Legendary Names of Alfa Romeo
Nicola graduated with a degree in engineering from the Politecnico di Torino in 1899. After that, he worked for a couple of years abroad and completed a second bachelor degree in electrical engineering in Liège, Belgium. In 1911 he returned to Italy and created "Ing. Nicola Romeo e Co.". The company manufactured machines and equipment for the mining industry. As the company became successful he wanted to expand and acquired a majority of Milan based car manufacturing company A.L.F.A. in 1915. Only three years later, in 1918, the whole company was under Nicola Romeos ownership. A.L.F.A. was renamed to "Società Anonima Italiana Ing. Nicola Romeo". The first car carrying the Alfa Romeo badge was the 1921 Torpedo 20/30 HP. The company gained a good reputation but in 1927 came very close to liquidation. These changes "forced" him to leave in 1928. In his private life he was married to Portuguese Angelina Valadin and fathered seven children; Maurizio, Edoardo, Nicholas, Elena, Giulietta, Piera and Irene. Nicola Romeo died on 15 August, 1938 in his home at Lake Como at the age of 62.
Born in Piacenza, Merosi trained as a building surveyor, before he discovered his gift for the automotive engineering. He gained first experiences at Bianchi and the running department of Fiats. Soon he was hired (1910) as a new chief engineer to new company A.L.F.A which was established at Portello in Milan.
The predecessor company, which had manufactured licensed products of the French automaker Darracq, had failed. The first Alfa designed by Merosi was A.L.F.A 24 HP, which came on the market in 24 June 1910. From its 4.1 litres capacity were obtained a proud 42 hp and the cars reached 100 km/h (62 mph), at that time a very considerable maximum speed. In the first year already 50 pieces were sold. The cars proved to be durable and reliable vehicles with an elegant design. Higher HP models followed in the coming years. In 1914 Merosi designed the first Alfa Romeo DOHC engine, 4 cylinders, 4.5 litres and 16 valve head, this was used in 1914 Alfa Romeo Grand Prix car. World War I stopped development and it wasn't until 1922 Merosi came again with DOHC engine. The beginning of the 20's also saw the luxurious Alfa Romeo G1.
Merosi recognized also the meaning of racing both for the development and for the mark image. Thus already 1911 Alfa Romeo HP took part in the Targa Florio. The first pure racing cars were starting from 1920 the RL and RM as well as the P1. 1923 Targa Florio was won for the first time.
1924 Merosi left the company and he was replaced with new chief engineer Vittorio Jano. He worked afterwards for Isotta Fraschini and died at the age of 84 in 1956.
Vittorio Jano was born on April 22, 1891 in San Giorgio Canavese, the son of the Technical Director at one of Turin's two arsenals. At 18, after completing instruction at the Instituto Professionale Operaio in Turin he took a job as a draughtsman for the Rapid motor works. In 1911 he became an employee of Fiat and worked under the brilliant designer Carlo Cavalli. Fiat at the time was one of the world leaders in automobile technology. In 1921 he became head of a design team within Fiat and worked on the historic 2 liter 805 race car. During this time he befriended Luigi Bazzi who would later move to Alfa Romeo in Milan.
Nicola Romeo owned the Italian franchise of the American Ingersoll company, makers of earth-working equipment, pneumatic drills and air compressors. Because of WW I the importation of equipment became a major problem and Ingersoll decided to give Romeo the license to design and manufacture their products in Italy. Romeo took control of the Alfa factory in Milan and produced the equipment there. After the war there was a need for automobiles in Italy and Romeo turned to producing automobiles full-time as Alfa-Romeos. Motor sport was seen as a proper avenue for the promotion of this "new" company and the former Darracq engineer, Giuseppe Morosi, was tasked to design a new race car. The P1 Alfa was a disappointment and Luigi Bazi, Alfa-Romeo's test driver suggested that they hire the young Fiat designer Vittorio Jano. Fiat had a reputation for producing talented designers so Romeo signed Jano in 1923. Jano first car, the P2, was based on knowledge he had gained at Fiat and at the first race Antonio Ascari drove the new car to victory. Later the P2 would win at the Grand Prix of Europe at Lyons, this time with Campari driving. The P2 had the first Grand Prix engine to produce more than 4 bhp per square inch of piston area.
With the withdrawal of Fiat, Alfa-Romeo became the leading Italian racing car manufacturer. Jano also designed production touring cars for the Milanese firm. But it was in racing that his talents could reach their full expression. The Alfa-Romeo's began to dominate racing, too the point where some of the more nationalistic spectators would begin to heckle the Italian team. One incident has become a part of racing lore. During the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa in 1925 the local favorite Delage team had retired all of their cars and the race became an Alfa-Romeo parade led by Ascari and Campari. The fans began to make their displeasure known and Jano in response ordered his cars to pit. While they were being refueled the cars were cleaned and buffed. During this pitstop he had a table placed in full view whereupon he imperiously ate lunch, deaf to the howls of the spectators. The cars rejoined the race and won with ease.
