Alfa Romeo 6C 3000CM Superflow
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
A one-off road-going prototype based on the already beautiful Disco Volante. About as collectable as they come, considering only one was built.
Always one of the leaders in development of automotive form, Pinin Farina in the mid 1950s produced a series of prototypes that were nothing if not different in appearance. Even so, they held some lessons for future production models. As Len Frank tells, the beginnings of the Alfa Spider can be seen in this car; the fourth and last in the distinctive Superflow series.
The Alfa-Romeo 6C 3000CM Superflow is unique in the best sense of the world, it was the only one. The car was an anomaly. Alfa Romeo had been owned by the Italian government since 1933 and should, the way these things go, have been concerned with building little transportation modules to be run at moderate speeds, evenly spaced, reasonably driven. Mobile lowest common denominators. Government cars were supposed to be like that. But not at Alfa. It did build a car for everyman, the 1900, just a few years after this one. The body was properly anonymous, a four-door, four-seat sedan. It seemed to come only in grey.
But under the grey was an all aluminium, hemi-head twin cam four, hooked to a four-speed, all synchro gear box. It had huge Al-fin drums at all four wheels, and suspension very much like today's Alfa Spider. This was at a time when millions of flat-head engines were still being used on passenger cars, and some English Fords
still had solid axles at both ends and mechanical brakes. Advanced design was nothing new for Alfa. It had been using twin-cam engines since 1923 (albeit some cars were push-rod, some SOHC). Of course all of Alfa's pre-war production totalled just over 2,000; about one-and-a-half days' good production of Model T Fords
. Most of Alfa's production was exported, to the delight of the world's enthusiasts.
Aerodynamics and Streamlining
Perhaps an awareness of the impending US market had something to do with Alfa's transition to postwar conditions. Alfa's pivotal car was the 1900. Everything that came before was derived from pre-war planning. The 1900 was a reasonably modern iron-block four with DOHC and a four-door unit body, Alfa's first. It did not take long before Alfa began to build a chassis for the body builders, nor much longer before tuned versions became available. Planning for the 1290 cm3 Giulietta was well along. Perhaps Alfa thought it needed a real attention-getter; perhaps it didn't know that half-destroyed, obsolete factories in an impoverished country shouldn't be squandering their efforts on anything so frivolous as racing. And, using the excuse of building a prototype for a car larger than the Giulietta, the 6C 3000CM was born.
Aerodynamics, or at least attempts at streamlining
, had been applied to automobiles
long before being used on flying machines. Using a variation of the 1900 chassis, Alfa and Touring in 1952
built the Disco Volante
(Flying Saucer) models. They differed from the previous aerodynamic exercises by Alfa and others. The cars were low, symmetrically curved top and bottom using a centre line less than 10 cm above the wheel hub line. There seem to have been no problems with lift or instability with the Disco Volante
. It looks as if it would develop lift. But it also looked good enough for Jaguar
to have used Alfa's solutions in producing the D-Type Jaguar
. It was not really a copy, just the same answers to the same questions. But Alfa
chose another direction.
The Wonderful Disco Volante
Alfa took the six-cylinder version of the 1900, stretched the stroke for a full three litres and rebodied the cars. The Disco Volante
appellation stuck. Various tube frames were tried, four- and six-cylinder versions were built. The cars had conventional (for Alfa
) A-arm front suspension
, De Dion rear-end with coil springs
all around. Disc brakes
were in their infancy and Alfa relied on magnificent helically-finned drums, with four leading shoes in the front sets. The rears were inboard. The fully developed verison of the six stretched to over 3500 cm3 and developed 205 kW. The gearbox was a non-synchro racing five-speed bolted to the engine.
The Disco had a spotty racing record. Juan Manuel Fangio
finished second in the 1953 Mille Miglia
, doing the last bit steering with one wheel when a tie-rod end failed. The same year he won the Supercortemaggiore GP at Merano. Competition was from the 4.1-litre Ferrari
with 223 kW. Both cars were capable of more than 255 km/h. Alfa entered the car on a few other occasions but was clearly not making the effort it earlier had in Formula One. It is said that the 6C 3000CMs were prototypes of new senior Alfas (to the Giulietta's junior status). If this is true, nothing came of it. Some time after the Giulietta, Alfa introduced a redesigned 1900 called the 2000, really very different than its predecessor. That quickly was replaced by the 2600, a six based on the Giulietta's four.
The Discos then, after brief sputtering glory, flickered out. Two were sent to Alfa's museum along with the mid-engined GP car left undeveloped after World War 2 and all of the other Alfas that might have been. One car, rebodied by Zagato as a roadster, was raced by the late Joachim Bonnier
, sold in the US, raced by Roger Ward
and others, and ended up in a classic car collection. One was sent to Argentina to be the toy of the late Magnifico, Juan Peron. One disappeared. This, perhaps (no one is really sure how many were built; not more than nine), left only one car - a car that was to have been the senior prototype.
A New Body for the Disco Volante
acquired the chassis in 1956
and on it built a series of prototypes under the name of Superflow. It, with some concurrent Ferrari studies, was the basis for the production Alfa Spiders from 1967
. Some of the ideas discarded in the Superflow series were huge 1957
Lincoln-like tail-fins at first made of aluminium, later of clear plastic that seemed to change color depending on viewing angle. The headlight covers on the first version extended nearly to the cowl allowing the viewer a clear sight of the front suspension and free standing headlight ... presumably this main prototype
was never intended to be driven. The third car in the series was a handsome roadster. Judging from the headrests on the rear deck and the frameless windshield, the car was never intended to have a top.
The final body (the 6C 3000CM Superflow as shown on this page) was the last step in the evolution toward the production Duetto of 1967
. This car was far more handsome than the Duetto. The windshield raked at the correct, angle, the bumpers didn't have to be considered, the scoops, inlets and outlets kept the shape from being precious. The rear deck on the Duetto was too long, the tyres
too skinny. Most of this was rectified in the later Spiders, but the 3.5-litre 6C 3000CM with which this page is concerned was almost without fault. Many of the transitional cars of the 1950s just look peculiar today. On this car even that 1950s cliche, the wrap-around windshield, has worn well. The removeable windows and sliding clear top sections were, to be charitable, impractical. So what? The fittings were jewels, and the lucky few people that got behind the wheel claimed the car was very comfortable to drive at night.