Looking back to old models while waiting for a new one: the Alfa Romeo P3 AVUS 1934
by Patrick Italiano
Some Thoughts from a Long-Time Collector
For grey-haired model collectors, times have changed a lot over the last 25 years with respect to new models. Having a specific collecting theme (such as a single marque like Alfa Romeo), 25 years ago, I could find 3 or 4 new models every year, maybe only a single one in bad years. Prototyping and tooling costs made producers think twice before launching new models, leaving a wide market space to skilled artisans, some of which worked literally “on the kitchen table”.
Now, 3D CAD and computer-controlled milling require just a few key pieces of equipment, and manufacturing is very flexible; and China (for now, expect manufacturing to move more to Bangladesh or even cheaper countries in the future) helps keep costs down and profitability high: watch out for rising selling prices despite the lowering of costs.
These new market conditions cause producers to offer a flood of new models, even duplicates of models that were long ignored by producers in the past. So while the collector was just too happy to check the news from the Nürnberg toy fair 25 years ago, now the question is either to choose among the excess of offerings and build an extension to the house or sit back and ignore the riches of possible new models to collect.
This trend has mostly emphasized post-WWII era cars so far, probably because shape and detailing is easier to handle in scale (think of the spoke wheels, the exposed mechanicals, …), and because the market is bigger than for Oldtimers.
However, the latest trend now leans to prewar cars, and of course there are lots of interesting cars to be modeled from that era, with inspiring body shapes and great history behind the models.
Two Obsolete Versions of the P3 Avus
So it is not without some surprise that Alfa Romeo model collectors discovered that NEO (a Dutch marque of Chinese-crafted models) announced a strange racing single seater: the streamlined Alfa Romeo “Monoposto Tipo B” (aka “P3”) which raced (and won) only once, at the AVUS GP in Germany, 1934.
The model is not yet released, but pictures can be found around the internet, so we have an idea what it will look like. While waiting for it to arrive in my hands and assessing its accuracy in the real life, we can look back at the old times, when such a model was a very rare find indeed, having been made in small runs by fine artisans.
The first model issued on the market was the work of the late Carlo Brianza from Italy, back in 1978. It was a resin casting, with the whole body in a single piece of resin, with racing number 64 and the Prancing Horse on the cowl. For that time, the wire wheels were stunning, as they were among the first of its kind: before that, John Day and FDS had offered white metal cast ones that were not that detailed. But still, Brianza had to compromise on the number of spokes.
Overall shape and detailing are very good for the standard back then. Models were completely handmade and numbered. With 21st century eyes, it is still a very nice model, but does look outdated in its finish.
Ten years later, in a possibly even more obscure way, a second offering came onto the market, now in white metal, with no decals. It was an initiative of the German modelshop Danhausen, best known worldwide for having created the Minichamps marque. This Tipo B Aerodinamica was now much more modern in its conception. The casting has an unmistakable English feel to it: indeed, it was subcontracted to Western Models, as the stamping shows under the car.
While illustrating the typical limits of white metal casting at that time, it looks more like a “serious piece of modelling” than the older Brianza. The number of spokes is now more likely to support the weight of the car (after all, it weighed only 750 kg), louvres are a bit sharper, exhaust is thinner, etc.
The example shown here is seemingly a version packaged for sales through Alfa Romeo dealerships, and sports a sticker that says “built by danhausen modelcar aachen P. Lang” under the wooden base.
Around 2011, BBR of Italy also announced this car was to be issued with catalogue number BBR91. As far as we know, it never reached the market, nor was any prototype ever shown publicly. We would be pleased to be proven wrong.
Now the 2016 NEO should be available later this year. The pictures of the prototype available online (www.diecastlegends.com) show a strong resemblance to the Metal43/Danhausen/WM from 28 years ago! This could be interpreted as a tribute to that model, until we eventually see the real product from NEO and if differs from the preview.
If you are an Alfa Romeo fan and would like to track if the new NEO joins the author’s 1000-piece collection sometime soon, please see his collection blog. It’s in Italian but google translate works pretty well!
Selected References for the Real Car
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