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Year: 1933

Manufacturer: Alfa Romeo

Model: 6C Gran Sport Zagato “testa fissa”

Chassis Number: 10811406

Country: USA / Italy

Owner(s):
Mark Gessler

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1933 Alfa Romeo 6C Gran Sport Zagato “testa fissa”

This is the Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo that was driven to a class victory in the 1934 1000 Miglia. The car is a 1933 Alfa Romeo 6C Gran Sport 1500 testa fissa Zagato, a special competition version of one of the most successful forebears of the modern sports car.

In 1929, Alfa produced a small batch of six specialised 6C 1500cc race engines with a fixed head, or testa fissa, designed to raise compression and eliminate the head-gasket failures that plagued long-distance racing. Later, a second batch of 12 more testa fissa engines were built and provided to the top racers of the day, such as Tazio Nuvolari, Giuseppe Campari and Achille Varzi.

This particular 6C Gran Sport 1500 testa fissa (s/n 10811406) was built in 1933. It was the very last original 6C Gran Sport model built, and in addition to its rare engine, it featured one-off competition coachwork by Zagato.

The car was specially constructed for Anna Maria Peduzzi, the 21-year-old daughter of a wealthy family from Como. Known within racing circles as La Marocchina (the Moroccan) due to her dark complexion, she was out to beat men at their own game — and in 1933 Peduzzi became Scuderia Ferrari’s first woman race driver.

Under the Ferrari banner, she finished third in class in the grueling Targa Abruzzo and fourth in class at the Stelvio Hillclimb against her all male competitors. She scored a class victory at the Coppa Principessa di Piemonte, an endurance race in southern Italy. Then, in April 1934, Peduzzi won her class at the 1000 Miglia. She drove with fiancé, Gianfranco Comotti, another member of Scuderia Ferrari, and the couple achieved an impressive 13th-place overall in a rain-soaked race dominated by the more powerful 8C Alfas.

A few months after the Mille Miglia, Peduzzi wrote an article in La Scuderia Ferrari publication to encourage women to compete in automobile racing. “A courageous sporting woman who adores motoring is someone who reasons, has nerves of steel and while doing battle on the road possesses strength of will and mental coolness equal, I dare assert, to any man,” she wrote. Peduzzi resumed racing after the war most notably with her Ferrari 500 TR. 

In 1935, Peduzzi and Comotti sold the car. It became part of Scuderia Maremmana and launched the career of another 21-year-old – Swiss driver Baron “Tuolo” de Graffenried.  His first race was the 1936 1000 Miglia with this car wearing its Zagato Monza-style grill. After the war, Graffenried became a noted Grand Prix driver and won the 1949 British Grand Prix.

After several subsequent owners in Italy the car was exported to America in 1953 by Luigi Chinetti. It was purchased and SCCA-raced in the 1950s by Danny Collins in Colorado and then David Biggs in the Midwest. By 1986 the car was back on the track at Lime Rock and raced extensively in the VSCCA for the next fifteen years by noted Alfista Henry Wessells.

In 2010, it returned to the 1000 Miglia for the Alfa Romeo Centenary where it finished second overall. During the last decade the car won the 1000 Miglia in 2012 and 2018 and achieved seven podium finishes with Scuderia SPORTS Zagato. The victory 2018 was, similar to 1934, fittingly won by a romantic couple – Barbara Ruffini and Juan Tonconogy.  Over 80 years later, Barbara is still just one of the few ladies to have competed and won success in the mythic 1000 Miglia.

© Mark Gessler 2020

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