During this time he began to collaborate with Stefano Somazzi in the scientific development of racing fuels. Somazzi worked for Shell Italiana in Genoa. Their collaboration bore fruit when in 1925 they came up with a fuel/alcohol mixture that allowed the engine to run cooler and cured pre-ignition problems. Somazzi would go on to develop the famous Shell Dynamin in 1932.
Like fellow engineer Ferdinand Porsche, Jano was also involved in designing aircraft engines as well as truck and busses. In 1932 Jano produced the P3 Monoposto which at the hands of Tazio Nuvolari won the Italian Grand Prix its first time out.
The P3 Monoposto was the first genuine single-seat racing car. It was powered by an eight-cylinder engine built around two four-cylinder blocks, each fed by its own Roots supercharger. One of the engines major strengths was its low-speed torque. Power to the rear wheels was transmitted through twin driveshafts that allowed for the drivers seat to be placed lower in the chassis. The original leaf spring suspension was replaced in 1935 by an independent Dubonnet front suspension. The complete car weighed in at only 1,625 lbs. and were it not for its cast-iron block engine, it would have weighed considerably less.
Winning its first race out of the box, the P3 went on to win 5 more major races in 1932. With the two best drivers of the day, Nuvolari and Caracciola racing them 1932 was a successful year. Some said that with a Jano designed car and their two great drivers they should not expect anything less. The P3's most famous victory came very late in its career when Tazio Nuvolari beat the combined German might of Mercedes and Auto Union. That race, the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, in front of dozens of Nazi officials is considered one of Nuvolari's greatest victories of all time.
In 1937 after the death of Vicenzo Lancia, Jano was induced to join Lancia as chief development engineer. While there he produced the revolutionary D50 race car which incorporated its engine as a stressed member, and the equally revolutionary Aurelia Grand Turismo sports car. This car was powered by the first successful production V6 and included in-board rear brakes. In 1955 Lancia withdrew from racing and the cars and equipment was transferred to Ferrari. Jano, who had known Enzo Ferrari from his earliest Alfa Romeo days joined Ferrari full-time and was instrumental in establishing a firm foundation for Ferrari's future racing efforts. Illness was to end his life at the age of 75.
Enzo Ferrari was born in 1898 in Modena Italy. His father, Alfredo, ran a local metal-fabricating business. When he was 10 his father took Ferrari and his brother Alfredo Jr. to an automobile race in Bologna. There he saw Vincenzo Lancia battle Felice Nazarro in the 1908 Circuit di Bologna. After attending a number of other races he decided that he too wanted to become a racing car driver. Ferrari's formal education was relatively sketchy, something that he would regret in his later years. In 1916 tragedy, which would haunt Ferrari his entire life, struck his family to its core with the death of his father and brother in the same year. He spent World War I shoeing mules but the world-wide flu of 1918 brought upon his discharge and almost ended his life. Looking for work he applied for a job at Fiat only to be turned down. Eventually he was able to get a job at CMN, a small carmaker involved with converting war surplus. His duties included test driving which he did in between delivering chassis to the coach builder.
About this time he took up racing and in 1919 he finished ninth at the Targa Florio. Through his friend Ugo Sivocci he got a job with Alfa Romeo who entered some modified production cars in the 1920 Targa Florio. Ferrari driving one of these cars managed to finish second. While at Alfa Romeo he came under the patronage of Giorgio Rimini who was Nicola Romeo's aide. In 1923 he was racing and winning at the Circuit of Sivocci at Ravenna when he met the father of the legendary Italian W.W.I ace Francesco Baracca. The senior Baracca was enamored with the courage and audacity of the young Ferrari and presented the young driver with his son’s squadron badge, which was the famous Prancing Horse on a yellow shield. In 1924 he scored his greatest victory, winning the Coppa Acerbo.
... Among the different competitions whom, in that time, I participated in, I remember with particular satisfaction my victory at Pescara in 1924, with an Alfa Romeo R.L.
With this car I had won at Ravenna the Racetrack of Savio and at Rovigo the Racetrack of Polesine, but in the Acerbo Cup I initialed my fame as a pilot. In fact I was able to beat the Mercedes, which was just returning from the success of the Targa Florio. In the team of the Alfa there was also Campari with the famous P2, but, unfortunately, he was forced to retire. My mechanic was Eugenio Siena, a Campari's cousin, full of an agonistic spirit which was over his relationship duties, who died in Tripoli in the Grand Prix of 1938 when he was graduating as an international pilot. As agreed, since the first lap I should have looked for the shape of Campari's P2 in the driving mirror, if I had lead the way, to give him way with dispatch. I had a very speedy start and at each lap I repeated my search in the mirror, but in vain: I couldn't see the P2.
Worried about his absence - Campari's car was faster than mine- and the chase of Bonmartini and Giulio Masetti's Mercedes, I looked at Siena with a first sign to slow down. But Siena gave a cry where there was not even a shadow of worry about the delay of his cousin: So I insisted on the first position, and I won. Campari explained me that he had hidden the car in a by-street, after having retired for a damage to the change-gear, so that the antagonists would not have realized too soon his surrender...
