Alfa Romeo Monza, Angouleme and… Armagnac!

Alfa Romeo 8C Scuderia Ferrari - Stephen Griswold

It all began at 6 am when the phone rang in my apartment in Chelsea, London. At the other end of the line was my good friend and Alfa nut, Christopher Mann: we have to go to France immediately to the Henri Malartre Museum at Chateau Rochetaillée, outside Lyon, because Nigel Mann is selling his Scuderia Ferrari 1933 Alfa Monza n.2211122. The car was on loan to Museum for some years.

Two hours later, we’re in Chris’s Alfa pounding down the Autoroute to Dover, to take the ferry to Calais. Another 5 hours were needed to arrive at the Museum, where we met Nigel Mann. He was an expat and had lived for years in France. In his garden, he had a live steam locomotive and track layout, so that he could steam around his garden with an appropriate engineer’s hat.

After a wonderful lunch at his Villa, a deal was struck and the car was mine. Fantastic!
The car was collected a week later and arrived in the UK. It was serviced and a new set of tires fitted so it was ready for its first race. The engine had been enlarged to 2600cc, which was common in the day to keep it competitive.

After the first season, I decided to restore it. I was living in the UK and no longer had my workshop, so I sent the car to well-known Alfa man, Paul Grist, to do a full restoration.
He did a lovely job and after a little less than a year delivered the car back to me. It was at the end of the summer and there was a race meeting I had always wanted to attend at Angouleme, in France. There had always been a race there, around the ramparts, dating back to 1939.

I invited a pal of mine, Nick Harley, to share the open cockpit and we took off on the road to catch the Dover ferry and drive to Angouleme. It was October and wet and cold. This called for frequent stops at local bars along the road for Armagnac to warm us up and keep us going. It reminded me of Clemente Biondetti (4 time winner) winning the Mille Miglia with the aid of copious amounts of Grappa, that he kept in the cockpit!



The mayor of Angouleme, apart from being Communist, was a lover of classic cars and a bon vivant. There were many festivities put on for the competitors and great food and wine was served in abundance all weekend.

The following day was practice and I qualified second fastest. The circuit consisted of a series of tight switchbacks to circumnavigate the ramparts: one mistake and you either hit a stone wall or had to reverse to take a second attempt, to get around the curve. It was a circuit suited to a small nimble car, like a Cooper 500 F3, not an Alfa Monza.

My friend, the late Anthony Mayman, had offered me a drive in his 1954 Maserati 250F n. 2516 the night before. I had never driven one of these, so I jumped at the chance. I qualified on the pole but thought it was too risky for the race and decided that he should drive it and I would stick with my Alfa.

On Sunday, my race was at 9 am. The Circuit passed within 100 meters of the town Church, this made for an interesting Sunday Mass. I don’t think it was possible to hear the benediction with the cars screaming by open exhausts!

I won my race and really enjoyed watching the others. Then it was time to go home to the UK and repeat the Armagnac treatment.
To sum up, this was a great adventure in an iconic car…. driving to and from the race, winning, and then driving home with no tools and no trailer, but lots of Armagnac.
I will remember these great fun days with fondness.