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Peter Giddings Racing


 

HISTORY OF 1931/2 ALFA ROMEO TIPO B “P3” (CHASSIS/ ENGINE #5006)

SCUDERIA FERRARI #39


Designed during 1930, Vittorio Jano’s masterpiece Tipo B “P3” #5006 contains major components which are date stamped as early as 1931.

#5006 is the sole surviving first series Tipo B, retaining its original (subsequently factory widened) slim sided body and half elliptic rear suspension (currently, in Peter’s hands, converted to quarter reversed elliptics), which is still being historic raced today.

#5006 is one out of only five Tipo Bs from a total of 13 survivors to have earned Dennis Jenkinson’s accolade of “genuine”.

Scuderia Ferrari Tipo Bs (#5006 prominent amongst them) swept the board from the outset with a stunning first (Tazio Nuvolari), second (Umberto Borzacchini), and third (Rudolf Caracciola) at the 1932 French GP, averaging 90 mph.

Nuvolari (with co driver Giuseppe Campari) then went on to win the Italian GP at over 100 mph, followed by a win at Avus in 1933 at over 128 mph., amazing speeds even by today’s standards, confirming that the “P3” was (and is) truly a long straightaway racing car.

Whilst today, complete and specific Tipo B race histories are unclear, first private/ independent owner Georges Raph advised John Vessey that he chose #5006 “because it was successfully raced by Achille Varzi and Georges Comotti”.

Varzi’s wins alone in 1934 included the Bordino, Tripoli, Penya Rhin, and Nice GPs, together with the Targa Florio and Coppa Ciano, whilst Comotti pulled off the win at the Comminges GP – an amazing record!

After #5006’s illustrious service with Scuderia Ferrari, it was released in 1935 to Georges Raph, whose placings included French GP 2nd, GP de la Marne 7th, Dieppe GP (retired – fractured carburetor floats), Circuit of Comminges 2nd, plus 1936 Circuit of Pau (place unknown).

Post war #5006 went straight back to work, winning events at Curragh, Leinster and Ulster driven by Anthony Powys-Lybbe.

At the time, Powys-Lybbe stated that “P3s” were “only really suitable for the long tracks of Spain and Ireland”!

The next owner was John Vessey who achieved a fine second place in the Richard Seaman race behind Maserati 8CM “3011” (which was, for many years, campaigned by Peter).

#5006 was also campaigned by John Crowther and Michael Thackray.

In 1966 on the long Rouen circuit, #5006, in the hands of William Summers, out performed, in straight line speed, the current competing Formula Two cars.

Neil Corner became #5006’s next owner.

In the 1970s ERA exponent Peter Waller managed a good third place with #5006 behind a Mercedes W125 (which was subsequently historic raced by Peter), and a well developed 2 liter ERA.

Waller remarked that #5006 was a large car to manhandle when compared with an ERA, a challenge (particularly given the shorter tracks of today) that Peter will now have to cope with.

Today #5006, after an extensive two year restoration by Auto Restorations of New Zealand will, in Peter’s hands, again try to emulate the unparalleled achievements of #5006, in what is now a 70+ year old Grand Prix car.

Technical Specifications:

Engine: cylinders 8, in line, in two blocks of four

Cooling system: centrifugal pump, capacity 2.3 gallons

Bore: 65mm (1932/3) 68mm (1934), 71mm (1935)

Stroke: 100 mm

Capacity: 2,654cc (1932/3), 2,905cc (1934), 3,165cc (1935)

Bearings: plain throughout – white metal, crankshaft running in ten main bearings

Lubrication: dry sump, tank at rear, capacity 4.4 imperial gallons (20 liters)

Valve gear: twin OHC with central drive, two valves per cylinder, in fixed head at 104 degrees

Compression ratio: 6.5:1 (1932/3), 7.0:1 (1934), 7.1:1 (1935)

Carburetors: two, handed Webers

Fuel pump: air pump driven off lefthand camshaft

Superchargers: two, Alfa Romeo Rootes-type (boost approx. 8 pounds)

Ignition: one Bosch magneto, 18mm plugs, one per cylinder

Max power: 215 bhp at 5,600 rpm (1932/3), 255 bhp at 5,400 rpm (1934), 265 bhp at 5,400 rpm (1935)

Transmission: clutch dry, multiple disc, steel and alloy plates

Gear box: as fitted to 8C 2300 sports cars, originally 4 forward speeds and reverse, later changed to 3 forward speeds and reverse

