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Fiasco Italo-Brittanico
Part 19: The left-over hardware and where to find it

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What?

March-Alfa Romeo 90CA-003

Where?

Dywa Racing restoration shop

Why?

Originally, this chapter would only be dealing with the 90CA cars. In January 2009, when the 8W editor and I agreed on publishing this project, I took it up once more, and all of a sudden, it took off in an unexpected manner and into directions I had not anticipated. I almost began to understand why so little was published about the Alfa CART project, both in print and on the Web.

After studying several of the pictures I wanted to include, it became clear to me that some issues with the 90CA I had always taken for granted had to be different. As a result I went looking for more information to clear this matter. In doing so I got in touch with a number of people supplying all kinds of evidence. In the course of that I was pointed to another fact I entirely overlooked earlier. This unexpectedly dragged the 89CE into the matter.

Because of that, the part about the 89CE I had in mind was extended in order to use the obtained info in a suitable way instead of allowing it to get lost on my harddisk. The more so since so much help came out of unexpected corners yielding highly interesting information about this particuliar part of Alfa Romeo CART history. So thatís why this chapter about the hardware starts with the 89CEs.

According to records, there were two 89CE chassis built. Itís a publicised fact that one of them was a brand new chassis, while the other one was decribed as being a slightly modified 88C which even had the pushrod front suspension. The man entering and running the cars, Johnny Capels, made it known, however, that two genuine 89CEs were in fact built. The slightly modified 88C had been a third car Ė chassis 88C-009, the modified test hack originally used in Italy to be precise.

The whereabouts of 88C-009 are unknown. It was damaged in its final race outing, the '89 Nazareth race. The car wasn't repaired although it was prepared for show-car duties later on. It was handed over by Capels Racing to Alfa Romeo but has disappeared from the public view since.

The two 89CEs were also kept on by Capels for a while until he settled everything properly with March. Once everything was dealt with he handed the cars back to Alfa Romeo. They weren't used for any other duties other than show cars.

As was mentioned in Part 12, one of the cars supposedly found its way into the motorsport area of the Sitev Technology show at Geneva, Switzerland. Photographic or any other evidence of this event hasn't shown up yet. Later, one of the cars was shown on the Alfa Romeo stand at the Amsterdam road car show in the RAI congress center in early 1991.

Lacking any indication of its kind of chassis, this car was on display on the Alfa Romeo stand at the Amsterdam RAI road car show in January and February 1991. Johnny Capels recognized this car as the first-built 89CE. (photo HG)

One 89CE is located in the Alfa Romeo museum. The car has a March chassis plate which reads 89C-01E. Pictures of that car can be found in Part 7. This was the first 89CE I traced back, and the starting point for all the confusion since, as we will see later on, I found out where March chassis plate 89CE-02 had gone. And it was not on an actual 89CE car.

When I made contact with Johnny Capels, he told me he had owned an 89CE that was now still in the USA. Once Alfa Romeo retired from CART racing, one 89CE went back to Johnny Capels in appreciation for his efforts with Alfa Romeo. The car eventually went into a private collection. Johnny Capels identified the car as the first one built and the one that has been raced most often of the two 89CEs.

Since I knew the location of the chassis plate of the second 89CE (not on an 89CE car) I concluded that the car Capels mentioned had to be chassis 02 lacking its chassis plate. But Capels insisted the car in the USA was the original chassis 01 and had the chassis plate to confirm it. Uh, two chassis numbered 01?

I then forwarded a picture of the Alfa Museum-owned 89CE's chassis plate to Johnny Capels, and he replied by telling that the US car was missing its March chassis plate on the location where he knew it had to be, but it did have another registration plate. The pictures he forwarded showed an Alfacorse chassis plate stating the car was 89C-01. Capels also confirmed that the chassis plate on the picture I had forwarded to him was a genuine March plate. But he had no answer to the question of why the plate that should have been on the US-based car was now in fact on the Italian sister car. And dear reader, neither do I.

About the only safe statements one can make about the whereabouts of the two 89CEs are these. Both cars still exist. The first of them is in the USA in a private collection. Given my experiences with Johnny Capels (no other than positive) I believe him on his word that this is indeed the first car. But the car had its March chassis plate taken off for whatever reason to be given an Alfacorse registration plate. The car also bears a CART identification number. The pictures of the car and their ID plates as they appear here are kindly provided by Johnny Capels.

