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Nuvolari and the Bimotore were on the autostrada bright and early. In spite of marked side winds, the Mantuan went straight to it after lubrication problems had been solved. His best runs were timed at an average of 199.73 for the flying kilometer and a satisfying 200.78 mph for the mile. Nuvolari’s highest one-way timed speed was 208.81 mph. There was more to come, he and Bazzi knew—the highest speed reached was some 225 mph—but several runs on the Sunday were hampered by stronger winds.

So pleased was the Italian champion that he tipped Bazzi 10,000 lire for his efforts. Though Nuvolari avoided being critical of the autostrada, he said it wasn’t ideal for record-breaking, especially at the speeds he hoped to reach when he had more time in his busy racing schedule. Curiously, no effort was made to set new standing-start records.

Nuvolari’s new records were well recognized in Rome a month later when, togged out in white suit, shoes, stockings, gloves, and a straw boater, the driver was awarded a gold medal for athletic achievement by Il Duce, Benito Mussolini. Though the records in Class B for cars of 5 to 8 liters weren’t hard to break—they were set by a Panhard in 1930 at 138 mph—Nuvolari was at the time the fastest motorist alive, save English speed specialist Malcolm Campbell.

NUVOLARI NEVER HAD TIME to return to the pursuit of records. The record-breaking Bimotore was set aside in the Viale Trento e Trieste workshops, and presumably later dismantled for its components, while its “little” sister was the subject of further experiments into 1936. It was fitted with better independent front suspension using trailing arms and coil springs, like that adopted for the improved Alfa Romeo Grand Prix cars. At the end of thatBeechwood Farms Nature Reserve year, the “small” Bimotore was sold to British racer Austin Dobson to take up a new career on the steep bankings of England’s ultra-fast Brooklands track.

“Many rumors were current,” wrote Brooklands historian Bill Boddy, “such as that the car was only on loan to Dobson, that certain parts were still sealed, that Italian mechanics would be coming over to service the car, and even that Dobson was distraught because the Brooklands silencers didn’t emit enough noise.” Called “beautiful,” “fantastic,” and “meteoric,” the Bimotore broke the Class B record for the Brooklands mountain circuit during the Easter 1937 meeting in spite of fading brakes.

On May Day, Dobson entered his Bimotore in the 220-mile race over the new Campbell road circuit. Though braking was again a bugbear, he held second place until transmission trouble ended his day. Later that year, the car finished fifth in the 1937 BRDC “500,” lapping the banked Brooklands bowl at a commendable 132.8 mph.

In 1938, ownership of the Bimotore passed to Peter Aitken, who entered it for several Brooklands events but never actually brought it to the track. The unique machine was such an attraction the Brooklands authorities posted a notice of any non-appearance outside the gates so ticket buyers wouldn’t demand their money back.

Aitken eventually took the drastic, and in retrospect regrettable, step of removing the Bimotore’s rear engine and fitting a conventional rear axle and preselector gearbox. The resulting “Alfa-Aitken” competed in the final Brooklands meeting before World War II, placing second in a handicap race. After the war, the Bimotore still showed form, especially when it was rebuilt by tuning expert Freddie Dixon to an unsupercharged 3.4-liter size to compete in the new Formula 1, while owned and driven by Tony Rolt.

In this guise the car was sold to New Zealand, whence it was later rescued by Tom Wheatcroft for his racing-car collection at Donington. From the parlous state in which he found it, Wheatcroft arranged for its restoration as a Bimotore by Rick Hall. A demanding five-year effort led to the revival of a running Bimotore.

“It’s a fantastic piece of equipment,” said Wheatcroft. “People can hardly believe it when you take off the covers to reveal these two whacking great straight-eight engines. The noise they make when running at full revs is phenomenal—a deep-throated roar. I have driven it with pride on demonstrations throughout Europe and it has always given me a great thrill.”

Also from Issue 154

  • California T Handling Speciale
  • 250 GT Tour de France
  • 2016 Monterey Car Week concours
  • 70th-anniversary unique liveries
  • F1: Red Bullied
  • FORZA Tifosi Challenge: F430 championship
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