here we tell you the story of this 1948 Alfa Romeo 12C/316, the car with which Achille Varzi took his final victory in 1948. Have you ever heard a twelve-cylinder Alfa?
This is the Salzburgring, Austria. We are here because the organisers of the Gaisbergrennen rally let us slip out on the track between sessions with this magnificent 1948 Alfa Romeo 12C/316. The twelve-cylinder dates back to 1936 and was part of Vittorio Jano’s infamous riposte to the German Silver Arrows that dominated Grand Prix racing.
The 1936 12C 36 was promising but flawed. Jano’s answer for 1937, the 12C 37, however, was a complete dud. Tazio Nuvolari flat-out refused to race it, and left Alfa for Auto Union in 1938. By the end of 1937, Vittorio Jano left/was forced to leave Alfa Romeo.
After the war, the twelve-cylinder saw an unexpected comeback. Now no longer eligible for Grand Prix racing, it was however still a possibility for the Argentinian Temporada series and other South American races still run under formula libre-regulations. Argentina was a very promising market for the Italians, and big purses attracted star drivers to the Temporada series. One of them was Achille Varzi.
The car you are looking at, the 12C/316, received an Alfetta-style body, but it has a much longer wheelbase in order to accommodate the 4.5-litre V12… with supercharger. It was originally set up for Jean-Pierre Wimille, but he thought otherwise. Achille Varzi was still trying to rebuild his career after his drug-fuelled disastrous years with Auto Union before the war. He decided to give the mighty V12 monster a chance and bought it to race in South America.
Drama at Bremgarten
Varzi had success with it in Brazil in April 1948, before returning to the European Grand Prix scene. At the Swiss Grand Prix in Bremgarten, barely a month later, Varzi made an uncharacteristic mistake during practice. The crash claimed his life.
The full story on this mighty Alfa is available for you to read in issue 6 of Tazio Magazine, available here.
Report by Johan Dillen
Photos by Dirk de Jager