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January 2008: A war veteran with a tale to tell

ANYONE with the stamina and a sufficiently high boredom threshold to have read my ramblings in this column last week may recall that I was dribbling on about which cars are likely to attain classic status in the future and which ones will end up as unloved piles of rust.

As well as discussing various marques or species likely to find favour with investors, I sagely pointed out that any car’s personal CV could be a bankable asset if it happened to have been owned by a distinguished personage.

Well, I can now offer you a perfect example of same: a vehicle not actually owned by a rock musician, a movie star or a Beckham, but by a rather prominent fascist dictator by the name of Benito Mussolini.

The Italian with the funny walk – who met a horribly sticky end as the Second World War approached its climax – evidently used to travel about for a while in a truly stupendous 1935 Alfa Romeo 6C Pescara Spyder in stunning dark red.

The two-seater, clothed in special coachwork by Carozzeria Touring, was specially built on the orders of Il Duce. It had a modified dickey seat and an engine tuned and boosted from its normal power output of 68bhp to a scintillating 95bhp.

The car was driven in the gruelling 1936 Mille Miglia by Ercole Boratto, an ex-Alfa Romeo test driver who was Mussolini’s chauffeur at the time. It finished 13th overall and third in class.

Mussolini kept the car until 1939 when, presumably, the outbreak of war gave him a new interest, and since then it has only had three owners, the latest of whom had it restored to a standard good enough to achieve second in class in the 2005 Pebble Beach Concours and victory in the New York Concours meeting of the same year.

This car, described as being of enormous historical interest, even retains traces of the partial alcohol fuelling system it is believed to have operated during the 1,000-mile race, when the fascist regime was promoting the use of alternative fuels in the face of petrol sanctions.

Now it is the star attraction in the next specialist auction to be held by H&H at The Centaur, Cheltenham Racecourse, on 27th February. Should you fancy buying it and doing a spot of private goose-stepping in your back garden, it is expected to set you back between £600,000 and £800,000.

A works Subaru Legacy, in which the late, lamented Colin McRae won the British Rally Championship in 1992, is also due to go under the hammer and is estimated at between £70,000 and £100,000.

Minis once piloted by another rallying legend, Paddy Hopkirk, have always been sought-after by collectors and H&H have two of them in their sale catalogue. A 1964 Cooper S with a glorious pedigree is estimated at £40,000 to £50,000, while a 1967 version, fully restored, should make between £30,000 and £40,000.

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