After some more success he was promoted to full factory driver. His racing career up till that time mostly consisted of local races in second hand cars but now he was expected to compete driving the latest cars at the years most prestigious race the French Grand Prix. What happened next is not quite clear but it seems that Ferrari suffered a crisis of confidence and was not able to take part in the the biggest race of his career. A lesser man may have been permanently scared by this but Ferrari was able to resume his position at Alfa Romeo becoming Rimini's "Mr. Fixit". He did not race again until 1927 but his racing career was pretty much over before it really began. Recognizing one's limits in this most dangerous of sports should not be minimized. He continued to compete in minor events and in this he was quite successful. Ferrari by this time was married and owned a Alfa distributorship in Modena. In 1929 Ferrari started his own firm, Scuderia Ferrari. He was sponsored in this enterprise by the Ferrara-based Caniano brothers, Augusto and Alfredo, heirs to a textile fortune. Alfa Romeo had temporarily withdrawn from racing in 1925 and the Scuderia’s main task was to assist his wealthy Alfa Romeo customers with their racing efforts by providing delivery, mechanical support and any other services that they would require. With Alfa Romeo he exchanged a guarantee of technical assistance with stock in his company. Ferrari then made similar deals with Bosch, Pirelli and Shell. To supplement his "stable" of amateur drivers he induced Giuseppe Campari to join his team. He followed this with an even greater coup by signing Tazio Nuvolari. In his first year the Scuderia Ferrari could boast 50 full and part-time drivers! The team competed in 22 events and scored 8 victories and several good placings. Scuderia Ferrari caused a sensation. It was the largest team ever put together by one individual. None of the drivers were paid a salary but received a percentage of the prize money won. Any extra technical or administrative assistance a driver required was gladly given for a price. The basic plan called for the driver to get to the race and his car would be delivered to the track and any entrance fees or duties were handled by the Scuderia. It is not surprising that Ferrari would look fondly back upon this period. It is also not out of the question that if anyone could survive as an independent in the current Formula One world then the younger Ferrari would be that man.
Alfa Romeo would continue to support the Scuderia either as a client or as the official racing department of the factory. But soon everything would change as Alfa Rome announced another withdrawal; from racing starting with the 1933 season due to financial problems. At first this seemed to be just the opening that Ferrari needed but then it was realized that their own supply of new racing cars would soon dry up. Luckily for the Scuderia, Pirelli interceded and convinced Alfa to supply Ferrari with six P3's and the services of engineer Luigi Bazzi and test driver Attilio Marinoni. The Scuderia would now be in effect Alfa Romeo's racing department. In 1932 his first son also named Alfredo after his father, and known as Dino was born, and Ferrari took this opportunity to retire from driving. A more professional turn was also taken by the team. This upset Alfredo Caniato and he was bought out by Count Carlo Felice Trossi who was a part-time driver as well as a full-time millionaire. All looked set for Ferrari to make his true mark on the racing scene. What he did not count on was a German tidal wave in the form of Auto Union and Mercedes. In 1935 Ferrari signed the French driver Rene Dreyfus who most recently drove for Bugatti. He was struck by the difference between his old team and Ferrari.
The difference between being a member of the Bugatti team and Scuderia Ferrari was virtually night and day, recalled Dreyfus. I lived with Meo Constantini, the Bugatti team manager, I visited with Ferrari. "With Ferrari, I learned the business of racing, for there was no doubt he was a businessman. Enzo Ferrari was a pleasant person and friendly, but not openly affectionate. There was, for example, none of the sense of belonging to the family that I had with the Maserati brothers, nor the sense of spirited fun and intimacy that I had with Meo Constantini. Enzo Ferrari loved racing, of that there was no question. Still, it was more than an enthusiast’s love, but one tempered by the practical realization that this was a good way to build a nice, profitable empire. I knew he was going to be a big man one day, even then when the cars he raced carried somebody else’s name. I felt sure that eventually they would carry his.
