Image credits: © Alfa Romeo.

Chassis Num: 5001
This is the first P3 made by Alfa Romeo. Only 6 were made in 1932; 7 were made in 1934.

Race History: Chassis # B5001 (SF 34)
1932-33 Numerous Grand Prix races
1934 Grand Prix Monaco (Guy Moll) 1st Place
Criterium de Roma (P. Taruffi) 1st Place
1934 IXth Mille Miglia (Pintacuda) 1st Place
Targa Florio (Pintacuda) DNF
Tripoli Grand Prix (Pintacuda) DNF
Sorrento-Saint'Agata (Pintacuda) 3rd Place
Corsa del Kesselberg (Pintacuda) 4th Place
Circuito di Torino (Pintacuda) 3rd Place
Corsa del Grossglockner (Pintacuda) 2nd Place
(1st in its class)
Corsa dello Stelvio (Pintacuda) 4th Place
(1st in its class)
Circuito di Lucca (Pintacuda) 3rd Place
1936 xth Mille Miglia (Biondetti) 4th Place

A stop for a new set of tires on the Roma-Perugia stretch cost Blondetti the lead.

In late 1933 the P3s were transferred to Scuderia Ferrari. This is the only P3 with a shortened wheelbase and the only one with a 'biposto' (two-seater) sports car body. This is also the P3 that won the 1935 Mille Miglia setting a new speed record of 14.04'47' and making its driver, Carlo Pintacuda, an overnight celebrity! The P3 biposto's 1935 victory in the Mille Miglia was to prove of immense historic importance as it marked a change in the course of sports car design. It established a trend to design such cars as developments of Grand Prix engineering, rather than to approach the problem from the other direction and improve production touring designs.

More about P3s:
The P3 was designed by Alfa Romeo's star engineer at the time, Vittorio Jano. The engine design was derived from the extremely successful Monza with careful alterations made to raise the power slightly. The stroke was lengthened from 88 mm to 100mm, increasing the capacity from the standard 2336 cc to 2654cc. The valve size was increased from 29 mm to 34 mm and the supercharging was revised too. The single blower of the P2 and Monza was replaced by 2 smaller blowers sharing a common drive, each one supplying a block of four cylinders through its own downdraft carburetor. This more efficient design raised the power of the engine to a peak of 215 brake horsepower with more to come.

The first P3 was designed as a 'monoposto.' With the new narrow body, the driver had to sit on top of the transmission, which made the car much higher and bulkier. Jano solved this problem by shifting the differential from the rear axle to the middle of the car thus reducing the unsprung weight of the rear axle and differential and improving the handling of the car. By replacing the single centre-line propeller shaft with an open Vee, it allowed the driver's seat to be placed slightly lower in the body, in the dip between the two angled shafts. The improvement was amazing: with outward chassis dimensions similar to the Monza, the P3 was almost 500 lbs lighter thanks also to the use of light-alloy cylinder blocks and exotic aircraft-type duralumin alloys in the chassis frame work itself.

The first P3 was designed as a 'monoposto.'
Chassis Num: 5002
Scuderia Ferrari (Team Ferrari) was the private racing team of Alfa Romeo off and on again throughout the 1930s and, in fact Enzo Ferrari was an employee of Alfa Romeo before he started to build his own cars, so #5002 was raced extensively by the Ferrari Team, hence the crest on the hood of the Alfa. One of only twelve P3s known to exist, it has a tremendous 265 hp twin overhead cam straight-eight engine with three speed manual gearbox.