 

 

 

This car is March 89CE-01, the first of two cars built and the one raced most often. It has no March chassis plate but according Johnny Capels this car still has slight modifications that only the 89CE-01 ever had. (photos courtesy of Johnny Capels)

The second 89CE car is in Italy as part of the Alfa Romeo museum's collection. This car does have a March chassis plate that suggests it is the first car. But based on the information supplied by Johnny Capels I believe this to be the second car built, having been given its sister car's chassis plate for whatever reason. The pictures of the 89CE at Arese are kindly provided by Arjan de Roos.

 

This car is identified as 89CE-01, but based on Johnny Capels's statements this has to be 89CE-02 fitted with the chassis plate of 89CE-01. (photos courtesy of Arjan de Roos)

But then why do I bring up all these details about the 89CE in a series of articles covering the 90CA?

The 90CAs

At least three March 90CAs have been built, all of them having been seen at Indianapolis. Patrick Racing member Scott Roembke has the following recollections about the delivery of the cars.

Before the season opener at Phoenix the team had only one car. The second car was delivered for the Phoenix weekend, the third car shortly before Indianapolis. Roembke recalls that there may have been a fourth tub since the team had lots of spare parts. Guerrero's wrecked car was never repaired. As for what eventually happened to the cars after they were parked, Roembke believes that they, along with the spares, went to Alfa Romeo. He also stated that Patrick Racing never owned any of the í89 cars.

Another team member, Larry Faust also recalls that by mid-summer the cars were sent back to Alfa Romeo, including the remains of the car wrecked by Roberto.

If the Alfacorse press kit is correct there might have been a fourth car built as well. So at this time the definitive fate of all the cars since July 1990 (when they were parked) is still unknown but that doesnít mean they all vanished entirely.

Initially I found traces of only one car after they were ditched. The May 2005 edition of American magazine Vintage Motorsport carried an advertisement for Al Unserís March 90CA, complete with engine, as offered by a Swiss company, suggesting the car, at least at that time, was in Switzerland. What happened with the car prior to May 2005 remains a mystery but as late as July 2009 the company's website still listed the car for sale and located in France. The webpage (I saw it for the first time in August 2006) contains pictures by a digital camera and the info hidden in the files indicates the pictures were taken early January 2005.

The curious part was the car was said to be chassis number 002. But then, according to the information supplied by the IMS Museum historian Donald Davidson, chassis 2 (002) had to be the one wrecked by Guerrero.

So was monocoque 002 restored and then given the bodywork of the car scoring the best finish of the cars that started at Indianapolis? What I have seen from the wrecked car I seriously doubt whether the tub could have been built back up to running conditions.

But then, a surprise. When I contacted the Marchives website about a matter I needed to clear about the 90CA, it turned out the people at Marchives were unfamiliar with type designation 90CA. According to their information the 1990 Patrick cars were varieties of the 89CE.

I directed them to the Swiss website where the 90CA on offer could be seen. The website carried a picture of the chassis plate and Andy Gilberg of Marchives pointed out to me it appeared to read 89CE-002. So Marchives were proven right for the time being about the 90CA not existing, leaving me very embarrassed for having failed to notice the chassis plate was from an entirely different type of car, since the chassis plate on the 90CA indeed read 89CE 002Ö Since then, it has also been brought under my attention that the chassis plate might not read 89C but could also be read as 88C!

However, further correspondence led to Marchives accepting 90CA as a genuine separate March type. But the question remained: how could a car offered for sale and unmistakably a 1990-type 90CA end up with a chassis plate suggesting it is a 89CE? And was it really a coincidence that the chassis number belonged to the 89CE that, up until that moment at least, had not yet appeared in sight? Because at that time I had not been in touch with Johnny Capels yet and I was still believing that the two existing 89CEs were a genuine 89CE and the modified 88C renamed 89CE. From this point on I put more efforts into the 89CEs as well. At that time, it meant trying to locate the other 89CE. And according to the available info, that had to be the modified 88C redesignated 89CE. And since the car was without its 89CE chassis plate, it could so easily have been identified as yet another of the 88Cs. The only hope I had of revealing the true identity of this car was its intact survival with an Alfa V8. The chances of that having happened appeared to be slim.