Through the years the Scuderia Ferrari would employ such great drivers as Giuseppe Campari, Louis Chiron, Achille Varzi and the greatest of them all Tazio Nuvolari. Old Ferrari workshopExcept for Nuvolari's great victory in the 1935 German Grand Prix, victories in any of the major races were few and far between. During these years his team faced the German might of Auto Union and Mercedes. On one occasion Ferrari had the opportunity to passenger the great Nuvolari. At the trials on the "Three Provinces" Circuit, when he asked his companion (Ferrari was also driving there with a more powerful car than the Mantuan's) to take him with him. It should be added that Nuvolari did not know that circuit. "At the first bend," Ferrari writes, "I had the clear sensation that Tazio had taken it badly and that we would end up in the ditch; I felt myself stiffen as I waited for the crunch. Instead, we found ourselves on the next straight with the car in a perfect position. I looked at him," Ferrari goes on. "His rugged face was calm, just as it always was, and certainly not the face of someone who had just escaped a hair-raising spin. I had the same sensation at the second bend. By the fourth or fifth bend I began to understand; in the meantime, I had noticed that through the entire bend Tazio did not lift his foot from the accelerator, and that, in fact, it was flat on the floor. Scuderia pits - Monaco 1934As bend followed bend, I discovered his secret. Nuvolari entered the bend somewhat earlier than my driver's instinct would have told me to. But he went into the bend in an unusual way: with one movement he aimed the nose of the car at the inside edge, just where the curve itself started. His foot was flat down, and he had obviously changed down to the right gear before going through this fearsome rigmarole. In this way he put the car into a four-wheel drift, making the most of the thrust of the centrifugal force and keeping it on the road with the traction of the driving wheels. Throughout the bend the car shaved the inside edge, and when the bend turned into the straight the car was in the normal position for accelerating down it, with no need for any corrections." Ferrari honestly admits that he soon became used to this exercise, because he saw Nuvolari do it countless times. "But each time I seemed to be climbing into a roller coaster and finding myself coming through the downhill run with that sort of dazed feeling that we all know."
In 1937 Ferrari suggested to Alfa that they build 1.5-liter voiturette class cars but what he got was Alfa Romeo's decision to bring the racing effort back in-house. After being the man in charge at the Scuderia he found himself, the new Direttore Sportivo, working under Alfa's engineering director, Wilfredo Ricart. This was a situation he could not stomach and soon decided to quit. As part of his severance agreement he could not compete against his former bosses for four years. Ferrari started a new company called Auto-Avio Costruzioni S.p.A. which produced machine parts for various clients. For the 1940 Mille Miglia, Ferrari entered two small sportscars to be driven by Alberto Ascari and Lothario Rangoni. They were labeled AAC 815s but were actually the first Ferrari race cars.
The Ferrari of the Scuderia years was very much the hands on team manager quite unlike the Ferrari of later years when he did not attend any of the race and was given information over the telephone and in reports from his employees. Ferrari continued to be successful after he stopped attending the races but it is not hard to imagine that in this were the seeds of Ferrari’s future decline.
After the war Ferrari set out to create his own Grand Prix car and in 1947 a 1.5-liter Tipo125 entered the Grand Prix of Monaco. The car was designed by his old collaborator Gioacchino Colombo. Ferrari’s first Grand Prix victory came in 1951 at the British Grand Prix in the hands of Argentine Froilan Gonzalez. The team had a chance for a World Championship evaporate at the Spanish Grand Prix. Before the most important race in the young team’s history Ferrari decided to experiment with new Pirelli tires. The result was thrown treads, which allowed Fangio to win the race and his first title.
Production sports cars were also an important endeavor for Ferrari but in marked difference with other car manufacturers, racing was not used to sell more cars, rather cars were sold so that the team could go racing! Many of the cars that were sold were last year’s models to private entrants. Ferrari was not a sentimental person when it came to his cars and those that were not sold were turned to scrap or scavenged for parts. Ferraris would become common feature at all major sports car events including Le Mans, the Targa Florio and the Mille Miglia. It was at the Mille Miglia that Ferrari would claim some of its greatest victories. In 1948 Nuvolari already in bad health was scheduled to drive a Cisitalia but the car was not ready in time. Ferrari gave him a car intended for Count Igor Troubetzkoy, an open Ferrari 166C. Nuvolari realizing that his body was failing him drove as if the devil himself was in pursuit. By the time the field reached Ravenna, Nuvolari was already in the lead. Despite losing his fender and later the engine bonnet nothing could stop the "Flying Mantuan". By the time he reached Florence he was more than have an hour ahead of Ferrari’s normal lead driver. The seat had come lose from his car to be replaced by a sack of oranges and still he drove on driving faster and faster. Some in the crowd began to fear that the "Great Little Man", knowing that time was running out was determined to die behind the wheel. Ferrari at one of the last control stops saw the state of his driver and with tears in his eyes begged his friend to stop. For even though they had at various times been at each other’s throats each understood the other. Nuvolari was the last driver that could look Ferrari in the eye as an equal. Finally at Reggio Emilia what no competitor could ever accomplish, Nuvolari was beaten by a broken spring. Exhausted he had to be carried from his car.
