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This Alfa-powered race boat has an explosive WWII bloodline
How does an Alfa 6C-engine end up inside a sleek mahogany boat? Hot rod culture thrived in post-war America. As G.I.s returned home they took their passion and mechanical know-how to turn 90 horsepower flathead V-8 engines into 150-mph salt flat race cars. (This was also the period where some Americans had the bright idea of installing 1710 cubic-inch Allison V-12 aircraft engines into race boats, Miss Golden Gate III being the first example, turning hydroplanes into single-engine, 2000-hp sea-missiles.) But this need for speed wasn’t exclusive to just the States, or even to solid ground. Europeans and South Americans also wanted to go fast on the water.
One such example is for sale at Bonhams’ Padua auction this upcoming weekend. The boat, named Marea (which translates to “tide”), is a hydroplane with the heart and soul of an Italian war vessel. Businessman Miguel Lattes had Marea commissioned and built after a visit to Italy. And judging by the similarities in hull design to that of the Italian Royal Navy’s self-destructing MT boats of the second World War, one might assume the inspiration for his race boat came together on that trip.
The MT, or barchino, was a quick, 18-foot vessel essentially designed to function as a manned torpedo. Italian operators would drive towards their large, warship targets, arm the explosive charges, and bail out before impact via a James-Bond-esque ejector seat. A marinized version of Alfa Romeo’s 6C 2500 four-banger provided 95 horsepower and pushed the floating bombs to a 38-mph top speed.
Marea’s builder, the Astilleros Regnicoli shipyard near Buenos Aires, took the lessons in speed and agility from the little war boat, and wrapped them up in a beautiful aluminum and mahogany package. Measuring in at 15 feet, the hydroplane utilizes a 1942 version of Alfa’s 6C 2500. No top speed is provided, but with its smaller size, and lack of armaments and explosives, my best guess would place it in the 50- to 60-mph ballpark.
According to the auction house, the boat was campaigned in the Turismo Carretera racing series by Lattes from 1949 to 1952, but other details on its ownership remain scarce. The seller of the boat has owned it for the past 15 years, providing Marea with a complete mechanical and cosmetic restoration. Bonhams estimates that the hydroplane will sell for somewhere between $57,000 and $70,000, which sounds downright cheap for a one-of-one Alfa-powered gem with racing heritage. With its period-correct Alfa Romeo script and all-important cloverleaf adorning the cockpit, this boat sure looks the part—all you’ll need to do is buy it and find a lot of open water.