Gear ratios: top 3.52 (3.3 optional), second 5.56, first 9.8

Final drive: twin propeller shafts in torque tubes to separate bevels for each rear wheel, ratio 11/36 but other available final drive ratios in differential housed behind the gear box. Also, changeable bevel gear ratios

Chassis and body: 5” deep side members, with tubular cross members between extremities of dumb irons and front of rear axle shackle mounting, together with three fabricated cross members, one positioned over the rear axle, one supporting the front of the driver’s seat, and one supporting the radiator/ front of engine. Engine braced at rear via integral crankcase legs. Single-seater body of 26” (1932/3), subsequently widened in 1934

Suspension: front semi-elliptic springs with single friction shock absorbers: rear semi- elliptic springs outrigged from frame with double friction shock absorbers (1932/4). In 1935 reversed quarter-elliptic springs with single friction shock absorbers and single tubular hydraulic shock absorbers were fitted on all new “P3s”, and retrofitted to most of the earlier “P3s”.

Steering: central, worm and sector. Wood-rim, alloy-spoked steering wheel.

Brakes: rod operated as on 8C 2300 sports cars, 15 ¾” dia. drums (1932/4)

Wheels: wire, Rudge hubs, 6.00x19” tires all round with optional 650x18” rears; or 600x18” front, 650x18” rears; or 650x17” rears.

Fuel tank: in tail of car, capacity 30.8 imperial gallons (140 liters)

Dimensions: wheel base 8’ 8” (semi-elliptics): Track: front 4’ 7”, rear 4’ 5”

Dry weight: 13 cwt 90 pounds (700 kg) in 1932/3

Maximum speed: 140-170 mph


Major Tipo B “P3” Race Wins in Chronological Order
(2.6 liter in 1932/3, 2.9 liter in 1934 and onwards except when known and otherwise stated).

1932: Italian GP (Nuvolari); French GP (Nuvolari); German GP (Caracciola); Coppa Ciano (Nuvolari); Coppa Acerbo (Nuvolari); Coppa Principe di Piemonte (Nuvolari); Monza GP (Caracciola)

1933: Coppa Acerbo (Fagioli); Comminges GP (Fagioli); Marseilles GP (Chiron); Italian GP (Fagioli); Spanish GP (Chiron)

1934: Monaco GP (Moll); Casablanca GP (Chiron) 2.6 litre; Avus GP (Moll) 3.2 litre: Montreux GP (Trossi); Mannin Moar (Hon. B.E. Lewis) 2.6 litre; French GP (Chiron); GP de la Marne (Chiron); Vichy GP (Trossi); Circuit of Biella (Trossi)

1935: Pau GP (Nuvolari); Mille Miglia (Pintacuda); Targa Florio (Brivio); Lorraine GP (Chiron); German GP (Nuvolari); Circuit of Bergamo (Nuvolari); GP of Picardy (Sommer); GP de France (Sommer); Circuit of Biella (Nuvolari) 3.2 litre; GP de la Marne (Dreyfus); Circuit of Turin (Nuvolari); Dieppe GP (Dreyfus); Comminges GP (Sommer) 3.2 litre; Coppa Ciano (Nuvolari); Circuit of Lucca (Tadini); Donnington GP (R.O. Shuttleworth)

Placings in Peter’s Hands:

Skope Classic New Zealand, February 7, 2008: retired (cracked monoblock)
Phillip Island, Australia: March 7-9, 2008
Australian Grand Prix, March 13, 2008: 1st place
Pre-Historic, Laguna Seca, August 7, 2008: 3rd place
Historics, Laguna Seca, August 13, 2008: 1st place
Ferrari Challenge, Laguna Seca, August 13, 2008: 1st place
Lime Rock, September 1, 2008: 2 x 1st
Watkins Glen, September 5, 2008: 1 x 1st: 1 x DNF (broken half shaft)
Coronado, September 26, 2008: 2 x 1st
Infineon, October 10, 2008: 1 x 8th overall: first in pre-war
Lobethal Grand Carnival, Australia., October 3-4, 2009

 

 

 


 

The 1966 Coupe de L'age D'or at Rouen-les-Essarts Circuit.
as part of the French GP meeting - run to the F2 Formula

By Bill Summers, November 7, 2005

The VSCC mounted a strong challenge at this race, perhaps the first major foray into ‘ support events.’ I can’t remember who organised it, but almost all of the then ‘VSCC fast men and cars' turned up. We forget how different the Historic scene was in the 1960's - P3's for less than £2000!

