Mussolini's Alfa Romeo 6C

TGR Staff

Thornley Kelham, renowned automotive restoration shop, is tackling their most challenging project yet; a Concours-correct restoration of a rare 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS, what makes this car even more unique is its first owner, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Originally bodied by Stabilimenti Farina, at some point the body was modified for racing.

The car was sold in 1937 to a Renato Tigillo who was the last recorded owner of the car. The Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS was one of the most successful racing cars of the late 20s and early 30s. At least  13 competed in the 1929 Mille Miglia, of which 8 finished, seven among the top ten including overall winner and third place. Cars were sold as rolling chassis and shipped to coachbuilders around Italy including Carrozzerie touring and Zagato, and Stabilimenti Farina.

The team at Thornley Kelham spent many months researching this car tracking down archival photos including this black and white photo taken on 29 April 1931, showing Mussolini driving the car, as well as footage of Mussolini driving the car whilst leading ‘II Radio Auto-Raduno’ on a section of the rally from Roma to Ostia. It is these early images and film footage that help fie the clearest indication of the Alfa Romeo’s original appearance.

We’ve undertaken many challenging restorations here at Thornley Kelham but this Alfa Romeo presents us with perhaps our greatest test to date. Over the course of its extraordinary life it has been graced with a beautiful hand-crafted body from Stabilimenti Farina, owned and piloted by one of the world’s most (in)famous dictators, and stripped out for motorsport and raced on the streets of North Africa. Our challenge now is to restore it to the condition it first left Stabilimenti Farina’s carrozzeria, based on further painstaking research and thousands of hours of expert craftsmanship. Automotive history like this has to be preserved, and we are delighted to be involved in the latest page in its amazing story.
Simon Thornley, co-founder of Thornley Kelham

Images sourced of the car in Asmara reveal much of the bodywork had been removed to create a stripped-out racing car, bearing only a passing resemblance to the beautiful Farina creation it was born with. At the time, Eritrea was an Italian colony and many young Italians would take their cars to Asmara to live and race on hill climbs and street circuit races like the Coppa di Natale or the Coppa Governatore.

When this car was eventually inspected in the USA by Thornley Kelham, the bodywork had been fitted with an unoriginal grille and retained very little in the way of original panels. The chassis, rear axle, and gearbox are, however, original to the car. With in-house paint, engine and body shops, Thornley Kelham is widely regarded for the quality of its award-winning restorations of historically significant, often unique vehicles across a variety of marques. The team have now been tasked by the car’s new owner with recreating the car’s original 1930 appearance which will involve several thousand hours of fabrication, engineering, and assembly by its highly skilled workshop technicians.