This car won numerous Grand Prix races throughout Europe in the 1930s. Also set several Australian national speed records, and then its engine was lost forever. The motor was put on a boat bound for Alfa Romeo in Italy so the company could overhaul it, but the boat was torpedoed en route. After the war, another owner stuffed a 4.3 liter Alvis military engine under the hood. Sadly, during one race in 1955 (under another owner) the driver lost control in a turn and killed two spectators.
Chassis Num: 50002
The Alfa Romeo Tipo B or P3 Monoposto was the first genuine single-seat racing car in Grand Prix racing and it dominated the competition in the 1932 season, winning almost at will. Its first appearance came at the Italian GP at Monza on June 5. Chassis 50002 joined the Scuderia Ferrari-ran Alfa team in 1934 before being sold to Count De Villapadierni in Spain and later to Frank Griswold in San Francisco. After running in the 1939 and 1940 Indianapolis 500 and coming in first at the New York World's Fair in 1940, the car was sold to Tommy Lee in Los Angeles. Entered as the 'Don Lee Special' at the 1946 and 1947 Indy 500 it was driven by Hal Cole. Don Lee, Tommy's father, was the most successful Cadillac dealer on the West Coast. In the 1950s this car spent time in Australia, and then it returned to the United States in the care of collector David Uihlein of Wisconsin. The car has never been restored and bears the scars of its many years of racing all over the world.
The Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3 was designed by Vittorio Jano and was Alfa Romeo's second monoposto (single seater) racer, the first being the Tipo A of 1931. Four Tipo A's had been constructed and none have survived; the closest Tipo A in existence is a replica which now resides in the Alfa Romeo Museum.

The Tipo A had been powered by two six-cylinder engines and matted to two gearboxes and dual propeller shafts. Though much of the design had carried over from the Tipo A, the Tipo B was equipped with a single eight-cylinder engine and drive-train in an effort to reduce the weight of the vehicle. The Tipo B made its inaugural appearance on June 5th, 1932 at the Monza Grand Prix. It was equipped with an eight-cylinder engine similar to the one Jano had created for the road-going 8C 2300. There were differences from the double overhead camshaft unit, such as the engines intake being mounted on the drivers left side. The engine capacity was larger due to an increase of stroke from 88 to 100 mm. Dual superchargers powered the front and rear testa fissa alloy blocks which resulted in nearly 200 horsepower. The single differential sat behind the three-speed gearbox. Power was sent to each rear wheels thanks to two propeller shafts designed in a triangular setup. These shafts ran beside the driver which allowed a lower sitting position and improved handling characteristics.

At Monza, the Tipo B proved its potential by emerging victorious. In the hands of Tazio Nuvolari and Rudolf Caracciola, the Tipo B dominated the season with wins at the French and German Grand Prix's, among others. Part of its success was its excellent power-to-weight ratio. The body was constructed of aluminum and mechanical drums were used to keep the racer in the driver's control.

The P3 was raced from 1932 through 1935 and provided many podium finishes for its drivers. In 1933 Alfa Romeo retired from racing and soon shifted the racing activities to Scuderia Ferrari. Ferrari's main driver was Tazio Nuvolari. Many of Tipo B cars were sold to privateers. Rule changes in 1934 meant the car was modified to accommodate the new regulations. One of the rules stated that the chassis was to be 33.5 inches wide, which meant the P3 was to be enlarged.
As the years progressed, the car began to show its age. Competition was coming from teams such as Mercedes and Auto Union. Jano and Ferrari worked on improving the car throughout the years. In 1935, Nuvolari's car was given a larger engine, now having a bore of 71mm and a stroke of 100mm. This resulted in a displacement size of 3165cc and horsepower in the 265 neighborhood. Cantilever rear springs were adapted to improve upon the vehicles performance and handling. Later in the year, some of the Tipo B's were outfitted with hydraulic brakes and Dubonnet independent front suspension.

Nuvolari's most famous and remembered race came in 1935 at the German Grand Prix. His car was now outclassed by the more powerful Mercedes and Auto Union cars. At the end of the race, it was Nuvolari in his Scuderia Ferrari Tipo B outpacing the rest of the competition and finishing in a very impressive and memorable first place.

Near the close of the 1935 season, the engine was again enlarged, now displacing 3822cc and producing 330 horsepower. The chassis was new incorporating a rear transaxle and an independent rear suspension. It was now known as the Tipo C.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2008

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