During the 1930s, Alfa Romeo faced near extinction and simultaneously produced some of the greatest cars ever built. Rescued when the Italian government took control of the company in 1933, Alfa Romeo's engineers were then free to pursue their ideas without undue concern for the vicissitudes of the marketplace. The results of their labors, in the midst of the Great Depression, were nothing short of miraculous.
With day-to-day operation of the racing team now entrusted to Enzo Ferrari, the sporting automobiles Alfa Romeo envisioned were destined to become legend. Already famous for the 6C 1750, star designer Vittorio Jano went on to develop the 6C 2300 and 8C 2900 road and competition models. The 6C 2300 is an especially interesting automobile, as it is so often overshadowed by the earlier 6C 1750 and the later 8C 2900. Conceived as a measure to help increase sales after the commercial disappointment of the flagship 8C 2300, it was launched in 1934 with a 68 hp dual overhead cam six-cylinder engine. Tuned versions soon followed, starting with the 76 hp GT and then a short-wheelbase 95 hp model. In the hands of Scuderia Ferrari in only its second event, this new car made a sweep of the Targa Abruzzo endurance races at Pescara in 1934. A small series of these were then produced as the 6C 2300 Pescara.
The next development in 1935 saw the adoption of hydraulic brakes and fully independent suspension, along with a lighter, more modern chassis. To reflect this major change in specification, the new model was named the 6C 2300B and represented a major advance for Alfa Romeo. A second series 6C 2300B featured a new gearbox with synchromesh on the third and top gears and improved frame mountings. The ultimate version of the B model was the Mille Miglia, built on a shorter chassis powered by a tuned 105 hp engine. Most memorable of these are the sleek coupes clothed by Carrozzeria Touring, one of which won the Turismo class of the 1937 Mille Miglia taking 4th overall in this grueling race. Only 107 of these high performance chassis were produced.
The 1938 2300B Berlinetta is often compared with its bigger sister, namely the 8C 2.9 Berlinetta. For example, the front grilles of both cars are virtually identical; not surprising considering both were hand-beaten on the same jig. Consider, then, their respective price tags at the time: a princely 79,500 lire for the 2.3, which was not much less than the 109,000 lire asked for a 2.9. One can see why neither model, with such an exalted ownership requirement, achieved any real commercial success in the uncertain economic climate that preceded WWII.
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