Rather soon however, I found out the truth about the 89CEs. Thanks to getting in touch with Johnny Capels I found what was for me the missing 89CE sooner than I could have hoped for. And that's how I got the evidence of indeed another genuine 89CE in existence, one without a March chassis plate, thereby supporting the theory that the 89CE plate on the 90CA in France could indeed be original but taken from the 89CE it belonged to and fitted on the wrong car, and even worse, a car of an entirely different type.

So if a 89CE chassis plate is capable of ending up on a 90CA chassis, then I have no hesitations to accept Johnny Capelsís story that he recognized the American 89CE as the true 89CE-01 and the 89CE in Arese must be 89CE-02 but fitted with a wrong chassis plate as well.

Several attempts to contact the company offering the 90CA with 89CE chassis plate in order to obtain more information yielded no results whatsoever.

Early May 2009, the car was offered for sale on another website. But by now it was advertised as being one of the two 89CEs! The chassis plate confusion at workÖ

The pictures presented here are the ones that were found on the Swiss website on which the car was offered for sale.

 

 

 

 

 

These pictures appeared on the first page (existing from August 2006 on) where the erstwhile owner of this car offered it for sale.

The true identity of this car remains covered in a cloud of mystery. Because of that, as from June 2014 on, I have to withdraw any previously made identifications of this car. I simply have no more clue about the true identity of this car.

Up to the next surprise

On the Marchives website pictures appeared of an unfinished 1990 March Indycar said to be a customer car that never raced. Marchives also owns the majority of the drawings of this car and registered the monocoque as the 90C.

You might think that because of this website and all the research I did I am a big fan of March and have a lot of interest in their efforts. That is not the case. Apart from the Porsche and Alfa Romeo powered cars and some specific chassis I have little interest in March's efforts in general.

But still, this mysterious car on the Marchives website puzzled me. I had read about March's decision in 1988 to stop building customer cars for the time being and concentrate on the factory projects with Porsche and Alfa Romeo. Then they announced they wanted to return to building customer cars for 1991. So could this monocoque have been the 1991-type prototype? Or since it appeared to have some 90CA-like details, was it by chance a 90CA tub?

In 2014, however, I received information saying that the monocoque in question is not a 90CA, which is why an original part of the content of this page has been removed.

Then, from an undisclosed source, came the information that all Alfa-powered CART cars, with one exception, were crushed after being discarded by Patrick Racing. At the time of writing it is unclear which car was saved from destruction. The most likely candidate when putting all evidence together is the American 89CE.

But when taking the Alfacorse Patrick Lolas into account the comment that all cars were destroyed is proven incorrect. There were at least two Lola-Alfas surviving the crusher, and perhaps a third.

Reading over the 1992 Hungness yearbook, you can find traces of evidence that Patrick Racing had sold off at least two of its Lolas to Hemelgarn Racing. These two cars were then converted to Buick power. One of them (Danny Sullivanís Indianapolis car in 1991) was qualified and raced by Buddy Lazier in the 500. Things get a bit obscure from here on. It was told to have been entered in 1993 as well but then failed to qualify when its engine broke on the final day of qualifying. Buddy Lazier had an engine failure in the final minutes of Bump Day í93 in a Ď91 Lola-Buick numbered #20. But #20 was no Hemelgarn entry. The chassis then ended up in the hands of Dan Drinnan who entered the car for the first-ever IRL 500 race in 1996. Drinnanís car was the oldest car entered. He failed to qualify after a major crash in practice.

The 1992 Hungness yearbook lists that Team Hemelgarn entry #96 was another ex-Patrick Alfa chassis. But car #96 was no Hemelgarn entry, since Johncock eventually qualified a Ď91 Lola numbered #92. I assume that #96 is a typo and that it should read #92 instead. The chassis numbers of the Guerrero í81 car and Johncockís í92 car donít match however. Perhaps Johncockís mount was a spare car at Indianapolis in í91 or acquired after the ď500Ē.

Comment added in 2014: The Lola information listed above can't be taken as accurate. It is what I managed to find out using the info I had available at the time. That information is incomplete and hazy at best.

Apart from a 89CE, the Alfa Museum at Arese also owns a Lola, painted in the 1991 Miller colors but it is as yet unclear whether this is another Lola T91/00 or perhaps a Lola T90/00 that replaced the March 90CAs. But letís restrict this to March chassis from here on.

