The Alfa, chassis number 50007, was originally owned by a young Spanish nobleman called Count José de Villapadierna. The count was a huge motorsport enthusiast and entered many of the minor Grand Prix races of the day. Villapadierna had modest success in the Alfa, but was best known for stealing his grandmother’s jewels in order to purchase his first race car. He was eventually arrested for his crimes, which included forging his mother’s name to fund his love of cars, and the car was sold to a buyer in the UK by the name of Frank Griswold.
Griswold was an aspiring racer himself and, in 1939, planned to enter the Indianapolis 500 Classic. It is said that Griswold showed up at the race with a ‘casual approach’, with no crew and a minimum number of tools, only to discover that he wasn’t qualified to drive. He then went shopping for a driver and persuaded Louis Tomei to compete on his behalf, who finished the race in 15th place.
The Alfa was then sold to the infamous LA playboy and racer Tommy Lee (not to be confused with the Motley Crue drummer!), who was an avid Alfa Romeo collector. Lee was also keen to see the car run in the Indianapolis 500 and the car was fitted with one of the first ever ‘pit stop to car’ radio systems. The car didn’t see huge success in the American racing scene – it qualified on numerous occasions but had to retire – and was sold to UK owner David Uihlein, who owned it for many years.
David tasked Neil Twyman, who competed at the Chateau last year in his Alfa Romeo 8C Muletto, to give the car a sympathetic restoration, ensuring that the car retained as much of its sporting character as possible and kept all of the original Lee paintwork. David entered the Alfa in the Louis Vuitton Concours at Hurlingham in 1998, where it was named best of show – a fantastic achievement for an outstanding car.
The current owner of the car is Hugh Taylor, who has owned the Alfa for six years. Although Hugh still uses it for competition, he has also entered the car into numerous Concours d’Elegance events, including Pebble Beach in 2010, and Chantilly in 2015 where it received 1st prize for the ‘Untouched Open Cars from the Interwar Period (Prix Mathieu Lustrerie)’ category.
We are thrilled to welcome a car that not only has an interesting history, but is also truly stunning to look at, and will no doubt bring more than a touch of Italian glamour to this year’s Footman James Concours d’Elegance.