The 8C 2900 was derived from the 1931 8C 2300, a fabulous car that featured the awesome Vittoria Jano designed straight-eight engine, although at this point the engine only displaced 2336cc.
This engine used twin overhead camshafts, however to overcome torsional vibration and strength problems in using such a long engine, Jano arranged it effectively as two four-cylinder engines back to back.
The straight-eight engine was created by mounting two alloy blocks of four cylinders on a single crankcase. On top of the two blocks, an alloy head was installed, housing two camshafts. Aspiration was forced, through two Roots-type superchargers.
From its 1931 introduction, the 8C 2300 took four straight victories in the 24 Hours of LeMans, driven by talented drivers like Tazio Nuvolari and Luigi Chinetti. Tazio Nuvolari's brilliance was even more visible when driving the P3, the first single seater racer ever.
The P3 is, to this day, still considered by may to be a "Masterpiece", and when run by Enzo Ferrari's Scuderia Ferrari, the Alfa Romeo's they were almost unbeatable. In fact the P3 remained unbeaten in 1933, however it eventually succumbed to defeat by the greater budgets being spent by Mercedes-Benz
and Auto Union
Rather than continue to fight with these motoring goliaths, Alfa chose instead to modify the 8C 2300 to compete in one of Italy's most legendary and prestigious road races, the Mille Miglia
Carrying over some of the design features of their Grand Prix racers, the new race specials featured all-round independent suspension, with wishbones at the front and swing-axles at the rear.
By increasing the stroke, the engine capacity was raised to 2.9 liters and developed a very healthy 220 bhp. Three were ready in time to be entered in the 1936 Mille Miglia
, and all three ended up on the podium, taking out first, second and third places, the winning car being driven by Brivio and Ongaro. These first cars were to later be known as the 8C 2900 A.
Using these race specials, Alfa developed a road going version and named it, appropriately, the 8C 2900 B. These “road” versions featured a de-tuned engine, however there was little else to differentiate them from their racing brothers. There were two versions available, the 2800 mm short wheelbase “Corto”, and the 3000 mm long wheelbase “Lungo”.
The cars were then fitted with either a Spyder, Roadster or Berlinetta body, and it is the latter that is considered to be one of the most beautiful cars to have ever been constructed.
The straight-eight engine and racing chassis provided the 8C 2900 with awesome power and handling, but all this came at a price. In the end, there were simply not enough buyers, and sadly on 10 Lungo and 20 Corto chassis were manufactured.
Some of these inevitably ended up on the race track, given their prowess, and to meet the demand for these “race” machines, Alfa constructed a further 13 8C 2900 B chassis fitted with the 220 bhp engine. The majority of these cars were fitted with roadster bodies, and again competed in European road races such as the Mille Miglia
. The 8C 2900 (A and B) would end with a stellar race record the envy of most manufacturers, with victories in the Mille Miglia
of 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1947.