The Ex-Dr. J. D. ‘Dudley’ Benjafield,
1929 B.A.R.C. Six-Hours Race & F.W. Stiles International Irish
Grand Prix & Tourist Trophy Team Car,
1929 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS Third Series Competition Tourer
Chassis No. 0312905
Engine No. 0312905
Registration No. UU 9125
In 1923 Alfa Romeo secured the services of Vittorio Jano, a young engineer who had shown considerable promise at the successful FIAT equip during the early 1920s. Recruited by non-other than Enzo Ferrari, Jano’s immediate task was to design a Grand Prix car to rival the FIATs. This he did, with the creation of the Alfa Romeo P2, a car that was to win the inaugural Automobile World Championship driven by the likes of Campari, Varsi and Antonio Ascari (Alberto’s father.)
As well as the cars designed specifically for racing, Jano was also given the job of designing 1500 and 1750cc, single and double camshaft six-cylinder sporting production cars. Although ostensibly produced as road cars, the proving ground for these cars was, of course, in motorsport and thus these six-cylinder or “6C” Alfa Romeos enjoyed considerable success in sports car races both in the hands of private individuals and works drivers.
The first of the six-cylinder cars had been produced in 1928, but it was the addition of a roots-type supercharger in 1929 that enhanced the performance of the engines and allowed the cars to achieve their legendary reputation as competition cars. In 1929 two rolling chassis 6C 1750cc Alfa Romeos were ordered by the British Alfa Romeo importer, F.W. ‘Freddie’ Stiles. The two cars had been destined to compete in the Brooklands Double Twelve in May of that year. One of the cars was to be shared by Leonard Headlam, a wealthy amateur racing driver from Yorkshire, and Dr. J. D. ‘Dudley’ Benjafield, one of the legendary Bentley boys whom had won the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1927. The four-seater touring bodies were provided by The Carlton Carriage Company and were constructed with competition in mind, with simple purposeful styling and a large fuel tank for long distance racing.
Neither of the cars was completed in time for The Brooklands Double Twelve. One of the cars, chassis no. 0312906 was sold to Headlam and the other, the car offered for sale here, chassis no. 0312905 was sold to Benjafield and registered “UU 9125” on the 21st June 1929. Just eight days later, both cars appeared at the B.A.R.C. Six Hour Race, held at Brooklands. Both cars fared well in the race, Headlam finishing in 2nd place behind a Speed Six Bentley and Benjafield in 4th Place behind a Bentley 4½-Litre.
Two weeks on from the Brooklands race was the inaugural international Irish Grand Prix, a race run for sports car. Both the Headlam and Benjafield cars went as part of the team fielded by Stiles to represent the works. The two-day event proved to be hugely successful for the Italian marque with both the 1500cc event on Friday and unlimited capacity event on Saturday being won by Alfa Romeos, both driven by Ivanovsky. In the race on Saturday Headlam retired but Benjafield fared well finishing 6th overall despite having a minor “off” on the slippery surface. A week on from the Irish Grand Prix, Benjafield was back in England with the Alfa and won a class award at the hillclimb organized by the Middlesex Automobile Club. In August both the Benjafield and Headlam cars went back across the water and competed in the Ards TT, Headlam finishing 14th and Benjafield unplaced on this occasion. Again, the event was successful for Alfa Romeo with Campari coming second in a 1500cc works car to Caracciola in a 7.1-Litre supercharged Mercedes – proving in no uncertain terms the worth of the, Jano designed small capacity, six-cylinder Alfa Romeo.
It is thought that Benjafield sold the Alfa Romeo back to Stiles once the racing season was over. Surviving correspondence between Stiles and a subsequent owner suggests that he, Stiles, sold the car to Ben Plunket, a member of the Guinness family. It is not known whether or not the car had been re-bodied by Styles prior to selling it to Plunket or if Plunket himself commissioned the body. What is known is that the car had certainly been re-bodied by 1934, incorporating the fuel tank within the body, a spare wheel mounted on the rear and slightly more flowing wings at the front.
In 1934, Plunket and his friend, Robert Fellows, took the car (registered UU 9125) on a tour of Europe attending the major Grand Prix events, the car affectionately named Rudolph. Their original photograph album of this tour, containing numerous photographs, often amusingly captioned is included in the extensive history file offered with the car. As well as numerous shots of ‘UU 9125,’ the album contains a large quantity of original photographs of famous cars and drivers of the time, including: Alfa Romeo Tipo Bs, Bugatti Type 59s and Mercedes W 125s with the likes of Nuvolari, Carraciola, and Varsi. Some of these photographs feature in The Robert Fellows Collection: Grand Prix 1934 – 1939, complied by Chris Nixon.
Plunket took ‘UU 9125’ back to Ireland with him where is was to remain until 1986, spending a good deal of that time with Kenneth Hall, a garage owner from Lucan. Included in the file is personal correspondence between Hall and Stiles as well as blueprints and advice from Alfa Romeo in Milan, Thompson and Taylor and Brooklands Engineering together with letters from the noted Alfa Romeo historian. Angela Cherrett. In 1986 ‘UU 9125’ was purchased by well-known VSCC competitor, John Guyatt who noted that Malcolm Templeton had carried out further restorative work during the 1970s. Guyatt carried out significant research into the history of ‘UU 9125’ which included a letter to Bill Boddy requesting information. Bill Boddy wrote a small article for Motorsport magazine asking for further information, the most concise of which, was unsurprisingly provided by Angela Cherrett who had researched the car with Stiles’s widow. Copies of Cherrett’s correspondence are included in the file and make for interesting reading.
Guyatt participated on a number of European tours with ‘UU 9125’ and retained ownership of it until the late 1990s when it was sold to Mrs. Nathalie Chaunavel. At this time Paul Grist carried out a comprehensive, yet sympathetic restoration of this most historic car. The current owner purchased the car c10 years ago and has continued to use it for touring. During the current owner’s tenure, ‘UU 9125’ has been carefully maintained and a report by Keith Taylor (dated 2009) is included in the file. Recent works carried out include a rebuild of the supercharger and cylinder head – the original goes with the car.
Of all the cars produced before The War, it is the competition Alfa Romeos that are the most sought after. With Brooklands, Irish Grand Prix and T.T. history and piloted by one the great Bentley boys, this supercharged Alfa Romeo would surely be a welcome addition to numerous international touring events such as the Mille Miglia, Colarado Grand and RAC 1000 mile trails. It would be equally at home on the track at Goodwood, Monaco or Le Mans. Inspection of this fine and historic example at our showrooms is welcome by appointment.