1944 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S Berlinetta ‘Turinga’
The badge looks familiar, but the name says ‘Turinga’ — which makes this Alta Romeo 6C 2500 S Berlinetta one of the rarest of all. Words Johan Dillen Photography. Carlo te Lintelo for Finarte.
WHAT’S IN A NAME? ALFA 6C ‘TURINGA
Story of a super-rare coachbuilt war baby
What a journey it must have been for Luigi Fallai, driving this 1944 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S Berlinetta ‘Turinga’ almost 1900 miles northwards through eight countries, as the dust of the Second World War was still settling. Fallai was an Italian based in Sweden, where he sold exotic Italian cars. Anxious to get his business going, he had just acquired a most luxurious calling card for his activities, in the form of this beautiful car. A stunning Berlinetta, delivered by Carrozzeria Touring. Or ‘Turinga’, as it was known during the war years.
The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini had decreed an order to ‘Italianise foreign-sounding words, so there would be no basketball under Mussolini but pallacanestro, no Inter Milan in soccer but ‘Ambrosiana’ (after Milan’s patron saint), and no Touring but ‘Turinga’. Strange, yet these days a Turinga is a rarity because of it. Alfa Romeo built only 18 cars during 1944, of which nine were Berlinettas with a Turinga body. And of these nine, only three Turingas are left.
‘It keeps up with modern traffic effortlessly. In its day, the 6G must have been light-years ahead of rivals’
There is more to it than just a different badge, and we’ll come to that soon. To me, sitting behind the wheel of this Turinga almost 75 years after Fallai’s drive, I can only ponder what went through his mind as he drove through Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Denmark before arriving in Sweden. Fallai’s biggest complaint concerned the terrible roads, causing five punctures. But he heaped praise on the Alfa’s roadholding, which enabled him to get close to 100mph on the straights and 55mph through the corners. What a feeling it must have engendered in others, hearing that six-cylinder hum and seeing the voluptuous lines of this Berlinetta appear on roads that, only months earlier, had been occupied by tanks and Willys Jeeps.
But that is nothing compared with the view from the driver’s seat. You are driving a work of art on the road, and it is really through the driving that it gets under your skin. This car is now 76 years old, yet it keeps up with modern traffic effortlessly. In its day, the 6C must have been light-years ahead of rivals.
This Turinga is Alfa at its finest, with independent suspension that allows you to exploit its racebred engine to the fullest. Not only does that engine sound incredible, it feels it, too. Once you hit fourth gear, you can just as easily stroll through town with 1000rpm on the dial as you can pull away in the same gear to speeds well over 90mph the moment you leave the city limits. From 2500rpm, the pull becomes stronger. Hit 3000rpm and the engine’s racing characteristics simmer through to this most luxurious of cabins.
Keeping this sizeable car pointed straight takes practice, especially as the gearbox demands your concentration, too. Once the oil is warm, there is no more need for double- declutching, but the shift is always a bit tricky so you’re thankful that, once you’re in fourth, you can pretty much leave it there all day From there on, the 6C 2500 S Berlinetta transports you into driver heaven.
In contrast, it’s remarkably easy to manoeuvre and will perform a U-turn on the tightest of crossroads without breaking a sweat.
You need muscle to operate the steering at lower speeds, but with a bit of pace its extremely relaxing. The drum brakes take some getting used to, but they’re effective and strong by the standards of the era. Yes, it would have been a fine ally for that epic drive.
Back to 1944. The 6C 2500 was part of an impressive Alfa Romeo portfolio, introduced just before the outbreak of World War Two as an update of the legendary 6C 2300, with the incredible 8C 2900 topping the range. Its six- cylinder engine was one of Vittorio Janos masterpieces. Whereas the 8C was basically two four-cylinder blocks lined up, the 6C’s was a single casting that started with a 1.5-litre capacity in 1925. The 6C 1500 was quickly followed by the 6C 1750, in Super Sport and Gran Sport form with Zagato two-seater body, which dominated racing pretty much wherever it showed up. The 6C established Alfa Romeo’s legend in the Mille Miglia, winning three years in a row from 1928 to 1930, and the formula led to commercial success as well.
Alfa Romeo became the leading sporting marque with its race-derived six-cylinder road cars in different trims. The 2300 of 1934 was another technological milestone, bringing full independent suspension to the market. Yet the 6C quickly fell short in the horsepower race that was taking over Europe before war broke out. For racing, Jano’s mighty straight-eight proved effective but, commercially, an update for the six-cylinder engine was needed, especially considering the hefty price Alfa Romeo demanded. And so the 6C 2500 arrived in 1939; it lived on until 1950.
During the war, Alfa updated the Sport chassis in the 6C 2500 with a central crossmember, adding extra stiffness, though only a handful of cars were built while hostilities continued. The Sport versions Weber 36 DCR carburettor brought the cavalry of the 2443cc engine to an impressive 95bhp, and this car, chassis 915207, received body 2857 at Touring — or Turinga as the badges show. It features the Superleggera building technique that Touring had patented: a network of tiny steel tubes forming the basis on which to fix the aluminium body panels.
