First-generation Alfa Romeo to be auctioned

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1921 Alfa Romeo G1. Image: RM Sotheby’s via AFP Relaxnews

It’s not often that a famous automaker’s very first commercial model comes up for sale, but at RM Sotheby’s auction in Phoenix, Arizona, in January 2018, a 1921 Alfa Romeo G1 is expected to sell for somewhere in the region of $1.5 million ($74.8 million).

If prototypes are included, only 52 units of the G1 were ever built by the Italian manufacturer between 1921 and 1923. The example going under the hammer in January is stamped with the chassis number 6018, and is believed to be the only surviving, fully operational Alfa Romeo G1 in existence.

Powering the Alfa G1 is a 6.3-liter side-valve inline-six engine believed to have been designed with some input from none other than Enzo Ferrari, who was a driver for the company at the time. It was the largest engine ever built by Alfa Romeo, although it only developed what by today’s standards is an incredibly modest 71 horsepower and 216 lb.-ft. of torque.

According to the auctioneers, a stripped-down version of the G1 won its production class at the Coppa del Garda, but the production models didn’t sell well, as they were seen as expensive fuel guzzlers in a period of economic and political uncertainty in Italy after World War I.

Alfa Romeo therefore decided to export all 50 production versions to Australia, and possibly South Africa, which is how this one ended up in the hands of a Queensland businessman. The owner later went into bankruptcy, and decided to send the car to a remote farm in the Australian outback to hide it from his creditors.

After its years of being used as a farm runabout by ranchers and as a water pump after its rear axle failed, the G1’s remains were bought by Ross Flewell-Smith in the mid-1960s. He spent more than a decade restoring the Alfa with authentic replacement parts. It later went on to undergo three full restorations in subsequent years. JB

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