My accepted entry was in serious doubt, as #5006 had thrown a rod at Oulton Park the previous month. My team worked flat out to prepare a spare engine which had come with the car, and turned out to be a corker when fitted with a crank and rods made for the Multi-Union by Ashby, and the spare crankcase - this was reputed to be a rear one from the bi-motore (numbered 50P: “P” for posteriore)!

The frustration of new wine into old bottles reared it's ugly head when I was forced to use the complete top end, including the pistons, which was a hairy moment, as the new rods were pretty massive compared to the slender little originals!  The lack of rear legs on the crankcase was solved by a horrid but effective flange-plate, still shown in the cutaway drawing in ‘50 years of GP cars', and the magazines! I did make an attempt to minimize the horror with two token wings welded in line with stumps of the originals, but it worked a treat. At the time originality was no more than a joke! We used the cars as they were intended, not as Posing Machines for the very rich, who pick nits if the very nuts and bolts aren’t perfect!

I was lucky to have all our steelworks (Shelton Iron and Steel) engineering facilities, and ‘Jack’ - a splendid Merlin trained fitter, who burnt a lifetimes ‘midnight oil’ for me that year - "Quite like the war" he said, ‘when they wanted a ‘Lanc’ or a ‘Spit’ back in the air - we stayed “til it was done.”

The big problem was clearance for those huge rods in the crankcase - again and again little bits were carved off, crank refitted, turned - CLUNK!, but at last it was done. We took the opportunity to uprate a few things, fit the highest diff ratio, and the higher set of bevel-gear crown wheels - (Anyone reading this who doesn’t know about P3 rear axles - don’t worry about it!!)

We had done a little research into the circuit, long long galloping straights, a hairy hairpin, a right angle corner from one Route Nationale onto another, it all sounded wonderful from a P3's angle, obviously all out speed was the key!

I was able to use the mini ‘Avus’ my father had built at our steelworks when it was expanded in the late 1930's, for testing. This was a twin track road two and a half miles long, across the flat land alongside Sealand RAF base, there was a slight (absolutely flat-out in the P3) kink halfway along, and a roundabout at each end. The car was an absolute joy, pulling well over 5000 in top gear straight out of the box!

The day arrived for departure, and we set off for France, day boat to Le Havre, I think. It had rained cats and dogs all the way down England, but half way across the channel the sun came out, and from then on it was absolutely perfect weather. We set off, and drove in convoy with David Black, in the Monza I shared with him. My mate, Mike Villar, helped with towcar driving, and we took turns in the Monza.

We stopped at Jackie Pichon's Musee Automobile, in Cleres, where the P3 was unloaded and demonstrated to admiring punters. It started so easily, and was so gentle to drive, just like a tourer, the cockpit like a big rowing boat, very comfortable, and you are so well protected from the wind. The long straight French roads are so very tempting!

We eventually arrived at Les Essarts, found a modest hotel, and settled in for the night. Next day we were at the circuit early, the pits in a big pine forest, and the circuit itself like nothing an Englishman could comprehend! They simply closed the main roads, and let us get on with it! Our first practice session was about half an hour, and we jogged cautiously round.

You leave the pit lane, accelerate over a brow, plunging steeply downhill through left and right bends which tighten as the valley narrows, then there's a right-angle bend across a 100m section of pave on a bridge across the river, and another right angle onto the road up the other side of the valley - here the super second gear shot me up the hill onto a plateau through the forest, and into a long long right curve. You burst out of the trees onto a huge wide RN and wind up to peak revs, coming to another right angle right hander, La Scierie (sawbench) this leads along a shorter straight, with a right hander followed by a run down to the pits. You then arrive at the (blind) brow mentioned previously, where you aviate at anything much over 120, tending then to arrive at the first downhill bend rather quicker than is wise!

The first practice was huge fun, but several cars were faster, as I was rather feeling my way. We had a leisurely day until the second practice late in the afternoon, and found a delightful Pub not far from the track for lunch. I raised my glass to the landlord and said "Vive de Gaulle" he replied with some heat "De Gaulle est un ordure" - after that we got on well! I remember the floor of the bar was about a foot deep in peanut shells!

Second practice was better, and I began to realise just how well the circuit suited #5006! At one point I pulled up alongside Peter Waller in his ERA going down the pit straight, and could see his rev counter - he was well into the brown sector! I was pulling about 4500, and simply left him for dead - very satisfactory. After the session he came over and said he'd ‘taken red’ to see if he could hold me, to no avail. Peter was very careful with his engine, and rarely went far into the brown, let alone red - at that time the white ERA won just about everything, so he never needed to!

