Is this Miata-based Alfa 158 clone ready for skinny-tire spec racing?
Driving a pre-war race car is a singular experience, but gaining access to one of those skinny-tired terrors is easier said than done. By now, anything authentic is considered a collector’s item or, if they’re so lucky, treated to periodic vintage racing. Either way, price of entry remains a considerable barrier. So why not recreate something approximating the Alfa 158 with the foundation of the working class hero’s race car, the Mazda Miata? That’s what automotive TV personality Ant Anstead intends to do with his Tipo 184 kit car.
While this might sound like the project that the TV host has been building on Wheeler Dealers, the truth is that the build from the show served only as inspiration for this Miata-based kit. Expect some differences with the real thing.
Kit cars often get a bad rap, whether its for disproportionate styling or suspect underpinnings, but lately, Miata-based track stars like the Exocet have given rise to new, light-weight builds based on the beloved sports car. Anstead’s 158 clone also follows in the footsteps of Factory Five’s Cobra in that it utilizes a cheap and common donor car for all the smaller components. In Factory Five’s case, a 1987–2004 Ford Mustang; Anstead’s Tipo 184 utilizes the second-generation, 1998–2005 Mazda Miata (NB) like LEGO bricks for its engine and transmission, steering rack, and more to be used on a custom chassis and body that mimics the original Alfa 158’s design.
This construction method helps to reduce the cost of entry, and it also eases the pain of sourcing parts down the road. Instead of trying to replace an aftermarket universal steering rack sold by the thousands, you can instead head to any parts store and buy one of a bazillion Miata steering racks already sitting on the shelf. Better yet, head to the outdoor parts donor market (read: junkyard). Anstead’s apparent dream is that these Tipo 184 kits will be built in numbers large enough to support a spec racing series, another area where the Miata excels with ease of parity and low running costs. Further supporting the Tipo 184 will be a community of Mazda gurus centered around the MX-5 Owners Club, which will ideally prove a fruitful place where new builders can get help and share projects.
The original Alfa 158 was a true racing machine, a design that managed to survive WWII and dominate the early years of Formula 1. Initially built as a junior chassis to the top-of-the-line Grand Prix cars in 1938, the original Voiturette-class 158 was powered by a supercharged straight-eight, breathing a rules-limited 1.5 liters of displacement with the assistance of a Roots-type blower providing nearly 18 psi of boost. It was good for around 200 hp in its initial package, and thanks to the new Formula 1 rules in 1950, that number would grow to 350 hp with the addition of an upgraded blower. Juan Manuel Fangio and Giuseppe Farina dominated those early years of Formula 1 with the Italian Grand Prix weapon—a not-so-subtle stab at the German automakers which were pouring military-sized budgets into their racing programs as a way to regain international footing following their defeat in the second World War.
Ultimately, the 158 and its spin-offs won 47 out of 54 events they entered, solidifying its place in motorsports legacy and serving as a perfect inspiration for this Tipo 184’s vintage racing cosplay. Even the name itself is a nod to Alfa’s own legacy: Tipo was the name of the brand’s first single-seat design, and 184 mimics Alfa’s naming system, which reads as displacement before cylinder count. Example: the 1.5-liter straight-eight became the 158, thus Anstead’s Tipo reads 184 for the Miata’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder.
Pre-order pricing starts at £8499, or a few bucks under $11,500 at today’s exchange rate, with deliveries expected to happen by the end of 2021.