1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B

Ron Kimball Dan Gentile

1 The front fender profile and the valance between it and the body slope downward in a very modern manner, rather like that in today's sports-racing cars.

2 By 1938, not fairing the headlamps into the body was somewhat retrograde, but these gorgeous chrome bullets must have cried out to the designers to leave them exposed.

3 It's hard to imagine crank-starting this car, but the option was there, showing just how low the crankshaft sits in the car.

4 Notice that there are actually two chrome strips; the thin upper one underlines the Carrozzeria Touring badge on the hood side.

5 The actual wheel opening is round, concentric with the wheel, and set into a teardrop deformed so the front and rear peaks are at wheel-center height. Perfect.

6 I like wire wheels, but not nearly as much as I like these concentric-ring aerodynamic fairings for them.

7 The extension of the louvers into the cowl side on this car seems to be unique, and it enhances the visual importance of the "engine room," which is actually well forward.

8 The degree of curvature is limited by the depth of the channel in which the glass slides. It is very subtle, but subtlety was stock-in-trade for Italian coachbuilders.

9 No fancy design here. The molded black steering wheel is the simplest expression of its function, carried on until quite recently by Rolls-Royce. I love its simplicity and declaration of intent.

10 Even for something as simple as a locking control for the sliding glass, one sees concern for elegance and functionality.

11 A glove box that is actually intended to house the driver's gloves, close to hand and imminently practical. The elegance lies in the execution.

12 Today, even tiny city cars have tires wider than these, the most dated of all the details on this masterpiece of performance automobile design . . .

13 . . . apart from this apparent lower door hinge and the vestigial running boards, both of which ultimately disappeared, even on the simplest and cheapest cars . . .

14 . . . or the sliding glass side windows, last seen on the Ferrari F40, where they were more an affectation than a weight-saving measure.

15 A classic mark of Carrozzeria Touring, perforated fender skirts existed in dozens of variations. This six-slot execution is elegantly elongated toward the rear.

16 The upper chrome strip ends here, while the lower tapers to a point, emphasizing the pointed plan view of the body.

17 The hard crease separating the lower body flanks from the aerodynamic upper structure come together in a point just below another subtle badge.

18 Floating in the air, separate from the body shape and structure, the rear lamp cluster is the final point of rupture with past and present design practice.

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