No one had ever seen a P3 go so fast since before the war. I was certainly the first, post war, without the imagination to think of what might happen at such a pace! We began to hear rumours of the actual speed, and it was said I was faster down the longest straight than Brabham's Honda F2! I doubt it, but as the car pulled well over 6000 in top, it was probably doing 160 mph +.

The upshot was to be on pole. I had George Burton next me, in Sir Ralph Millais’ Tiger, which was pre-selector driven, and much quicker off the line. I could reach nearly 80 in bottom, but took-off gently not to tweak transmissiony things.

At some stage in practice we had an ‘incident’ with members of the Renault R8 fraternity, who were having a round of their championship in the same meeting. An obstreperous bunch if ever there was one, who regarded us a Dinosaurs, and taking up their space. They were so noisy and vile we felt they needed taking down a peg. During the (extended and very agreeable) lunch hour, we moved the quickest R8, driven by the most unpleasant man of all - carried it to two trees exactly an R8' s length apart, and fitted it in long ways on. The noise, and chaos, after lunch was beyond our wildest dreams - a lot of other competitors agreed with us, and thought it very funny. The chap finally extracted his car, but interesting to see how much difficulty he had finding people to help him!

The one problem I had in practice was the relative shortness of the sessions, it did not allow time for the over heating water problem to show - which was anyway rather intermittent. I recall we had time for about five or six laps, of which three perhaps were trying hard - the circuit was something over five miles, my best lap was at 90 mph.

The race was preceded by a touring lap, then a long session of the great and good wandering about, with plenty of time for cars to overheat - which is still an occasional problem for pre-war cars to this day, if starters are not familiar with ERA's etc.

The flag dropped, and we were away - George vanished into the distance as usual, and Peter pulled up alongside from the second row - then #5006 got into her stride and we hurtled down to the bottom hairpin, where George's brakes began to fade - having used up his three good applications! so I nipped past on the bridge pave, and shot up the hill away from him. Onto the plateau and into the long curve through the trees, fascinated to see them flash past like a picket fence (20 yards away and nothing whatever between me and them!) the car poised in a lovely sort of slide - then into an explosion of sunlight on the Route Nationale. The car picked up speed so fast it was soon time to brake for the saw bench corner. I whizzed down to the pits, to find the track still full of people coffee-housing on the track - must have got out of the way because I didn’t hit anyone - going through the pits at about 140. At one point I waved back to someone on the side of the track, regretted it, as my arm was nearly torn off by the slipstream!

After three laps I had a simply enormous lead, and should have slowed down, but I was enjoying it so much I pressed on, and on lap seven saw spots on the windscreen. A lap later the thermo had gone off the clock, so I stopped. Felt 1'd made the point, but was bitterly disappointed not to win - however the lap record for pre-war cars remains mine, which is something! Reputation of the P3 shot up, and who knows, the slippery slope upwards to the values now pertaining had begun! I didn’t go to the prize-giving, as we had to go home - my father was a hard taskmaster! So Peter Waller collected my cup for me, he having won the race!

While in Essarts, the tow car, a Hillman estate, lost reverse, so we had to ensure being first on the boat, to avoid any ennui. Half way back across the channel it began to rain stairrods, and when we reached England the weather was quite back to normal! We were at least dry, poor old David had to drive back to Lancashire in the Monza!

Because of the over heating, we spent some time thinking about the monoblocks, and worked on the possibility of making new ones - however, the works foundry weren't happy with alloy, so cost was prohibitive. I concentrated on hill climbs and sprints, which minimized the problem. An outing in the 1967 Seaman had also convinced me the circuits in England were so well suited to the ERA with it's nimble handling and pre-selector box, that I'd be an also ran in the car (you always look a better driver if you have the fastest car!) I sold it to Neil Comer, and spent the next twenty years breaking my heart in Maseratis!

 In the 1980's I watched in admiration as David Black solved all the problems in logical fashion, with his P3 #50003 - but shudder to think what it cost for the new monoblocks, etc.

Of one thing I'm absolutely sure - Tipo B # 5006 is still the prettiest and most delightful racing car ever built. I was very privileged to be born when one could be bought for six months normal wages.

Peter comments “of the original trio of the late David Black and Mike Villar (boy, did they own a bunch of great Alfas between them!), Bill Summers was by far the most generous with his time and advice.

