Image credits: © Alfa Romeo.

1951 Alfa Romeo Gran Premio 159

Won the 1951 World Championship with J. Manuel Fangio.
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2005
In August of 1938 the 158 began its racing career victorious, finishing first and second at Livorno. It was driven by Villoresi and Biondetti. This would signal the beginning of a sucessful racing career that would last for 13 years. During World War II, racing was post-poned and the 158's were put into storage. 6 years later, they were brought out of retirement and brought back to the track.

The 15 represented the cubic centimeters of the engine while the 8 was for the number of cylinders. So the 158 was equipped with a supercharged 1500cc, 8 cylinder engine capable of producing 200 horsepower at 7000 rpm. The engine was a design by the famous Gioacchino Colombo.

Gioacchino Colombo started out being the primary builder of Ferrari's engines in the late 1940's and a major contributor to the success of Ferrari. Aurelio Lambredi became his assistant in 1947. Lambredi soon became convinced that a large engine that was naturally aspirated would have better fuel economy and provide more power. Colombo was of the belief that smaller engine compiled with a supercharger would produce the better results. Ferrari tested Lambredi's idea and proved it to be successful. Lambredi was promoted to chief design engineer and Colombo returned to Alfa Romeo. The Lambredi engines were used by Ferrari in the ladder part of the 1950's.

One of the successes of the 158 came from the engine being very light, weighing only 362 pounds. The engine block was cast in Elektron, a type of magnesium, and consisted of two separate casting integrated with a common head, with dual overhead camshafts. The crankshaft was chrome nickel steel.

The super charger was a single-stage, Roots-type, that provided 17.6 psi of boost.

In 1946, the 158's were modified to meet Formula Libre regulations. The 158 now produced 254 horsepower.

In 1947, the 158/47 came about due to new regulations for the Formula 1 class. As a result, the horsepower rating was increased to over 300.

In 1951, Alfa Romeo modified the 158 and renamed it the 159. The engine was now producing 420 horsepower, which was sufficient enough to beat the 4.5 liter Ferrari's to score Juan Manuel Fangio a World Championship.

For the 1952 season the regulations were changed for the World Championship series which meant the 159 was now obsolete. Since they were only created in 1951, only 4 were produced.

The 159 was powered by a eight-cylinder engine with twin roots-type superchargers. The single-seater 1500 pound racer was able to propel to a top speed of nearly 200 mph.

The combined victories of the 158 and 159 equaled 33 with 26 of them being consecutive. Meaning it is the most successful Grand Prix racer.


By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2005

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