Photos by Larry Nutson
From the late 1920s through the 1930s, Alfa Romeo was the world’s preeminent sports car. Alfas won Le Mans four consecutive years from 1931-34 and the Mille Miglia an astounding 10 times in 11 years from 1928-38.
At the Simeone Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, we took a look at four cars that ran in the Mille Miglia and heard why they were successful. On a bright spring day we saw only red cars — a 1933 Alfa Romeo Monza 8C 2300,
a 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900A, a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B (the actual winner of the 1939 Mille Miglia) and a 1956 Maserati 300S
Mille Miglia means “Thousand Miles.” The race first was contested in 1927 and immediately was one of the most popular in Europe.
“The most exciting road race event historically ever,” said Dr. Fred Simeone as he shared insight into why Alfa was so dominant.
A large number of cars were entered in the road race, sometimes several hundred, and it could take up to half a day for all to depart equally spaced from Brescia. The cars departed from Brescia on the “partenza,” and raced down the east coast of Italy to Rome, making a circle back to where they started, a distance of about a thousand miles.
The prestige of the event and large number of entrants spurred companies such as Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and others to make special models specifically to compete in the Mille Miglia. The race was a test of driver’s skills as well as the endurance and power of the cars.