Alfonso de Portago

Alfonso de Portago, OSCA, Ferrari, klemcoll

This is a fine portrait of a famous driver – Alfonso de Portago taken at the Nurburgring before a sports car race which preceded the German Grand Prix on August 1, 1954. Portago was driving a 1500cc OSCA MT4 painted his preferred dull black. He went off the road and did not finish.

Portago’s full name was Alfonso Antonio Vicente Eduardo Angel Blas Francisco de Borja Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, Marquis de Portago, Marquis de Moratalla, Count of Mejorada, Count of Pemia and Duke of Alagon. His first name was in honor of his godfather, Alfonso XIII, King of Spain. He was perhaps one of the most followed European celebrities of the mid-1950s, already a noted multi-sport athlete before he rode with Luigi Chinetti in a Ferrari 375MM in the Carrera Panamericana Mexico in November 1953. That experience, which he said he had found terrifying, gave him a taste of what would become his new calling as a racing driver.

He eventually worked his way into a series of drives for Ferrari, no doubt assisted by his substantial wealth which came from his mother and which allowed hm to buy some of the cars he drove.

Portago was also good for a quote. Talking with photojournalist and writer Robert Daley during the Winter Olympics at Cortina, Daley asked him what his young American wife thought of his racing and bobsledding. Portago said, “I do not ask her. I am Spanish.” At Sebring in 1957, where he would finish seventh with Luigi Musso, his last major race before the Mille Miglia in which a crash would end his life, he told writer Ken Purdy, “If I die tomorrow, still I have had 28 wonderful years.”

Photo by Yves Debraine ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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