There are some cars in history that quite simply stand head and shoulders above the rest; the Alfa Monoposto Type B, or P3 as she became known, is just such a car. Before the domination of Hitler's somewhat sinister but stunning Silver Arrows, this car dominated the racing circuits of Europe, and in its death throes, in probably the greatest motor race in history it beat the mighty Auto Union and Mercedes teams in the 1935 German Grand Prix at the fearsome Nurburgring Nordschleife. So unexpected was Nuvolari's win that the German's, according to legend, hadn't even got the Italian National Anthem ready to play.
The P3 is by modern standards slow, a GTV 3.0 litre is faster than the original 2600 version, however, imagine driving the GTV 3.0 litre on space savers (we are not now allowed to do more than 50 mph on them now) at 145 mph or in a power slide at 130mph around the circuit at Rheims and you may just get a little insight into how good both car and driver were.
The engine, a straight 8, is awesome. Not only a brilliant design by Vittorio Jano but incredible both to hear and to see. At full revs, it bellows a deep growl, but above this, you hear the shrill whistle of the twin Roots-type superchargers. IT HAS NO SILENCERS; it is incredible, nothing at all will ever compare with its sound. Designed as two four-cylinder engines connected in the middle, with a gear drive in the centre in order to stop the camshaft's flexing, the 2600 cc engine produced 215 bhp @ 5600 rpm, this was with the twin superchargers only compressing the charge to a drowsy 9.5 psi. The engine is two monoblock's, each block is produced as one casting with an integral cylinder head with the inlet valves to the left and exhausts to the right. The crankshaft is made in two pieces and runs in 10 plain main bearings. Unusually the drive from the four-speed gearbox was by Jano's "due albergi divergenti", two divergent prop shafts running in narrow steel torque tubes from a compact differential behind the gearbox. This is believed to have been done to reduce the height of the driver's seat, but it may have been to make the final drive more accessible.
It was in the 1933 Pescara race program that the first reference to P3 was made. It is not known if this was ever an official factory reference, however, it was only logical that this single-seater would follow in the footsteps of the P1 and the P2.
In 1934 the engine's bore was increased to 64mm this took the capacity up to 2900 cc and thus the foundation of the famous 2900 series of cars was born. The first confrontation between the German cars and the P3 came at Montlhery and Alfa Romeo scored a rousing one-two-three victory. However, the team could not hope to continue to beat the might of the thinly disguised government-backed German teams, races were becoming depressingly "Deutschland uber Alles".
In 1935 Alfa Romeo increased the capacity yet again to 3.2 litres by increasing the bore to 71 mm, they also changed the braking system from rod operation to Ariston hydraulic brakes and springing was changed to Dubonnet type independent front suspension, the effect's of this was somewhat negated by the need to change from a four-speed gearbox down to a three-speed gearbox in order to handle the engine's torque. It was in this car that Nuvolari took on the might of Germany and won. Some say he was driving a car with the 3.6 litre engine intended for the forthcoming Type C, some say a 3.5 others the 3.2. It does not matter; none of the German's had less than 4.0 litres. The 1935 German Grand Prix win was a truly grand finale for this most awesome of cars.