During the 1952-53 seasons there was a shortage of Formula 1 cars so the World Championship would be staged for Formula 2 cars. The Ferrari Tipo 500 would dominate the championships both years. In the hands of double World Champion Alberto Ascari Ferrari would win 9 races. For 1954 Ascari left Ferrari and joined Lancia where he would drive one of the the Jano-designed D50s. Lancia's hopes for a title were dashed first when the car was late in arriving and fatally when Ascari died testing a Ferrari sportscar. Lancia was forced to withdraw and Fiat their parent company turned over all of Lancia's cars over to Ferrari also including their designer Vittorio Jano! Ferrari's next challenge came from the new British teams. Guy Vandervell supplied Ferrari with the special ThinWall bearings that were used in all of their engines. Vandervell had been a part of the BRM group but quit in disgust. After purchasing and racing a pair of Ferrari's he built his own cars that eventually beat the Italian cars. It was only by outlasting the Vanwalls, as the cars were named was Ferrari able to climb back on top. But this was only the beginning of the British invasion. These manufacturers did not produce their own engines but concentrated on chassis design and aerodynamics, areas of traditional weakness for Ferrari. During this period Ferrari began to produce his famous Gran Turismo car in conjunction with Battista "Pinin" Farina. Victories at Le Mans and other long distance races made Ferrari famous the world over. The demands of producing winning sportscars and Grand Prix cars was proving to much for the relatively small company. In the sixties John Surtees the 1964 World Champion in a Ferrari would complain that Ferrari’s involvement in sports car racing was hindering its Formula One efforts. Surtees explains "At Ferrari in those days you started with a handicap. Until Le Mans was over you couldn't really do the work you wanted to do - and needed to do - in Formula One.
In 1969 Ferrari faced severe financial strains. Their cars were still much sought after but they were unable to produce enough to meet the demand and maintain their racing program. To their rescue came Fiat and the Agnelli family. Ferrari was still in charge but a new paymaster was on board. It was with the background of Fiat's manufacturing and aerospace empire that Ferrari was criticized for not dominating their smaller British rivals. Another genius, Colin Chapman was at his peak.
In 1975 Ferrari attained something of a renaissance at the hands of Niki Lauda winning two World Championships and three Constructor titles in three years. It was three years after Renault had inaugurated the new Turbo Era when Ferrari joined the bandwagon. Their current Flat-12 engine had reached the end of its development to be replaced by a 1.5-liter turbo V6. As with most Ferraris the engine turned out to be the car's strong point while the chassis was based on an antiquated multi-tube spaceframe. The brilliant driving of Gilles Villeneuve gave the new Ferrari several victories in 1981 but it was evident that the chassis needed to be upgraded before the car could seriously challenge for the title. At mid-season the team was joined by Dr Harvey Postlewaite whose job it was to build an improved chassis for the following season. Postlewaite wanted to build a carbon-fibre composite chassis but had to settle on a monocoque with a Nomex honeycomb skin because of Ferrari’s lack of experience with the new material. Still with a half decent chassis much was expected of the team in 1982. It all ended in tragedy with the death of its star driver, Villeneuve and the maiming of his estranged teammate, Didier Pironi, in different accidents. With the earlier retirement of its last World Champion, Jody Scheckter, Ferrari was now bereft of any frontline drivers and years would go by before it could count a top driver as one of its own.
Enzo Ferrari would not live to see that day; he died at the age of 90 in 1988.
A legend in his own lifetime, was known as Il Montavano Volante, the Flying Mantuan. He epitomized courage and daring and for 30 years he amazed the racing world with his exploits on both two and four wheels. He was born November 18, 1892, in Casteldrio near Mantua. His uncle Giuseppe was a Bianchi dealer and introduced his nephew to motor sports. After serving in the Italian Army as a driver he started racing motorcycles seriously when he was 28. He raced Nortons, Saroleas, Garellis, Fongris and Indians. His riding was noticed by the powerful Bianchi team and he became a member and eventually Italian champion. At the Monza Grand Prix for motorcycles he crashed during practice. La Gazzetta dello SportThis resulted in two broken legs. After doctors put plaster casts on both legs he was told that it would be at least one month before he could walk again let alone race motorcycles. The next day he started the race having himself tied to his bike. He required his mechanics to hold him upright at the start of the race and to catch him at the end. The legend of Tazio Nuvolari began that day when he won the race. Nuvolari began racing cars in 1924 at the age of 32 while still competing in motorcycles. In 1927 he started his own team, buying a pair of Bugatti 35Bs which he shared with his partner Achille Varzi who was also a successful motorcycle racer. This partnership would later turn into an intense rivalry. Nuvolari began to win races at the expense of Varzi who left the team. Varzi, the son of a wealthy merchant could afford better equipment and bought an Alfa P2. With this car he had the better of Nuvolari. He signed on with Alfa Romeo in 1929 and was a teammate of his rival Varzi once again. The Mille Miglia of 1930 would go down in history when Nuvolari caught an unsuspecting Varzi while driving in the night sans headlights. Three kilometers from the finish he suddenly pulled along side, smiling at his startled teammate he flicked on his headlights and powered on to victory.