Styling-wise, it forms an interesting middle step’ between the pre-war Berlinetta models and the post-war Villa d’Este coupe. The nose of this Turinga car is much straighter than you’ll find on the pre-war Berlinetta; its wheelarches are a step closer to the Villa d’Este’s fully enclosed body-style, and in many ways it looks more elegant than the later 6C 2500 Freccia d’Oro. According to the current owner, this is just one of two remaining original body styles from the war years. The third known surviving Turinga features much- altered bodywork.
Shortly after peace had been declared in Europe, Luigi Fallai was anxious to get his car business going and went to collect the 6C 2500 Sport Berlinetta himself He was to buy two more 6C 2500 models, and in a period of mere weeks managed to sell 60 Fiats in Sweden, as well as several Lancias. The Alfa went to a colleague of his in June 1946, someone who was already a bit of a legend in Sweden: the Gothenburg-based Bugatti dealer Uno Ranch. Ranch drove it on trade plates throughout 1947, and registered the car the following year. It received the numberplate ‘011118’. He used it to travel to the Bugatti factory in Molsheim — the Alfa was very much the rich businessman’s choice of transport.
With the decline of Bugatti, Ranch explored other sources of income, and began importing Triumphs as well, motorbikes at first before switching to cars. He sold his business to British Leyland in 1967. An avid aviator, Ranch owned and sold several aeroplanes and was still an active pilot at the age of 83. He died in 1999, aged 91.
The Alfa Romeo was parked in 1965, the victim of a broken water pump. It stayed in Ranch’s collection, untouched, until 1994. After almost 50 years, the 6C 2500 finally found a new Swedish owner in Goran Vidfeldt. He had the car resprayed in blue and restored it mechanically, but showed the car only in static form, trailering it to different classic car shows in Sweden. Vidfeldt passed away in 2014.
The current Dutch owners, the Branderhorst family, managed to buy the Alfa from the Vidfeldt family and found it — mostly — untouched. ‘The engine had done only 61,500km since new, when we bought it,’ Ad Branderhorst tells us. His son Jeroen adds: ‘It was incredible. Most of the interior is still fully original. We only had the carpets changed, as the originals were worn.’
The corduroy seat covering still looks and feels brand new, adding to the time-capsule ambience in the cabin — no doubt, in the long run, there are benefits to a broken water pump. It’s now back in its original colour: dark blue with a hint of eggplant, and the Branderhorsts carried out a full mechanical overhaul as well as having it resprayed.
Since that restoration was finished, the Turinga has been able to shine once more as the Grand Touring car it was designed to be. It was entered for the Mille Miglia in 2018 and 2019, and was elected ‘most beautiful Alfa Romeo’ in 2018. ‘It was all a bit hectic at the time,’ says Ad Branderhorst. ‘We arrived in a small village, where we stopped at a control checkpoint and were told that we had won a special cup. Since we don’t speak Italian very well, we did not quite grasp what was going on. There was a big crowd of enthusiastic people surrounding our car, so we thanked everybody and got on our way again.
‘It wasn’t until later that it dawned on us that we had won the Coppa Clemente Biondetti. Former Alfa Romeo designer Walter de’Silva was a member of the jury. It was a tremendous honour, that we appreciated only afterwards.’
The odometer now reads a little over 68,000km, and the Branderhorsts have decided to switch attention to other projects. ‘We don’t want the garage to get too crowded,’ Ad Branderhorst explains. So, come October, this Turinga will be the highlight of the 1000 Finarte 2020 online auction. It comes fully documented, including lots of historical pictures, and has been certified by Alfa Romeo. It’s certainly a fine piece of history — one that’s in a perfect place to be continued.
THANKS TO Finarte, www.finarte.it
Above: In profile, the lineage between pre- and post-war Touring-bodied 6Cs is obvious, and only from this angle can you see the full length of the tapering roofline.
Clockwise from right: Traditional Alfa nose intact despite the strange badging; unworn interior a benefit of the car's near-30-year lay-up, caused by a broken water pump; engine is now in equally fine condition.
Right, above and below: Italian Luigi Fallai with the Turinga on its maiden trip, all the way from northern Italy to Sweden; wind- cheating shape is especially fetching from the rear.
1944 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S Berlinetta ‘Turinga’
Engine 2443cc straight six, DOHC, single Weber DCR 36 carburettor
Max Power 95bhp @ 4600rpm
Max Torque 185lb ft @ 3500rpm
Transmission Four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Steering Worm and roller
Front: double wishbones, coil springs, hydraulic dampers, anti-roll bar.
Rear: swing axles, transverse beam, longitudinal torsion bar, hydraulic dampers
Top speed 96mph