Simanaitis Says

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1947 ARSENAL CTA GRAND PRIX CAR PART 1

WHAT DOES THE post-war French Arsenal CTA grand prix car have in common with a locomotive? At first thought, it isn’t the robustness of its construction nor the success of its locomotion. But searching deeper into matters, there is a link, of which more anon. 

In Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, tidbits about this relatively obscure example of grand prix machinery are gleaned from Laurence Pomeroy’s Volume Two of The Grand Prix Car, together with my usual Internet sleuthing.

The Grand Prix Car, in Two Volumes, 1954 Edition, by Laurence Pomeroy, Motor Racing Publications, 1954.

Post-War Motor Sports. It didn’t take long for what Pomeroy called “Restoring the Status Quo Ante-Bellum.” He noted, “The first post-war road race to be held in Europe was run on September 9th, 1945, on the 1 3/4-mile circuit in Bois de Boulogne, just outside Paris….” Hostilities in Europe ended officially on May 8, 1945, thereafter known as Victory in Europe or VE Day.

“During 1946,” Pomeroy continued, “nineteen races were held under various regulations in Europe (starting with the Nice Grand Prix on April 22nd)…” 

Grands Prix. Of the ten major races Pomeroy cited for 1947, nine were identified as Grands Prix, including the Swiss GP held in Berne, the Belgian GP at Spa, the Marne GP on the Rheims circuit in France, and the Italian GP held in Turin. Winning cars were pre-war machines, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Talbot, with one exception: a Ferrari 159 C piloted by Frenchman Raymond Sommer at Turin, that year an event for sports cars.

Pomeroy observed, “It is somewhat astonishing that nearly all the post-war victories in Formula I were secured by pre-war designs and not until 1951 was the basically 1938 1 1/2-litre Alfa Romeo fairly beaten.”

“In France,” he noted, “a series of political and economic crises prevented the development of any 1 1/2-litre supercharged racing cars, although one such, the Arsenal CTA, was designed and built with state funds.” 

The Arsenal CTA. Funding for the Arsenal CTA came from the Centre d’Etude Technique de l’Automobile et du Cycle (the CTA portion), associated with the Arsenal de l’Aéronautique de Châtillon.

According to Wikipedia, Raymond Sommer was instrumental in persuading government ministers to fund “a racing car that could represent France in motor races.”

Here’s the 1947 Arsenal CTA, restored by Josef Otto Rettenmaier, at the 2010 Monaco Classic. Image by gtdreams.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll see how the best intentions aren’t always enough. We’ll see that locomotive link too. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

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