For the Targa Floria of 1932 he requested of Enzo Ferrari a mechanic who weighed as little or less than he. Nuvolari took the young and inexperienced mechanic that Ferrari had given him and told him that he would warn him when they approached a particularly difficult corner so as not to unduly frighten the young man. As they approached a corner, Nuvolari would shout for the mechanic to take cover under the dashboard. After the race and another victory for Nuvolari, Ferrari asked the mechanic how he had made out. "Nuvolari started shouting at the first bend and finished at the last one," the boy answered. "I was down at the bottom of the car all the time." In 1933 he scored many victories but became estranged from the team manager Enzo Ferrari and left for Maserati. 1933 also saw him travel to Northern Ireland for the Tourist Trophy Race and a drive in a supercharged MG K3 Magnette. After totally dominating the race someone asked him if he liked the MG's brakes. Nuvolari replied he couldn't really tell, he hadn't used them that much. In 1935 he was induced to return to Alfa Romeo and scored one of his greatest victories at the Nurburgring. Driving an obsolete Alfa against the might of the German nation. He drove at the ragged edge and sometimes over it. His relentless pursuit caused the lead Mercedes to retire with a blown tire and he cruised to victory in front of a large gathering of Nazi party officials. In 1936 he had a serious accident during practice for the Tripoli GP but escaped from the hospital and took a taxi to the race where he finished seventh in a spare car. After the death of Bernd Rosemeyer in 1938, Auto Union was desperate for a driver who could master their mid-engine racecar. At the insistence of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche they turned to an Italian, Nuvolari who would go on to win the British Grand Prix at Donington.
Only World War II could stop Nuvolari but after the fighting stopped he returned to racing at the age of 53. In a minor race he had the steering wheel come off his car yet managed to return to the pits holding the wheel in one hand and the steering column with the other. He continued to win but age and sickness from acute asthma, the result of years of inhaling exhaust fumes would finally take their toll. His last Mille Miglia, in 1948, was a defining moment in his illustrious career. Driving as if possessed, his car taking a terrible beating, speeding along, the bonnet somehow became unfastened, and a gust of wind blew it over Nuvolari's head and down the mountainside. "That's better," shouted Tazio to his terrified mechanic, "The engine will cool more easily." Crossing the Futa ands Raticosa passes his seat had started to come adrift. Nuvolari could feel himself sliding which brought along a feeling of sea-sickness. Tossing the seat out he used a bag of lemons and oranges as a cushion. With his car literally falling apart under his super human effort the team advised him to quit the race at Bologna fore it was folly to continue under such circumstances and if anyone, Nuvolari had nothing to prove. Nuvolari answered with a derisive gesture, putting his fut down hard and shot away along the Via Emilia. At Modena Enzo Ferrari tried to beg has old friend to retire with dignity and could only weep as he realized that the remains of the car could not possibly hold out. Disaster disaster finally struck on the next leg and all three leading cars were out of the race including Nuvolari who damaged his rear suspension at Leghorn when his brakes failed. Stopping at Villa Ospizio Nuvolari either went or was carried to a nearby church we he asked the local priest if he could rest while his mechanic phoned through that the great Nuvolari had retired and ordered a touring car to take him home. After the retirement, Ferrari wrote later, he tried to console his driver. "I said to him, cheer up Tazio, the race will be yours next year". He replied: "Ferrari, at our age there aren't many more days like this; remember it and try to enjoy it to the full, if you can".
It was said that he wanted to die in the sport that he loved so much but in this wish he was denied. On August 11th, 1953, 9 months after suffering a paralyzing stroke he was dead. As was his wish he was buried in his uniform - the yellow jersey and blue trousers.
With courtesy of Scuderia Zeelanda classic racing page.
More than 50,000 people attended his funeral. Enzo Ferrari arriving in Mantua stopped at a plumber's shop to ask for directions. Seeing the Modena license plates and unaware of the identity of the driver, the workman murmured, "Thank you for coming. A man like that won't be born again".
Orazio Satta Puliga
Orazio Satta Puliga studied mechanical engineering (1933) and aeuronautical engineering (1935) at the Politecnico di Torino and joined the design department of Alfa Romeo (March 2, 1938), working under the direction of Wifredo Ricart. Satta followed Ricart as head of design (1946), overseeing the 158 and 159, Alfa Romeo 1900, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Alfa Romeo Montreal and Alfa Romeo Alfetta. He later became central director (1951) and finally general vice president (1969-73), before retiring due to Brain Cancer.
Busso was one of the most important engineers in the history of the two Italian marques, and his innovations, influence and genius has been wrought into into the fabric of Alfa Romeo and Ferrari.
Giuseppe Busso was born in Turin in 1913, where he later gained his diploma in industrial engineering. In 1937, after military service, Busso started to work as a calculator at Fiat's technical aeronautical engine department (Ufficio Tecnico Motori Aviazione / UTMA) before later moving on to the technical experimental locomotive railway office (Ufficio Tecnico Autoveicoli Ferroviari Sperimentali / UTAFS).
At the beginning of January 1939, Busso moved to Alfa Romeo where he immediately started to work in the special projects office (Servizio Studi Speciali) created by the Spanish designer Wilfredo Ricart (who later went on to establish Pegaso in his native homeland). In particular, Busso developed racing car engines and worked directly under Ing. Orazio Satta Pulìga. Here Busso worked as a researcher, developing technical theories with the aide of Satta. His work was lectured at the Turin Polytechnic, which resulted in Busso becoming a protagonist of the establishment.