Forty years later I still have Bill’s letters full of helpful Alfa 8c hints, tips, and resources, I shall be for ever grateful for this.

Bill has not lost his thoughtful ways either because directly he learned that I had acquired #5006 (in late 2005), he put pen to paper and supplied this evocative reminisce!

In a covering e-mail, Bill told me:

“Guy Moll – all I know is he had a diff failure at Tunis I think it was, and was pitched head-first against a kilometer marker, ending with more than a headache!   Funnily enough that was why I was able to buy the car in the first place.  In 1964 Monty Thackray sold it to me after a brown trousers incident on public roads, when the diff seized, he went straight on at well over 100 mph – missed everything, but scrubbed the rear tires through to the canvas at one point!

I paid him 6,000 pounds sterling for the P3 and his 2900b Spyder.  We went back to first principles on the rear axle assembly, my lovely mechanic, who had been trained on Merlins by the RAF told me to bugger off and leave him to work it out.  After a bit he sent me to our works road (a mini Avus my father built in 1938, two mile straight with a flat-out curve half way, and a round about each end), and the contact thermos we had on each “A” frame tube showed a very much lower reading, the whole assembly was miles quicker and quieter.

The original crankcase was holed by me at Oulton, in the 1966 Seaman – pissing rain, and most unpleasant, the year Tony Hutchings nearly won in the BMW328.  It went onto 7 cylinders, so I trundled back to the pits.  John Bolster rushed up “What what what’s wrong Bill?” he said, “Electrical” I said – we opened the bonnet “Not electrical” said John, looking at the awful smoking hole.

My team worked miracles to get the spare engine ready for Rouen about five weeks later.  Used the legless crankcase, the Ashby rods and crank, and the complete top of the original.  It went like a rocket.  We had fitted the longest diff set, and the higher bevel gears, giving me 27 mph/1000 rpm.

I gave the crankcase to David Black when Neil Corner took over the car, he had it on the shelf for years, and then sold it to Duly, who had the wizards at GE repair it.  I have no idea where it is now, no doubt the basis of a new car?”

 

Peter comments: “In fact, Bill was absolutely right …. Crankcase #5006 became the basis of the late Rodney Felton’s replica “P3”.

By the time I acquired #5006, its missing rear legs had been brilliantly reattached.  Also an original crank and rods had been installed.

Bill’s comments about “nimble ERAs” are even truer today, given well developed ERAs, and the even tighter / shorter tracks of today”.

 


 

The video below shows a 1966 Autodynamics FV giving chase to Peter in the 1932 Alfa Romeo Tipo B "P3" at Thunderhill. (Click on the arrow to start the video)

 

 


Peter introducing #5006 to Infineon Raceway, October 2008: photograph by Peter Darnall

 Peter introducing #5006 to Infineon Raceway, October 2008: photograph by Peter Darnall

 

Peter in #5006 during the Watkins Glen road race recreation, September 2008: photograph by Clem Simmons

Peter in #5006 during the Watkins Glen road race recreation, September 2008: photograph by Clem Simmons

Alfa Tipo B

Alfa Tipo B #5006 on display at Zagames Ferrari & Maserati, Richmond, Victoria, Australia.

Alfa P3's at Lobethal

What a rare sight! Jon Shirley in Alfa P3 #5005 (left) and Peter in Alfa P3 #5006 lead the pack at
the October 2009 re-creation of the 1939 Australian Grand Prix at the Lobethal Grand Carnival.

Cutaway

A cutaway of Peter's Alfa Tipo B "P3" #5006. (Artist unknown).

Hayashi Pits

Bob Dunsmore, late friend of Peter and Judy, gave them this great photo of the Yoshiyuki Hayashi entries at Laguna Seca.
Alfa P3 #5006, the second Tipo B "P3" that Peter has campaigned is #11 in this photo. Bob's dedication reads: "I thought
you might enjoy having this one. Please accept it with most appreciative compliments."

P3 at Monterey

Peter in the Alfa P3 at Monterey, 2010. Photo by Bill Wagenblatt.

P3 at Laguna

Peter at speed in the Alfa Romeo P3, Monterey Motorsports Reunion, August 2010. Photo by Dennis Gray.

P3 passes Miller Ford

Peter passes the Miller Ford at a foggy Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Photo by Dennis Gray.

Indy 2014

Peter at speed On the Indianapolis 500 track. Photo by Michael Di Pleco, Sports Car Digest.