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Racer, design study, concours winner – the 1953 Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM Superflow IV

Published in blog.hemmings.com

1953 Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM Superflow IV. Photos by Brian Henniker, copyright and courtesy of Gooding and Company.

Launched in 1953, the Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM (Competizione Maggiorata, or competition enlarged displacement) represented the Italian brand’s latest effort to construct a winning endurance racing car. Six were built, including four coupes and two spiders, and one coupe was later gifted to Pinin Farina to serve as a design test mule. That car’s final iteration, the Superflow IV, came in 1960, and this August, the stunning, concours-winning Pinin Farina coupe will cross the auction stage in California, a highlight of Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach sale.

As built by Carrozzeria Colli, the 6C 3000 CM coupes looked nothing like Pinin Farina’s futuristic creation, but instead resembled other Italian racing cars of the day, fitted with the familiar Alfa Romeo grille and insignia. The chassis was a tube frame with a central backbone, and the independent front suspension used double wishbones while the rear featured a DeDion tube. Alfa Romeo’s previous competition variant, the 6C 3000 C50, produced around 165 hp from its 2,955cc double overhead-camshaft inline six, but the 6C 3000 CM boasted an output as high as 270 hp in racing tune, thanks to its enlarged displacement (of 3,495cc) and a sextet of Weber 48 carburetors. Even in de-tuned form, this engine produced nearly 250 hp and 200-lb.ft. of torque.

1953 Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM Superflow IV

Alfa Romeo entered three 6C 3000 CM coupes into the 1953 Mille Miglia, and while two retired with accident damage during the race, Juan Manuel Fangio and Giulio Sala brought their Alfa home to a second-place finish. Had Fangio not struck a roadside marker, damaging the suspension, it’s possible that the Colli-built coupe would have finished first, but the Argentine driver redeemed himself later in the season, winning the first GP Supercortemaggiore in Merano behind the wheel of a 6C 3000 CM spider.

Following the 1954 season, Alfa Romeo took a step back from racing. To support its design partner, Pinin Farina, Alfa gave a 6C 3000 CM coupe, serial number 00128, to the Turin-based coachbuilder for experimentation. Over the next four years Pinin Farina would craft a series of styling studies on the chassis, beginning with the Superflow, which debuted at the 1956 Turin Motor Show.

1953 Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM Superflow IV

It was an unconventional design, one not likely to meet with acclaim from today’s automotive designers. A prominent ridge ran down the hood and culminated in the Alfa shield grille, but this seemed an afterthought, and not a homogenous styling trait. The same could be said for the Superflow’s massive rear fins, which now look almost comically exaggerated. The Plexiglas canopy undoubtedly gave the cabin an airy feel, but the transparent front fenders (crafted again from Plexiglas) simply looked… odd.

Later in 1956, in time for the Paris Auto Salon, the Superflow was replaced by the Superflow II, which–while still outside-the-box bold—was a bit more refined. Gone was the odd hood bulge, replaced by a more conventional scoop/intake. Steel fenders replaced the earlier version’s see-though fenders, though Plexiglas headlamp covers remained. The roof appeared to be solid in color, matching the rest of the car, and if there was bad news at all, it came at the rear. There, the previously exaggerated fins flared upward and outward, forming a pair of stylized wings.

1953 Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM Superflow IV

It took Pinin Farina another three years to debut the Superflow III (also known as the Spider Super Sport), which appeared at the 1959 Geneva Motor Show. Gone were the exaggerated rear fins, along with the concept’s roof, leaving the occupants to enjoy (or endure) the elements. A variation on the car’s tail would appear on the 1966 Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider, and even the nose and front fender shape would carry over to the production car, to some degree. Of all the design exercises built from chassis 00128, the Superflow III was arguably the most influential, and perhaps the most production-ready.

The final variant, the Superflow IV (or Coupe Super Sport Speziale), appeared at the 1960 Geneva Motor Show and incorporated many of the key design motifs from versions past (though thankfully, the rear fins/wings were absent). The shape was contemporary, featuring a tapered tail, covered headlamps (along with front fenders even more indicative of those that appeared on the later Duetto Spider), and intakes–possibly to cool the inboard rear drum brakes–on the rear quarters. The roof, however, may have been the Superflow IV’s most innovative design: The Plexiglas bubble returned, but this time the central section of the roof could be slid rearward, allowing occupants to enjoy both open motoring and weather protection, depending upon conditions.

Following the 1960 Geneva Motor Show, the Superflow IV was reportedly sold to a Colorado Alfa Romeo dealer, who used the Pinin Farina coupe for promotional purposes. Some time later, it sold to noted German automobile collector Peter Kaus, who displayed the design study in his Rosso Bianco Museum until its closure in 2005, when the 200-car collection was liquidated.

The coupe’s next owner funded a comprehensive restoration, and the Superflow IV made its first appearance at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2013. There, it took first place in the Postwar Touring class, and collected The Vitesse – Elegance Trophy, leading some to believe it would also take Best in Show honors.

A postwar European car would not earn top honors at Pebble Beach that day, and Best in Show was ultimately awarded to a 1934 Packard 1108 Twelve Dietrich Convertible Victoria. In 2014, the Superflow IV appeared at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este and in 2017 at Salon Privé, where the coupe captured Best of Show honors.

Given its one-of-one status and importance to both Alfa Romeo and Pininfarina design history, Gooding & Company are predicting a selling price between $6 million – $8 million when the 1953 Alfa Romeo 6C 3000 CM Superflow IV crosses the auction stage next month.

The Pebble Beach sale takes place August 16 and 17, at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center. For additional details, visit GoodingCo.com.