The engineer was hired by Enzo Ferrari as his first technical director in 1946. This new job, which Busso started on 10th June, was arranged by the legendary Alfa Romeo engineer Gioachino Colombo. At the time Colombo worked as a consultant for Enzo Ferrari during development of his first car, the Ferrari 125 Sport (the name indicating the individual cubic capacity of each of the 12 cylinders). With the design of this car, Colombo had been aided by Angelo (Lino) Nasi, the former Alfa Romeo industrial vehicle technical director, who designed the Ferrari's 5-speed gearbox and rigid rear axle.
By November 1945 Colombo had recommenced work at Alfa Romeo, and had recommended to Enzo Ferrari that he should hire Busso in order to oversee development of the new V12 engine. Between December 1945 and January 1946, the 125 Sport project's technical drawings were delivered to component manufacturers. However, from then on little progress was achieved. Despite this, Enzo Ferrari was certain that his own technical staff were more than capable of developing the engine. But when Ferrari realised that this was not the case, he accepted Colombo's advice and met Busso on 15th May 1946 to arrange for him to become his new technical director.
Busso's task at Ferrari was to control development of the 125 Sport project and to design the four-cam, two stage supercharged 1.5-litre V12 Grand Prix car which would first race in September 1949. Busso joined Luigi Bazzi at the Modena factory which was still occupied in producing machine tools in order to generate capital for the new car company known simply as Ferrari, Modena, Italy. Together with his assistant Aurelio Lampredi, who officially started work on 2nd October 1946 (although was already working in the workshop at the end of September), Busso oversaw the development of the 60° V12, 1,497 cc Colombo engine.
The first 125 Sport (chassis 01 C) was ready on the 12th March 1947, and the model debuted in May of that year at the Piacenza racing circuit. Featuring transverse leaf sprung suspension and a 2,489 mm wheelbase, the 125 Sport weighed in at a mere 750 kg. A Ferrari 125 Sport later won the 1947 Mille Miglia with drivers Clemente Biondetti and Giuseppe Navone, and with this the Ferrari legend grew as a manufacturer of Italy's finest cars. After a disagreement with Orazio Satta, Gioachino Colombo left Alfa Romeo in December 1947. This was most probably due to conflicting part-time activities in designing the Ferrari and the ‘Volpe' (another car project). This move left a position vacant for Busso, and he restarted work at Alfa Romeo.
Busso became responsible for the mechanical components design department, and from then studied and planned new projects for all the Alfa Romeo models that were produced at Portello and later at Arese. This started with the 1900 and the Giulietta during the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. With the Giulietta, Busso introduced a revolutionary twin cam 1,290 cc engine that benefited from extensive use of aluminium alloy, a highly advanced idea at the time. This engine, forerunner of all subsequent 4-cylinder Alfa Romeo engines, was designed by Busso in accordance with a philosophy of weight containment that came from his training as an aviation engine designer.
Busso's work culminated in the 1979 Alfa 6, which was the first production Alfa Romeo to boast a V6 engine. This model also represented the last Alfa Romeo executive flagship to be built by the Milanese company before the Fiat take-over in 1986.
The Rudolf Hruska-designed Alfasud was the only exception to Busso's reign as chief engineer at Alfa Romeo, although this compact car was arguably a government project instated by INCA, the Industria Napoletana Costruzione Autoveicoli, a separate company which continued to build the boxer-engined cars until it was dissolved by the government at the time of the Fiat buy-out.
Despite this, Busso did work on the first prototypes of a front wheel-drive small car for Alfa Romeo. The first of these, Tipo 13-61, was nearly realised in 1952. The baby Alfa was fitted with a transverse water-cooled 2-cylinder 750 cc engine, which in effect was half a Giulietta 1300 unit (at the time, the Giulietta was still in the development phase). Unfortunately, the project fell through due to unrealistic production costs, or as some believe a gentleman's agreement with Fiat as not to interfere with each others market. A second try in the early ‘60s resulted in the Tipo 103, which was a small four-door saloon with a transverse 1,000 cc 4-cylinder engine. Aimed below the Giulietta in size, the 103 had front wheel-drive and a 4-speed gearbox. The engine was able to produce 52 bhp at 5,500 rpm resulting in a top-speed of 130 km/h. The four-door bodywork was apparently very spacious and anticipated the design of the Giulia, for favour of which the project was suspended.
During his thirty years at Alfa Romeo, Busso held many titles: caposervizio in 1952, manager in 1954, vice director in 1966, director in 1969, vice-director general in 1972 and co-director general in 1973. He retired from Alfa Romeo in 1977. In the minds of Alfisti, Busso will be best remembered for the great classics: 1900 (including the 1900 M ‘Matta'), Giulietta, Giulia, Alfetta and the Alfa Romeo 2.5 V6 engine. It was this formidable engine, and its evolution thereof, which has represented the soul of Alfa Romeo for the past 25 years. It is without a doubt recognised as one of motoring's most respected engines. Busso was also responsible for the 6C 3000 CM, TZ, GTA and Tipo 33 competition cars, the latter models arriving with the naissance of the Autodelta racing department.
