The Grimace of Concentration


Arbuthnot, Alfa Romeo, Brooklands

This quite fierce-seeming driver is Robert M. W. Arbuthnot concentrating hard at the wheel of his Alfa Romeo 8C35 Grand Prix car during the Campbell Trophy at Brooklands on August 7, 1939. He did well for a while getting up to fourth position before a spin sent him to the back of the field. But he did manage to set a new class record on the Brooklands road circuit of 75.57 mph. The strange rather flat triangular exhaust end is a so-called Brooklands Silencer which was required at Brooklands to reduce exhaust noise. Arbuthnot was born in  1914 in Aberdeen Scotland where his wealthy family was in banking which gave him the means to take up motor racing.

However, Arbuthnot had a comparatively short motorsports career, taking to the sport not long before World War II and also partnering in High Speed Motors in London and Watford, perhaps somewhat to better prepare his cars. He considered racing at Le Mans in 1939 as he also had an Alfa Romeo 2900B spider, but did not proceed with an entry. After the War he acquired the remains of two Lagondas which had run at Le Mans in 1939 but which had been all but destroyed by the explosion of a V1 rocket during the bombardment of England. From these he constructed a single-seater Lagonda special which he entered for the 1946 Indianapolis 500. On the way to Indy its tow car broke down and the special was damaged when struck by the car behind. Arbuthnot did drive the Lagonda special in practice for the 500, but the engine then spun a bearing and the car could not appear for qualifying. Later that year, Arbuthnot was killed in a head-on collision on the Watford Bypass while driving a Peugeot.

The Alfa Romeo he is driving here was well-known in British prewar racing, having formally been owned by the Swiss driver, and later novelist, Hans Ruesch who had bought it in 1936 from Scuderia Ferrari and had sometimes shared driving it with Richard Seaman. During his ownership, Ruesch ran the 8C35 in many races in both England and on the Continent as well as in South Africa. Before Arbuthnot’s death the Alfa went to Dennis Poore in settlement of a loan. Poore painted it green, made certain mechanical modifications, and competed with it extensively, primarily in hill climbs.

Today, this famous ex-Scuderia Ferrari 8C35 resides in America and is still being seen in historic racing.

Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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