Season’s Greetings today’s post is only possible thanks to the wonders of the Internet being able to put people in touch who have never met, but have the briefest of shared experiences. Today’s featured car the Costa Brothers Alfa Romeo was built to compete in local races in Zambia at the end of the 1960’s.
Inspired by Carlo Abarth, who had designed several successful racing cars with the engine behind the rear axle, the Costa Special was conceived as a single seater with the driver offset to the right, and with enclosed wheel body work and built in their shop in Ndola on what is known as the Copperbelt.
The design was finalised by trial and error by brothers Remo and Alberto Costa, qualified structural and mechanical engineers from Borgo Val di Taro , Parma, Italy, Remo moved to Zambia as a technical supervisor for FIAT. By 1968 Remo and Alberto had settled into Ndola and having messed around with a FIAT 500 Abarth in Italy fell in with the Racing Club at Ndola Park.
In it’s first incarnation the special appears to have used a crashed Fiat 850 as a donor car and had a 1570cc ALFA Romeo motor, taken from Remo’s Giulia Spyder hanging out behind the rear axle driven through a Volkswagen Beetle gearbox with bodywork covering the motor.
The car was built in the brothers spare time, with the help from a considerable proprotion of the substantial expatriate Italian population in Ndola. They even had contacts that were able to secure some parts at short notice by Alitalia one of the few European Airlines operating scheduled flights out of Zambia. The all enclosing rear bodywork was replaced with a rear deck to improve engine cooling.
Remo and Alberto shared the driving. Ken Lancashire who wrote many reports on local racing for the Zambian Press seems to have made a habit of mistakenly refering to Alberto as Alfredo, that “might” have had something to do with the consumption of a local brew called Castle.
The car was classified as a Group 6 prototype sports car, although it was the only entry in the class, it was allowed to race against a potpourri of entries, above stalled Kevin Cameron raises his arm on the grid in his modified Elan, at Ndola Park as the Costa Special and an as yet unidentified driver in a modified Mk 1 Ford Cortina get away cleanly.
Remo tells me he has no idea how many races the special won up until the car was sold in 1973 when Remo moved to Nigeria and Alberto to Botswana. Remo says “Alberto (was) faster but also more impulsive , or won or broke , I calmer and slower. Above the Costa Special takes another victory at Ndola Park ahead of a modified Ford Anglia driven by an as yet unidentified driver, note the rudimentary safety features there is a rudimentary bank and a fence between the spectators and and the cars,
this was not always the case as seen in the photo above at a track I believe to be the Lawrence Allen Circuit outside Chingola. Race meetings were run with practice in the morning a mid day scratch race with all the cars starting together followed by an afternoon handicap race with the cars starting individually according to handicap with the slowest away first.
When the Costa Brothers left Zambia in 1973 they sold the car by now fitted with a 1750 cc twin spark Alfa Romeo motor and Colotti 5 speed gearbox to Sergio Pavan. They do not know the ultimate fate of the car but do know that Sergio turned the engine and gearbox round to make it a mid engined racer.
Multo grazie to Remo Costa for sharing today’s photographs from his collection and telling me the details, after seeing a post I left on The Nostalgia Forum three years ago.
During my parents time in Zambia there were 4 or 5 motor racing meetings a year of which my parents and I would go to one or two during school holidays from England. These would draw several thousand paying spectators to the two road courses, Ndola Park and Lawrence Allen Circuit.
If you have information about one other road course Bennett’s also in the Copperbelt, possibly near Kitwe, which I have not been able locate on Google Earth and at least one street circuit that ran through the streets of Garneton a suburb north of Kitwe please get in touch.
I believe Garneton was the scene of the countries first motor sport events held on tarmac, though I am not sure exactly when that was.
If you have any further information and or photographs about motor sport in Zambia or the former Northern Rhodesia on two wheels or four, on road or offroad, please do not hesitate to get in contact. In particular if you are, or know of, journalists by the name of Fidelis Munsongo, Dan Fisher (also a kart racer), or Ken Lancashire all of whom I believe might have reported stories to the Times Of Zambia.
Finally if anyone knows of the wearabouts of Sergio Pavan the second owner of the Casta Brothers Special please get in touch.
Thanks for joining me on this “Made In Zambia” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a Ford GT40 MIII. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, don’t forget to come back now !
Brighton Speed Trials Under Threat of Permanent Cancellation !
In their infinite wisdom, Brighton & Hove City Council are seeking to ban the Brighton Speed Trials from 2014.
If you care about speed and or motorsport history, please sign this linked petition to save Brighton Speed Trials in 2014 and beyond.
It’s a faf to Register before signing, but relatively painless compared to loosing the event which has been run with few interruptions since 1905.
You do not need to be resident in Brighton or even the UK to sign.
Thanks and please spread the word through whatever social media you have at your disposal