Born in Pistoia, he graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Pisa in Italy in 1953. He joined Alfa Romeo in 1952 and designed the Alfa Romeo 3000 CM sports car, moving on to Ferrari when Alfa's competition department was closed down in the late 1950s.
At Ferrari he was involved with the design of the famous Ferrari 156 Sharknose cars, with which Phil Hill won the 1961 championship. Shortly afterwards Chiti was part of the breakaway ATS Formula One team formed by a number of disaffected ex-Ferrari personnel. The ATS project was not a success and did not last long.
Through a new project, Autodelta, Chiti re-entered competitive motor racing in 1963. He rekindled his association with Alfa Romeo, for whom he designed a V8 and then a flat-12 engine for their Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 sportscars. These were eventually successful, winning the world championship for makes in 1975. At this time Chiti became involved in Formula One again, through the Brabham team, who signed an agreement with Alfa Romeo to use Chiti's engines. There was some success - Niki Lauda won two races in a Brabham BT46 with the Alfa engine in the 1978 Formula One season. Brabham designer Gordon Murray persuaded Chiti to produce a V-12 engine to allow ground effect to be exploited by the team. During the 1979 Formula One season, and after some persuasion by Chiti, Alfa Romeo gave Autodelta permission to start developing a Formula One car on their behalf. The partnership with Brabham finished before the end of the season.
The Alfa Formula One project was never truly successful. In 1984, Chiti left the project to set up another company, Motori Moderni which concentrated on producing engines, again for Formula One. Initially the company produced a V6 turbo design, used briefly by the small Italian Minardi team. When the banning of turbos from Formula One was announced Chiti designed a new 3.5 litre atmospheric flat-12 engine. This was eventually taken up by Subaru, who badged it for use in their brief and completely unsuccessful entry into Formula One with the tiny Coloni team in the 1990 Formula One season. This was abandoned midway through the season.
Carlo Chiti died in 1994 in Milan.
Rudolf Hruska was born the 2nd July 1915 in Vienna (Austria). After he had graduated from the Vienna Engineering Institute in 1935 he presumably found an employment at Magirus at Ulm in the South of Germany. Three years later he changed to Porsche in Stuttgart. At that time, Porsche was a design studio which developed cars and other types of vehicles for the automotive industry. When Hruska joined Porsche, they were just working on the "Kdf-Wagen" Hitler had demanded for the German people. The result became world-famous under the name Volkswagen.
In 1942, another task awaited Hruska. He was detached to the development of the German battle tank project named "Tiger".
After World War II Hruska joined Piero Dusio who was developing the supercharged Cisitalia race car at that time.
After a short period of time at Cisitalia and a second short intermezzo at Porsche in 1948, Hruska signed as a consulting engineer for Alfa Romeo's first mass-production car, the Millenove (1900) in 1951 at Finmeccanica. The Finmeccanica was a part of the state-owned IRI group (to which Alfa Romeo belonged since 1933) whose task was to reconstruct the destroyed Italy after the war. Finmeccanica was in charge of transportation and vehicles. With the launch of the Alfa Romeo 1900, Portello had to be transformed to a mass-production plant. Hruska's job was to improve the productivity of Alfa Romeo's Portello factory, which included the reorganisation of the working processes in a factory which mainly used manual labour to produce a small number of high-class cars per year.
In 1954 Alfa Romeo appointed Hruska technical manager. His range of tasks was extended and he now also contributed in the construction of trucks and other commercial vehicles. In addition, he also assisted the famous Dot. Ing. Orazio Satta Puliga in developing Alfa Romeo's second brand new car after WW II, the Giulietta. Due to Hruska's good connections to Bertone, the Giulietta Sprint could be realised by Bertone and the Giulietta Spider at Pinin Farina's Stablimenti di Grugliaso. After a re-organization of the Alfa Romeo management Balduccio Bardocci became Alfa Romeo's new head in 1959 and Hruska was made works-manager of Portello. Apparently no interesting task for Hruska. So he and his colleague Franco Quaroni left Alfa Romeo a little later after problems with the heads of the Finmeccanica. They both found a new employment at Simca in France where they contributed in the development of the Simca 1000. In addition Hruska worked for Alfa's rival Fiat where he contributed in the development of 124 and 128.
A short time after Hruska had left Alfa Romeo, Bardocci was replaced by Giuseppe Luraghi. In the year 1967 Rudolf Hruska, who was working for Fiat in Turin at that time, got a telephone call from Luraghi. Luraghi made an offer Hruska could not resist. He got the chance to design an entirely new small car for Alfa Romeo from scratch. The plant needed for the new car could also be planned by him. Hruska cancelled his contract at FIAT and started to design the new small Alfa Romeo. The result of his efforts was named Alfasud. After the Alfasud project was completed Hruska left Pomigliano d'Arco where the new Alfasud factory was built in 1974 and went to Arese where he assumed overall responsibility for development, design and research.
At the age of 65 Hruska resigned and became a pensioner in 1980. Hruska was involved in the automotive industry in the 1990s as a consultant of the I.D.E.A. studios at Torino. Hruska died in 1995 at the age of 80.
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