 1950 race car built with help from Juan Manuel Fangio will be offered for sale at H&H Classics’ auction November 15 at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, England. The car, the Alesso 7-Litre Formula Libre Single-Seater, has a pre-sale estimated value of £120,000 – £140,000 ($157,500 to $183,700).

According to H&H, the car was designed by Don Juan Ovidio Alesso with help from Fangio as an all-Argentinian challenger in international motorsports.

Fangio reportedly provided a set of Rudge Whitworth wire wheels for the car as well as the independent front suspension, which came from an Alfa Romeo racing car of the era. However, Alesso opted not to use the Alfa suspension, fearing it wasn’t stout enough to support the car’s huge engine. Fangio also helped arrange for publicity for the car and for its public debut.

, Dramatic Argentine racer with ties to Fangio going to auction, ClassicCars.com Journal

The car has a bespoke 7-liter, quad-cam flat-12 engine, a multi-tubular chassis and hand-crafted aluminum bodywork.

“Determined that its chassis, engine and body should be of Argentinian manufacture, he (Alesso) set to work,” H&H said. “Influenced by contemporary aeronautical practice, the unique multi-tubular frame that Don Alesso fabricated saw several of its members double-up as oil and coolant tanks/conduits.”

Alesso reportedly was promised financial support from the Peron government, though that support did not materialize and “this brave effort to build a purely Argentinian challenger was outmoded before its full potential could be realized,” the auction house said in its news release.

H&H said the car is being offered for sale for the first time in 22 years and lacks its clutch, rear shock absorbers, timing wheels and instruments.

“Without doubt it will be a future star turn at the Goodwood Festival of Speed,” the auction company promised.

Displacing 7,054cc, the flat-twelve engine boasted a seven-bearing crankshaft, monobloc construction, four chain-driven overhead camshafts, two valves per cylinder and six downdraught Rochester carburetors. It pumped out an estimated 300 horsepower, which flowed through a Fiat 525 manual transmission.

, Dramatic Argentine racer with ties to Fangio going to auction, ClassicCars.com Journal

“Interestingly, Don Alesso’s choice of a flat-12 configuration mirrored that of Dr Ferdinand Porsche’s 1939 Auto Union and 1946 Cisitalia Grand Prix engine designs (the first Ferrari flat-12 debuted in 1964),” H&H noted.

“Having won the Rafaela 500-mile race on 24th December 1950 aboard a Talbot-Lago T26C, Fangio stayed in the area to attend a fund-raising banquet for the Alesso single-seater,” the auction house said. “Hampered by a lack of funds and teething troubles with the monstrous 7-litre powerplant, progress on the Formula Libre project was slow. After a series of successful test bench runs, the engine was finally installed on November 11th 1952 with the car making its public debut at Buenos Aires’ ‘October 17th’ Autodrome shortly thereafter.

“Present that day were Juan Manuel Fangio (who had helped arrange the unveiling) and Luigi Villoresi, both of whom apparently tried the Alesso and praised it to ‘Peronist World’ magazine.”

Alesso continued development, driving himself or hiring motorcycle-racing champion Francisco Gonzalves. However, a change in the Formula Libre rules made the car obsolete.

The car was imported to France in the 1990s and was put on display at Paul Foulkes-Halbard’s Filching Manor Motor Museum. Foulkes-Halbard reportedly visited Fangio in Argentina for verification of his role with the car and planned to restore the vehicle before suffering a fatal stroke in 2003.

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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