The combination of a stunning aerodynamic body with the engine behind a centrally positioned driver’s seat on the most advanced chassis of its time makes this Alfa Romeo Aerodinamica Spider, with its major improvements in technical and aerodynamic design unique in automobile history.
This special version of the Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 belonged to a secret project of the brothers Jankovits guided by Vittorio Jano. It was intended to build a mid-engined 12 C race car which would have been the “12 C Aerodinamica Spider”. The team wanted to construct the “world’s best race car” and they created
- the world’s first supercar of “modern” sports car design.
- the world’s first mid-engined sports car. It was designed 27 years before the next mid-engined sports car, the Matra Djet constructed by Rene Bonnet of 1962, which has been generally assumed to have been the first
- the world’s first low-bodied aerodynamically designed car designed to take account of newly developed principles of aerodynamics, thus creating a low-drag externally ( Cx = 0.23) and internally.
The body had such first-of features as
flowing lines with a low body profile, a steep short radiator grille and a long descending tail; side wings with surfaces which were convex to the outer sides of the car and concave towards its inner side, resulting in a cross-section resembling a bat
a straight upper line to the silhouette without interruptions or steps
a streamlined bodyshell with integrated door handles and lights, being the first ponton-bodied car in Alfa Romeo’s history
air inlets in zones of high air pressure and outlets for heated air from the engine and brakes in areas of reduced pressure
- the world’s first race car with monocoque body strengthened partially by space frame construction
- the world’s first high speed racer fully enveloped to reduce air turbulence with a front design to reduce the front lift of the car. The aerodynamic design of the car was more advanced than the high-speed record-breaking cars of Mercedes and Auto Union and pre-dated these by three years
- the world’s first car with three seats and a central driving position, more than 30 years before the prototype Ferrari 365 P of Pininfarina in 1966, which was generally claimed to have been the first
- the car with the world’s most advanced chassis of its time: The combination of technical innovations was more than 20 years ahead of its time and compromised of
a suspensions of top wishbones combined with lever-arm hydraulic shock absorbers, transverse leaf springs, torsion bars and radius arms
a two-circuit brake system with two master cylinders, adjustable duplex brakes and an equalizer for shifting brake forces between front and rear during driving
a hydraulically-assisted clutch
disc style flexible couplings, later called “Hardy discs”
a cross-flow radiator which made it possible to design the lowest front grille and the lowest body height (about 820 mm) of any pre-war car, comparable with the racing cars of the sixties
improved manifolds to reduce the pressure drop
a precise mechanical gear change without joints which remained unique till today
different features to avoid the specific problems of a mid-engined car, such as spinning and overheating
The chassis anticipated the development of Auto Union and Mercedes Benz racing cars by years.
(the car was designed and constructed between 1934 and 1937 by the brothers Jankovits supported by Vittorio Jano)
length: 4,750 mm;
width: 1,720 mm
height: 1,030 mm (1,150 mm with windscreen)
body height: 820 mm
wheel base: 2,800 mm
track: 1,560 mm ( front), 1.505 ( rear)
weight: 1200 kg (dry)
Prototype of Alfa Romeo high performance 6 C 2300 built in1934, No. 700316, placed behind the driver. Iron-block, light alloy head with improved intake of air, 2309 cc straight-six, dual-overhead-camshafts chain-driven, spur gears, wet-sump lubrication and three dual Weber 36 D 04 carburetors, adjustable timing of ignition during driving.
