Last revised: 29-01-2012

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Car of the Month - October 2011

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Stanguellini 1100 Sport Internazionale - barchetta body - manufactured in 1949

Stanguellini was a family business located in the very heart of Italian car manufacture: Modena. It was founded as far back as the late 19th century as a company specializing in engineering but as soon as the first motorized vehicles arrived the attention shifted to this new market. In 1925 Stanguellini entered motorsport with a motorcycle team and when young Vittorio Stanguellini, a school friend of Enzo Ferrari, took over the business in 1932 a Fiat dealership was already part of the company. Vittorio started to modify cars for competition in 1935, mostly open 2-seaters with 750 cc or 1100 cc engines based on Fiat models, and began a racing team in 1937. This team was quite successful, scoring victories in famous road races as the Targa Florio and the Mille Miglia with Fiat and Maserati based cars, but also in the Tobruk to Tripoli race with a small 750 cc car.
During the second World War racing activities were put on hold but soon after Stanguellini picked up where it had left off, being successful in the numerous races of the early post war era. In 1946 Stanguellini established itself as a car and components manufacturer. The next step came in 1947 when Stanguellini started to built their own chassis, tubular steel frames that provided high rigidity at reduced weight. This was followed by a self developed alloy twin cam cylinder head in 1949 and ultimately a completely alloy 750 cc engine in 1950. First models badged as a Stanguellini were the 750 and 1100 Sport Nazionale, competition cars based on the Fiat 500 and 508C platform and running gear. 1947 saw the introduction of one of the very few luxury cars made by Stanguellini: the Bertone coupe, based on the Fiat 1100 (model 508C and later 1100/103) and offered up to 1954. That same year the 1100 Sport Internazionale (SI) appeared on the track, fitted with the tubular chassis and later with the special twin cam cylinder head. It gradually replaced the 1100 Sport Nazionale and was offered up to 1957.
The 1100 SI started out with 60 hp @ 6000 rpm but during its career engine power output was increased further and further, up to 96 hp @ 8000 rpm in the end. Amazing figures at the time which made the nimble cars, tipping the scales at just 550 kg, fly. On the picture you see a bit of the alloy head on the tiny 4-cylinder engine of the 1100 SI and the two double Weber carburetters poking out beside it. Later cars often didn't have the enveloping bodywork with the typical grill but had "siluro" (torpedo) bodies with cycle wings over the front wheels, which tend to look more old fashioned. Still, the new 750 SI which was unveiled in 1948 impressed even more. This fly-weight car of around 450 kg started with a relatively modest 40 hp out of the Fiat based engine but the new Stanguellini alloy engine fitted from 1950 squeezed up to 75 hp @ 8500 rpm from a mere 750 cc displacement. This was enough to impress even the Americans and a number of these cars were shipped to the US, some to be studied by the manufacturer of Mercury outboard engines who was curious as to how so much power could come from such a little capacity.
It were those little power packs that lead to the car that ensured Stanguellini place amongst the great: the Formula Junior. In 1955 the engine of the 750 SI was fitted in an aluminum single seater body to produce a formula racing car but after involvement and advise of famous racing driver Juan Manuel Fangio, who had befriended Vittorio Stanguellini, this 750 Corsa was replaced by the superior FJ in 1958. It had the 1100 cc twin cam engine that produced around 70 hp fitted in front of a 400 kg single seater construction and it totally dominated the Formula Junior class up to 1960. The FJ was also the biggest commercial success of all Stanguellini cars, with over a hundred made. When the rear engined Lotus and Cooper Formula Junior cars took to the track in 1960 however the Stanguellini was immediately outdated. Production of the FJ was stopped in 1961, a few years after that of the 1100 SI and 750 SI.

There were a few attempts to produce a competitive rear engined racer in the years that followed but those faltered because of lack of a suitable engine and funds. So Stanguellini car production evaporated in the 1960s and the company concentrated on producing tuning equipment and engineering for others, next to the Fiat dealership. One brief return to car design was made in the early 1970s when Stanguellini was awarded the contract to develop the Momo Mirage. This was to be a luxury car with Italian style and an American V8 engine for the US market named after Alfred Momo and totally different from what Stanguellini had stood for. Never the less it turned out to be a beautiful coupe styled and realized by Frua. About four of these cars were made in 1971 after which the project fell victim of the oil crisis. Since then Stanguellini has stayed with keeping their heritage alive and their cars on the road.
Production of Stanguellini cars was very limited. A few dozen were made of the 750 and 1100 cc sportscars each, all more or less unique. There was a handful of Bertone coupes, some redesigned by Scaglietti into futuristic finned shapes. A number of one offs, specials and variants were made. But all was dwarfed by the number of single seaters produced, mostly the Formula Junior. That model is the best known and most common (if you can say that about a racing car) Stanguellini. But the pretty little sportcars made by the "Magician of Modena" in his "Courtyard of Miracles" are the most interesting; all brimful of history and special Italian character.
You can find more information about Stanguellini by clicking this link.

© André Ritzinger, Amsterdam, Holland

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