Part 33 – Carrozzeria Fantuzzi
Certain coachbuilders have had a strong relationship with automotive manufactures, while others have built, or designed cars for many names in the industry. Following the Second World War, a small number of carrozzeria began to thrive, while other older firms failed. One that began after the war was Sergio Scaglietti. In 1951, he opened his shop in Maranello, across the road from Ferrari. During the war, Sergio was a bomb maker for the partisans, but he was also a genius with body manufacturing. Sergio will be covered fully later in this series. Another from this era was Medardo Fantuzzi. He was from Bologna, where he trained as an automotive engineer, but later moved to Modena. He began Carrozzeria Fantuzzi with his brother Gino before WWII, but their shop reached its pinnacle during the 1950s and 60s, initially by producing Maserati bodies, but later the coachbuilder worked with Ferrari, De Tomaso and Scuderia Serenissima.
Italy regained racing form rather quickly following the Second World War. Prewar cars were dusted off, tuned and raced. Enzo Ferrari began to compete under his own name. One of the preeminent Italian manufacturers was quiet in the very early 50s. Maserati was going through significant changes at the top levels of the organization. It was the rivalry with Ferrari which that ultimately lifted Maserati from its dormant years. A key figure in building the bodies for its competition cars was Carrozzeria Fantuzzi. The man who changed the fortunes of the racing Maseratis was Gioacchino Colombo, father of the Grand Prix ‘Alfette’ and designer of the first 12-cylinder Ferrari. Colombo modernized Maserati’s technical department and laid the foundation for the successes enjoyed on the track by the company in the 1950s and 60s.
The first Maserati which Colombo concentrated his efforts on was the A6 GCM open-wheeled racer. He shortened the stroke of the 2 liter engine and increased its power. With a bit of work on the brakes and suspension, by the end of 1952 Colombo’s revised A6 GCM was a success. It served as the inspiration for the A6GCS – a sports car, rather than an open-wheeled racer. Its name certainly lacks marketing appeal. It was the abbreviation for Ghisa (cast-iron, referring to the engine), Corsa (competition) and Sport. The first A6GCS had a coupe body, but this was quickly abandoned in a favor of a much lighter ‘siluro’ or cycle fender body, created for Maserati by Medardo Fantuzzi. One of the design’s most recognizable features was a single headlight (monofaro) mounted in the grille. It was raced by some of the most talented drivers of the day including Luigi Villoresi and Alberto Ascari. Fantuzzi built 14 of these sport racers. The next version of the two liter car was the 200S. Twenty-eight racing cars were made by Maserati between 1952 and 1955. Fantuzzi built the final 23 cars of this model.
Maserati wanted to enter the fray in a big way when the World Championship for sports cars was introduced in 1953. It required the company to design a new larger engine. It did not initially produce a monster engine. Its first examples were three-liter engines mounted in the light and nimble 300s. It was first raced in 1955 by the Maserati works team and numerous private racers, in fact, the first three cars were shipped to the United States, where they were raced by Briggs Cunningham and his clients. Development at the Maserati and Fantuzzi factory was ongoing and the car won several prestigious races around the world.
When Maserati reentered the Formula One, it used its 6-cylinder engine in a car designated 250F. This type competed in Formula 1 beginning in 1954. It was raced through the 1957 season and was a popular car for privateers – racers who were not affiliated with a car manufacturer. Maserati and Fantuzzi produced two dozen examples in three years.
Up until 1956, Maserati focused on sports car racing with engine sizes ranging from 1.5 liter in the 150S to the 3 liter 300S. These were all fine racers, but they were never in contention to take the overall lead against the much more powerful Ferraris, Aston Martins and Jaguars. Throughout the fall and winter of 1956, the V8 car was further developed and the engine output was raised from the initial 365 hp to 400 hp. With this immense figure, the quad cam V8 450S became the most powerful front engine sports car in the world. Fantuzzi built ten of these cars for Maserati.
In 1958, Ferrari brought Fantuzzi on board to build his Formula One car. The 246 F1 Dino was the last of the front engine cars that Ferrari contested in this formula. Dino Ferrari is often credited for the actual design of the V6 engine for this Formula One racer, but most experts believe that Vittorio Jano was responsible for much of the work. What is not disputed is that Fantuzzi built the body for the exceptional car.
For the following year’s sports car championship, Ferrari introduced the 250 TR59. It was had a conventional steel tubular ladder frame and a DeDion rear axle for the works racers. It used the famous Colombo V12 engine. Pininfarina designed a new enveloping body, which was constructed by Fantuzzi, relieving Scaglietti, who were pre-occupied with constructing road car bodies.
Ever the conservative, Enzo Ferrari rarely produced an experimental, or ground-breaking racing car. He normally followed a path of gradual evolution, which resulted in fast and reliable racing cars. It would take until 1963 before Ferrari built a sports racer with a mid-mounted V12 engine. Designated the 250 P, the chassis was sent to Fantuzzi, who clothed it in a curvaceous, slippery aluminum body penned by Pininfarina. It featured an airfoil behind the open cockpit and a cut-down rear-end to reduce drag.
One of the most famous Ferraris was the 250 GT Lusso. It represented the ultimate development of the road-going 250 series. Extraordinarily elegant, but also aggressive in a subtle, but commanding way, these cars are widely regarded as being among Pininfarina’s best work. In 1964, Fantuzzi was commissioned to create a single example with a more aerodynamic front end, faired-in headlamps, and a more pronounced rear spoiler. The result was stunning then and is equally breathtaking today.
At the 1965 Turin Auto Show, a new racing car was unveiled – the de Tomaso Sport 5000. At least ten cars were to be produced with the prospect of another forty to homologate it for the GT-class. Despite all the good intentions, this was the last the world saw of the racer for many years. The prototype was retired to a corner of the factory. The car was the product of a collaboration between Carroll Shelby and Alejandro de Tomaso. Shelby provided the tuned Ford Cobra engine and de Tomaso had a Vallelunga chassis modified to accept the powerful engine. The body was the result of a collaboration between Peter Brock and Medardo Fantuzzi.
During the early 1960s Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata was one of Italy’s most prominent privateers. Under the Scuderia Serenissima Republica di Venezia banner, he fielded cars for some of Italy’s finest drivers. As recounted in Part 5 of this series ATS – Automobili Turismo e Sport, a number of Ferrari’s finest engineers left the manufacturer after the palace revolution of 1961.The young Count was one of a number of financial backers of ATS. After that failed to prove successful, the Count had a new car designed under his racing stable – Scuderia Serenissima. The 1965 308V Jet Competitzione was an entirely new car and was built by ex-Fiat and Ferrari designer Alberto Massimino, with a body by Fantuzzi. At the center of the Jet was a new engine designed by Massimino. The car was not a successful racer. In 1966, the three liter Serenissima engine was used for a brief time by Bruce McLaren in his first year as a constructor in Formula One 1966.
The workshops of Carrozzeria Fantuzzi are still in operation. The shop is run by Merardo’s son Fiorenzo. The carrozzeria now focuses on restoring to jewel-like perfection the cars so famously bodied by his father Merardo and also the Ferraris originally built by Sergio Scaglietti.