Ferrari News – The Rebirth Of The Greatest Formula 1 Car Of All Time
The most common gripe of the modern Formula 1 era is the dominance of Mercedes-Benz – the lack of on-track competition. From very early on in the season, both Ferrari and Red Bull showed themselves to be lacking in overall pace, and the 2020 Constructor’s Championship was almost a foregone conclusion. The only question was whether Bothas could challenge Hamilton for the Driver’s Title. The answer to that question also became evident all too quickly.
The truth is, Formula 1 has often been dominated by a single manufacturer. We saw it with Red Bull and Vettel before Lewis and his Merc. We saw it with Michael Schumacher and Ferrari before that. And if we rewind all the way back to the very beginning of the world’s premier, single-seater racing series, one manufacturer and one car utterly dominated the opening seasons.
We’re talking, of course, about the Alfa Romeo 158. Nicknamed the Alfetta, which means Little Alfa in Italian, the 158 was a pre-war (WWII) design, aimed one tier down from the then top-line class of Grand Prix cars. Alfa felt they couldn’t compete with the money and technology being thrown about by Mercedes Benz, and opted to spec the car for the Voiturette class, essentially today’s Formula 2.
Let’s take a closer look at the 158.
Looking Back At The Alfa Romeo 158
After the war, the technical regulations for the premier formula changed, and the 158, already well into its development and incredibly competitive, was right in its sweet spot.
The opening round of the inaugural Formula 1 Championship, held on May 13th, 1950, at Silverstone, saw the ‘3 Fs’: Farina, Fagioli, and Fangio finish first, second and third in their Alfa Romeo 158s. Farina went on to win the championship, with the Little Alfa winning all six rounds of the championship that year. They also won all five of the non-championship races.
By this time, the supercharged, straight 8 was producing a hefty 350bhp (from the meager 1500cc) at a mind-blowing 8600rpm. At the end of 1950, the 159 made its debut. Visually, the same car but mechanically steps further forward.
Now boasting a De Dion rear axle and with 420bhp at 9600rpm, it looked set to extend Alfa’s dominance. Although Ferrari’s 375 beat the Alfa in the opening round of the 1951 season-ending a 27-race winning streak – the Alfa 159 went on to claim the championship regardless.
Unsurprisingly, finding and affording one of these cars is all but impossible.
The Legend is Reborn
Enter Ant Anstead of Wheeler Dealer and Master Mechanic fame. As head technical operator for Tipo184, Anstead has built and made available, in kit form, a replica of the legendary Alfetta. With a bespoke frame, hand-crafted body panels, and running gear from Mazda’s MX5, the kit is designed to be a project which would be possible to complete at home with an intermediate level of expertise, the right tools, and enough space.
Mechanically, the car is set up to accept hardware from the Mk2 MX-5. The 1.8l, four-cylinder engine was available in either 140 or 146bhp spec. There were also two gearboxes – 5- and 6-speed – either will fit perfectly and will work well. Those are not the most impressive power figures, but with very little weight, and that modern gearbox, the TIPO 184, will be a rapid wee machine.
Keep in mind, though, that this car isn’t about ultimate lap times. The period-correct, skinny, crossply tires and rudimentary chassis and suspension design will limit grip. This car is about the experience, the throwback, and the celebration of the very roots of the world’s greatest circuit racing machines. It’s also about learning the skills needed – counter-steering and modulating throttle inputs – to balance a sliding car through high-speed (race track) bends.
When asked why he chose this 90-year-old design, Anstead says, “As a British car-guy, I feel I have a duty to share my passion with Americans, in particular. Formula 1 is not that big out here (in the US), which surprises me. And what better car than an unknown Formula 1 car, that happens to be, arguably, the greatest Formula 1 car of all time.”
Reinvent Your Daily Commute
Although originally conceived as a track/race car, there have been inquiries about using the Tipo184 on the road. While the folks at Tipo are quick to remind us that satisfying your local authority’s individual vehicle approval requirements is the owner’s responsibility, they’ll offer a road conversion kit, initially for the UK. They’ll also look to support customers in other countries with a view to getting as many Tipo184s on the road as possible.
A Track Full Of Tipo184s
There is an agreement in place with the BRSCC (British Racing & Sports Car Club) to run a one-make race series in 2021. For those competitors, the controlled spec guidelines suggest the higher output motor with the 6-speed box.
What Would it Cost?
The Starter Kit is advertised on the Tipo184 site for £9,499 + VAT. That’s just over $13,000. The kit includes a bespoke chassis, hand-built body panels, grill, exhaust, gear linkage, dash panel, and steering column. A complete kit will cost around $26000 with a couple of hundred – there are auctions online showing bids of $200 & $300 – for a donor car. Customers in the US would also then need to cover the cost of shipping.
As far as kit cars go, this is solid value. With the MX-5 also the most successful 2-seater car ever produced, fully complete, scrapped donor cars and major mechanical components are easy to find and in plentiful supply.
Not handy with the spanners but keen on glamour? No problem. There is an option for the guys at the factory to build your car for you.
That particular Mk2 motor was also chosen for its reliability, which means that once your engine is sorted, it should provide many thousands of trouble-free, romantic, and nostalgic miles of this ultimate, classic F1 experience.
NEXT: Watch Alfa Romeo Present Its C41 Challenger For The 2021 F1 Season
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