Maximum power and speed:
105 bhp at 4800 rpm;
135 mph/ 216 km/h (calculated);
torque 170 Nm at 3000 rpm;
Alfa Romeo 4-speed manual modified for high speed, mounted with a Hardy disc behind the engine,
driven rear wheels, hydraulically-assisted clutch;
Prototype suitable for 12 C engine, No.700316, frame reinforced and modified for centre position of the engine;
All-independent, upgraded racing suspension with “silent bloc bushes”, similar to Auto Union but upgraded;
Top wishbones connected to transverse leaf spring and “Houdaille” lever-arm hydraulic shock absorber;
Swing axles, radius arms, transverse leaf spring, longitudinal torsion bars
Worm and sector with Hardy disc
Two-circuit hydraulic brake system with two fluid distributors and two master brake cylinders, one for the front and one for the rear, duplex race brakes type “Lockheed”, 17 inch drums all round, adjustable rear brakes, equaliser of braking force for adjustment during driving to avoid overbraking
Alfa Romeo 18 inch “ Rudge” wire spoke
Steel three-seater with central driving position, streamlined with fully enveloping underbody and integrated wings resulting in a drag factor of Cx=0.23; body work designed by Oscar Jankovits and built at the Jankovits garage in Fiume, 1937
One concept car
In 1934, the chief engineer of Alfa Romeo, Vittorio Jano had been impressed by the new mid-engined Auto Union GP racing cars and, as a personal project wanted to develop a powerful mid-engined race car to compete with and win against the Auto Union and Mercedes cars. This car would also be the basis for a future sports car. Since it would be a risky and expensive - Alfa Romeo was in desperate financial situation without support from the state - project it had to be developed secretly outside Alfa Romeo’s Portello factory.
Jano who was of Hungarian descent was in contact with two other men also of Hungarian origin. They were the brothers Gino and Oscar Jankovits, who had been students at the Polytechnical University in Jano’s home town of Turin and later had become Alfa Romeo concessionaires. They owned the biggest garage of Istria in Fiume, today known as Rijeka. With their passion for cars and being rich they were willing to undertake such a project and - this was essentially - to finance it completely with no regards to cost.
In 1934, Jano gave them for test driving his old P1 Fiat engine and for the sports car project a powerful naturally aspirated 6C 2300 engine upgraded with three Weber carburettors, together with a transmission system and a basic chassis frame to be modified for a mid-engined car. Other mechanical systems such as the suspension and brakes were designed by the development team and built at the Portello factory. Then during 1935 and 1936 the new parts which were stamped by the A.R. factory were installed and tested by the Jankovits brothers in Fiume. Depending on test results, improvements were made until the systems worked to their satisfaction.
The Aerospider had a highly advanced chassis and was the first car with a suspension that included wishbones, hydraulic dampers, transverse leaf springs and torsion bars. Other pioneering features were a device to distribute braking forces during driving and a jointless gear change.
The streamlining of the car was designed by Oscar Jankovits who was in contact with Paul Jaray, Bela Barenyi and Josef Mickl, all of the former Habsburg Empire. The stunning aerodynamic steel body - scientifically aerodynamic and lasciviously beautiful - was built by workers at the Jankovits Garage “Lampo” in Fiume between 1936 and 1937.
The Aerospider had all the features of a racing car and - with its all-enveloping body shell - of a high speed vehicle for running over 250 mph. The car was planned to be fitted with the newly developed Alfa Romeo C 12 (432 hp) engine.
In 1937, when the car was ready to be equipped with Jano’s 12 C 37 engine the project was abruptly stopped when Vittorio Jano was dismissed by Alfa Romeo. With their project at an end the Jankovits brothers switched over to design a sports car suitable for road use by installing the 6 C engine and adding user-friendly and road-legal components such as a bigger windscreen, a heating system, position lights and bumpers. The car still has its original road licence plate: FM 2757.
When Jugoslavia became a communist state in 1946, Gino Jankovits driving the Aerospider broke through the communist controlled border into Italy. To raise funds the brothers then sold their car to the famous General William W. Ford of the U.S. Army. In 1978, the Aerospider was rediscovered and recognised by the well-known Alfa Romeo historian Luigi Fusi. He knew about the Aerospider and its creators since he had worked closely with Vittorio Jano at the time of the project, and he wanted to acquire the Aerospider for the Alfa museum. This attempt failed two times, but about 20 years later the prototype came back to Italy and returned to its original purpose of a race car.
Time frame of construction of the Aerospider:
1934 construction of engine, transmission and frame
1935 completion of first version of chassis
1936 testing period, modifications of chassis
1937 completion of the racing car
1938 modification into sports car