British restoration shop Thornley Kelham has announced the start of a project to restore the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Super Sport (third series) originally owned by Benito Mussolini.
The business, founded in 2009, “is undertaking its most challenging project yet; a complete nut-and-bolt concours-standard restoration of a rare Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS, with an even more extraordinary history.
“This particular Alfa Romeo comes complete with records showing the car was delivered to its first owner, ‘II Duce’ Benito Mussolini, on the 13th January 1930, for Lire 60,000,” Thornley Kelham said in its announcement.
The 6C 1750 SS “was one of the most popular and successful sports-racing cars of its day, as demonstrated by the fact that no fewer than 13 competed in the 1929 Mille Miglia, of which 8 finished, seven among the first ten including overall winner and third place,” the British firm noted.
“Cars were built up as rolling chassis, which were then bodied by coachbuilders including Carrozzerie Touring and Zagato, and Stabilimenti Farina.
The Mussolini Alfa is chassis 6C0312898 and although it went through a series of subsequent owners, there are photographs and movies showing Mussolini driving the car, including driving it as it led the Il Radio Auto-Raduno section of the Rome-to-Ostia Ralley.
Enlargement of one of those early photographs shows that the car’s coachwork was done by Stabilimenti Farina, though the coachwork was later changed to the “racing-focused” body it currently wears. The restoration will take the car back to its original specification.
In 1937, the car was sold and shipped to Asmara in Eritrea, “an Italian territory famous for motorsport during the era.”
“It is clear that the body changes took place while the 6C 1750 SS was in Eritrea, where it was adapted for racing,” Thornley Kelham said.
“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.”
At some point, the car found its way to the United States, where it was inspected by Thornley Kelham and found to have “an unoriginal grille and (to have) retained very little in the way of original panels. The chassis, rear axle and gearbox are, however, original to the car.”
“We’ve undertaken many challenging restorations here at Thornley Kelham but this Alfa Romeo presents us with perhaps our greatest test to date,” said Simon Thornley. “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.”
Thornley Kelham is based in the Cotswold, has restored vehicles that won honors at Pebble Beach, Hampton Court, Chantilly and Salon Prive and have participated in such rallies as the Mille Miglia and Peking to Paris.
It also produced the limited-edition “outlaw” Lancia Aurelia B20GT project.
“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,” Kelham said. “Automotive history like this has to be preserved, and we are delighted to be involved in the latest page in its amazing story.”