So, the final count for at least six different March cars known to have been Alfa Romeo-powered and what is believed to be their current location (at the end of 2009 at least) reads as follows:

Car description Chassis number Location
The 88C hybrid 88C-009 fate unknown
The first 89CE 89C-01E USA, as part of a private collection, lacking March chassis plate
The second 89CE 89CE-002 Alfa Romeo Museum at Arese, Italy, fitted with March chassis plate 89C-01E
The first 90CA 90CA-1 exact fate unknown
The second 90CA 90CA-2 exact fate unknown
The third 90CA 90CA-3 exact fate unknown

Note: the numbers in italics are given for ID purposes only. The exact numerals on the chassis plates in question are unknown. The numbers in bold appear on chassis plates, with photographic evidence reproduced here.

Then we move on to the hardware of which their exact identification could not yet be made. At least one 90CA still exists. It has however a faulty chassis plate suggesting it is 89CE-002.

So in my search for 90CAs, I havenít found a single chassis plate of any of the three cars that were built and raced. The only chassis plates that I found were the ones of the even rarer 89CEs. And both of these in wrong places: in cars where they donít belong. So a sad, if not embarrassing observation can be made about of all the accounted-for Alfa Romeo-powered March Indycars: none of the three cars known to have survived carries the correct March chassis plate, that is, in case they had one to begin with.

However, for a March 2010 update on the chassis identities, go to the bottom of this page...

It would have been normal to expect the Alfa engines went back to Italy. So imagine my surprise when during the summer of 1996 I ran into an example of the Alfa Indy V8 on my visit to the St. Louis car museum. I would not at all be surprised if well-known car collector Chuck Haines (who lives in the area) had something to do with it. This museum in St. Louis is a museum with an ever-changing inventory since all cars on display are for sale and then replaced by new cars for sale.

The specification of engine is unknown but this is the one I saw.

 

 

An unexpected discovery at the St. Louis car museum in early August 1996. (photo HG)

Then in 2000, however, once again back in St. Louis, I was a guest of Chuck Haines and permitted to have a look in his 'heaven for Indycar and Can Am fans'. And much to my surprise, I saw an Alfa Romeo engine! The same one I saw four years earlier?

An Alfa Romeo V8, type ('phase') undisclosed. Located in the USA as late as September 2000. (photo HG)

When I contacted Chuck Haines about the way he got his hands on this engine he came with a story which adds even more confusion about the entire March-Alfa Romeo CART project and the whereabouts of the cars in particular.

According to Haines he had obtained a March-Alfa Romeo he believed to be a third 89C. He sold off the tub to a customer who wanted to use the 'coque for a Bonnevile Speedster but he kept the Alfa V8. Haines provided pictures of the car and it appeared to look like a car prepared and decorated for exposition duties, promoting March. It definitely wasn't instantly recognizable as a 89P, 90P or 90CA. To my utter surprise the car also featured pushrod suspension at the front, like the 89CE. So a third 89CE?

Johnny Capels replied very quickly after I forwarded him the picture and he pointed out why it couldn't be a 89CE. Besides that, March had never built a third 89CE since he, as the March-Alfa entrant, had never got one.

So what kind of car had been fitted with an Alfa Romeo V8? Regrettably, according to Haines, the monocoque in question was now so intensely modified that it is next to impossible to verify the car's original identity.

The Lolas of 1987 and beyond all had pushrod front suspension but there are several details on this mystery car I canít trace back to the post-1986 Lolas. Besides that, a Lola decorated with large March decals?

A mysterious Indycar fitted with an Alfa Romeo V8. Here it is seen before it was taken apart and modified.
(photo courtesy of Chuck Haines)

So that's the umpteenth mystery regarding the CART March-Alfas, and not the first one I ran into. I donít anticipate it to be the last one either should I pursue this project any further.

March 2010: ďThe Month of Ma.. erm, scratch that: ďThe month of a March 90CAĒ

For a long time since I finished writing on the 90CA project, I was able to leave it the way it was. There were no subsequent discoveries whatsoever, other then the fact that late 2009 I saw an announcement on a Swiss website advertising the 89CE-badged 90CA for sale that the car was at last sold.

The most appropriate date to see new developments regarding a March car was of course the Month of March. It really started on cue. On March 1, 2010, as a result of this publication, I was contacted by an Italian journalist, Roberto Motta. He contacted me since he had knowledge of the whereabouts of a 90CA chassis in Italy.

