Sometimes new-car shows display a good dose of classics and sometimes the bulk of floor space goes to the latest models. At the 2015 Chicago Auto Show the here and now won out over the past, with two notable exceptions.Alfa Romeo brought a trio of awesome old-timers from its museum in Italy and Toyota used a combination of old photos and old vehicles to let spectators know that its roots in both Japan and America stretch back a long ways.
Alfa-Romeo was truly “on the job” in Chicago with three bright red sports-racing cars that combined knockout looks with museum-quality pedigrees. The oldest racer was a 1932 Gran Premio Tipo B P3 that could get any enthusiast’s heart pounding. Worth millions today, it is easy to imagine this beautiful, but basic champion flashing down winding roads in an early Grand Prix. The P3 was designed by Alfa Romeo’s star engineer Vittorio Jano. Its engine derived from the highly successful Monza. Power comes from a 265 hp DOHC straight eight attached to a three speed manual gearbox. Only twelve P3s are known to exist.
Alfa also brought a 1952 Gran Premio Tipo 159 Alfetta, the type of car we remember seeing in 1950s racing movies where the hero drove a sexy Italian machine in order to win over his sexy Italian leading lady. The 159 Alfetta (Little Alfa) is one of the most successful racing cars. Along with the 158, it took 47 wins in 54 Grand Prixs. Spun from prewar formulas it had a 1.5L supercharged eight. The car was eligible for postwar Formula One racing. Nino Farina, Juan-Manuel Fangio and Luigi Fagioli, drove 159s to many checkered flags
The third car was a 1967 Tipo 33 Stradale GT coupe ready to compete in sports car races. The 33 Stradale is a mid-engine rear-wheel-drive car designed by Scaglione as part of Alfa’s Tipo 33 range of cars. Its 2.0-liter DOHC eight has two valves per cylinder and develops 227 hp.
Toyota also had a slice of company history displayed in one corner of its booth with several older vehicles and a wall full of large black-and-white images of such modern classics as a Toyopet, an early Corolla and an early Toyota pickup truck. The real vehicles in the spotlight included a Jeep-like 1961 FJ25 Land Cruiser and a sporty 1967 Toyota 2000 GT.
Of course, car collectors don’t look for excuses to visit the auto show. A gearhead is a gearhead and a true gearhead can always find something to love whether it’s a 50-year-old Corvette or the latest ZR1 Corvette with LT4 power.