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Estimate: 150,000£-250,000£
Estimate: €218,000 - €363,000
Estimate: $300,000 - $500,000

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of £447.000

Engine No. 261D

From the Brazilian Collector Mr. Abraham Kogan

190bhp (est.), 7-litre, inline side valve eight-cylinder engine with quadruple Winfield carburettors, three-speed gearbox, front suspension via semi-elliptical leaf springs and beam axle, rear suspension via semi-elliptical leaf springs and live axle, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes

Car collectors have known for a long time that some of the greatest barn finds have come out of Argentina. Not so many realize why that is so. To understand, it is necessary to consider Buenos Aires in the inter-war years. Argentina was at that time the world’s third largest economy – and motor racing was virtually the national sport. Some of the greatest drivers came from this vibrant motoring world, including Juan Manuel Fangio, who never left Argentina till the age of 40, but when he retired at 47, he had won an unprecedented five world driving championships.

As great as Fangio was, it was Ernesto Blanco who was the national hero. Unlike Fangio, he never went to Europe to race – but in Argentina his record was unsurpassed.

Born in 1893, Blanco began his motor racing career with motorcycles in the early 1920s, but by the 1926 he had won the ACA 12 hour race at the Circuito do Morón. His original racing car was also a Reo, purchased from the distributor in Buenos Aires who had changed the name of the car to Rio, as the word reo in Spanish translates as ‘criminal’.

Ernesto Blanco’s Reo

Ernesto Blanco’s second Reo (spelled with an ‘e’ now) was designed by Macoco de Alzaga and Luis Viglione one afternoon in 1930. In a 1974 interview with Corsa magazine, Macoco de Alzaga claimed: ‘Luis Viglione and myself designed the car one afternoon in 1930. We were trying to copy the “Gold Seal Special” Chrysler of Gaudno, which was a gorgeous car.’ The body was new, but the car was mechanically very similar to the Chrysler they were copying.

They kept the Reo engine, rated at 125 bhp, although displacement was increased from the stock 358 cu. in. (5,840cc) to around 7 litres. Even though the Reo engine was a fairly conventional design for the period, an examination of the design specifications sheds some light, particularly on its reliability. The basic design was a nine main bearing eight with full pressure lubrication. The crankshaft was chrome hardened, and the pistons were aluminium. They fitted Winfield carburettors and a custom exhaust manifold, but changed little else. According to Alzaga, the result was good for 180–190 bhp – more than enough to be competitive. The standard Reo ‘Silent Second’ transmission was retained, as was the spiral bevel rear axle.

The chassis was not so easy. The original Reo frame was very high, and they found it necessary to modify the rear of the chassis frame, increasing the curvature and lowering the frame down over the axle. In addition, the front to rear weight balance was lacking given the huge size and weight of the inline eight-cylinder Reo engine, so they moved the drivetrain back several inches. Volpi brakes were added later to improve stopping power and for better resistance to fading.

The Reo in Competition

Blanco began racing this car in September 1931, and, in what is believed to be its first outing, finished second in the 500 kilometre Delegación del Automóvil Club Argentino en Arrecifes. Over the next ten years, Blanco would earn an astonishing twelve first place finishes – along with five seconds and a half dozen third and fourth place finishes.

During the 1930s, Blanco would race – and win – against most of the greats, including Fangio and legendary SSK driver Carlos Zatuszek. In fact, the rivalry between the latter and Blanco was intense, and was followed closely in the newspapers of the day. One report describes the battle for the Gran Premio Nacional (Great National Prize):

‘The German driver, Carlos Zatuszek could have won in 14 hrs 51 minutes and 7 seconds, but on arriving at the San Vicente part of the race, Zatuszek’s car, which was going at a tremendous speed crashed into the barrier. He suffered minor cuts and bruises, but he also suffered with an ear injury from hitting the steering wheel, which then had to be operated on. His co-driver was uninjured. Fortunately for Ernesto Blanco, Zatuszek was eliminated and Blanco won.

Ernesto Blanco finished in 14 hrs 59 minutes and 52 seconds.’

In 1936, Blanco entered the 500 mile race at Rafaela. In spite of his popularity, he
wasn’t expected to win as the competition was fierce. As it happened, he spent much of the race wheel to wheel, swapping the lead with Carlos Arzani in his Alfa 8C 2900, which had been converted to single-seater configuration. After keeping the crowd on the edges of their seats for hours, Blanco finally took the chequered flag, to the astonishment and delight of his very vocal Argentinean fans.

Although Blanco retired the Reo in 1955, he continued racing until just before his death in 1961.

The Blanco Reo Today

After Blanco’s death, the Reo was found in a farmer’s field in rural Argentina by Roberto Vigneau who, along with his father-in-law Busquet Serra, restored the car – not as a concours car, but to the way it was when Blanco raced it. It no longer retains the original steering wheel, although an accurate replica has been fitted. The dash and instruments have been conserved, and are original to the car. The balance of the car was found to be equally solid and complete, and was restored as needed to make it as safe to drive as it ever was, and to respect its heritage as something of an Argentinean national treasure.

It is in decidedly healthy condition today, and has done many demonstration laps on modern tracks – never failing to both impress and amaze the driver. According to Richard Heseltine, writing for the May 2005 issue of Motorsport, ‘Once primed, the Reo erupts into life with a whirlwind of uncoordinated din, finally, reluctantly, settling down to a lumpy idle. This ungodly bellow has to be heard to be believed.’ The driving experience was no less visceral. On the subject of braking, Heseltine says, ‘seemingly abyss–bound with every pump of the middle pedal you simply rely on the Reo’s admittedly very impressive ability to traverse corners broadside to scrub off excess speed’.

An extensive (1–2 inches thick) clipping file documents both Blanco’s career and the Reo in Argentina. Dozens of newspaper accounts of his exploits – often front page news – make the importance of motor racing in Argentina very clear. In more modern times, the car was featured in a retrospective article in Argentina's Corsa magazine, published in August 1974, with Don Manuel Busquet de Serra reliving old memories of the car. More recently, in May 2005, Motorsport published the article about Blanco and the car mentioned above.


The Reo we are pleased to offer here is an automobile that without question carries a value which transcends its automotive origins. And although Ernesto Blanco is no longer with us, the tool he used to earn the undying admiration of his countrymen survives to remind us of who he was and what he accomplished.

As a racing driver, his adversaries included some of the greatest names in racing, from Fangio to Zatuszek. His competition included the greatest racing machines ever built, from the brutally competent Mercedes-Benz SSK to Alfa Romeo’s legendary 8C 2900. He beat them all, winning races throughout his astonishing 35-year career.

The Reo we present today was his weapon of choice for more than 22 years.

Reference Number 13185

as of 9/14/2007

Car 1928 REO
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