We exchanged some information and pictures, and combining all the information we were able to come up with the following addition on the fate of the various March 90CA chassis: the car located in Italy is chassis 90CA-003. A picture indicating such was provided from Italy.

This picture shows the chassis identification plate within the car located in Italy. (photo courtesy Roberto Motta)

According to the data supplied by IMS historian Donald Davidson this car was driven by Roberto Guerrero in the race. Using my own database and pictures, I concluded that it was entered as the 82, practiced as the white 20T and raced as a black 20. I photographed the car extensively on Thursday May 17, 1990. Some of these pictures have already appeared elsewhere in this series. One of those, however, wasnít used since I felt it was a useless failure. But the failure provided crucial evidence in the identification of the car. The picture in question was an attempt to photograph the chassis plate inside the monocoque.

I took this picture of the chassis plate in the car that I photographed on May 17, 1990. Regrettably, there is not much to make of what the tag said, that's why I didn't use the picture previously in another part of this series. (photo HG)

Normally when I try to make such pictures, I focus on the familiar light-blue March chassis plates that the March cars normally carry. But somehow, I canít recall that this 90CA carried such a light-blue plate. Curiously however, the car as it resides in Italy nowadays does have it. Nevertheless, a positive ID was quickly made. The dark-blue March tag appearing on my picture was still there as well as the USAC decal that was attached upside down.

This picture clearly shows the light-blue upside down USAC ID decal I had photographed a little under 20 years before. It is still attached to the car today. (photo courtesy Roberto Motta)

On the 1990 picture the CART ID tag as seen on this picture is missing, but that is easy to explain: 90CA-003ís first race was Indianapolis, a USAC event. Its first CART event was yet to follow. Only then it would go through CARTís inspection procedure and obtain the CART ID tag visible on the 2010 picture. The earliest occasion this could have happened was at Milwaukee, the week after Indianapolis.

So this meant this car indeed had to be the 90CA driven by Roberto at Indy. Sp why did it lack the light-blue March plate back in 1990? Maybe because the car was brand new and freshly delivered, leaving March to add the plate later on?

As for its current condition, the car is being restored by Dywa Racing into running condition. For reasons of convenience, the engine used is one of the latest 1991 spec. Current owner Dydo Monguzzi has two body sets, one in the familiar black Genuine Draft trim but also one in white, the colour it used in practice and qualifying. Since the owner prefers the white version, the car is already white but the trim is not entirely correct yet. It will however be brought into the condition it had during practice and qualifying.

March-Alfa Romeo 90CA-003 as it looked early 2010. (photo courtesy Roberto Motta)

This particular 90CA is the first of the cars to appear with a genuine March chassis plate that does belong to the car. If chassis numbering for the 90CAs has been identical for all cars, this means that the three finished cars were identified as 90CA-001, 002 and 003. This is not certain, however, since the two known chassis plates for the two 89CA chassis carried different styles of chassis numbering.

But also, with 90CA-003 now allocated and identified, it narrows down the options for the real identity of the 89CE-badged 90CA. Given the amount of work it would have taken to repair the crashed car of Guerrero (the second chassis that was built) the most likely identity of the misnamed car is the first 90CA, numbered 90CA-001 if we use the numbering system known from the lone 90CA chassis plate that is known to exist.

Combining all the information to date we can create the following overview of what is known about the fate and conditions of the Alfa Romeo-powered March Indycars. This is the state as known on March 23th, 2010. Chassis identification names in bold are confirmed IDs, as seen and photographed, the ones in italics are IDs assumed to be used but of which no photographic evidence has yet been found.

Car description Chassis number Location
The 88C hybrid 88C-009 Fate unknown
The first 89CE 89C-01E In USA, as part of a private collection, lacking March chassis plate
The second 89CE 89CE-002 At Alfa Romeo Museum at Arese, Italy, fitted with March chassis plate 89C-01E
The first 90CA 90CA-001 Fate unknown
The second 90CA 90CA-002 Fate unknown
The third 90CA 90CA-003 Currently in Italy, being restored to Indianapolis practice trim by Dywa Racing
The fourth 90CA 90CA-004 Unknown if it was ever built and if so, its fate is unknown

Note: This page was updated in June 2014. The above list is still valid. No additional verifiable information that is beyond doubt has surfaced since then, making the list still as accurate as it can be.