Italy - After it “went missing” for years, the first-ever Ferrari in South Africa made a surprise appearance at this year’s prestigious Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este on Lake Como in Italy.
Rubbing its shiny red flanks with some of the most delectable and esteemed vehicles in the world, the history of this now extremely rare 1952 225 Sport Spider Vignale, is as interesting as it is illustrious.
Its first appearance at the Concorso, ahead of the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix, was also very apt – as chassis number 0154ED, piloted by owner Count Vittorio Marzotto won the 1952 Monaco GP; beating the likes of Stirling Moss in much more fancied Aston Martins, Jaguars, Gordinis and Talbot-Lagos, and leading home a Ferrari 225S 1-2-3-4-5.
Even more significant is the fact that this victory was the first and last for a sports car in this Grand Prix.
Also of interest is that the Marzotto 225S was the first to carry the open Spider coachwork by Alfredo Vignale, it was the last factory car fitted with a Lampredi 2.7-litre V12, and even though it was used in Europe, was a right-hand drive car. The round holes besides grille on this specific car were also a running change – added to aid cooling after the car overheated during the 1952 Giro de Sicilia.
The “Tuboscocca”, as the 225S was also known, was introduced as a larger version of the 212 Export. The model was intended for endurance sports car racing and was bodied either as a two-seat Berlinetta or Spider.
It made appearances at the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio in the early ’fifties and Marzotto became the over 2.0-litre champion in his 225 Sport in 1952. After racing the car a few more times, Marzotto sold it to fellow Italian Pietro Palmieri.
The SA connection
In 1956 Gigi Lupini, patriarch of the Lupini family; well-known in local racing circles, acquired the car and brought it to South Africa. It was the first Ferrari in the country, and his idea was to race it as part of the newly-formed Scuderia Lupini in the first 9-hour race at Grand Central in 1958.
The Ferrari had the potential for this race, but as by this stage it was seven years old, it lacked the handling and road-holding of newer cars.
Scuderia Lupini gave it a massive transformation: The 154kW engine was rebuilt by Carlo Machetto; new sleeves were machined and Gigi's Ferrari 250 Cabriolet road car (which he bought subsequent to the 225S) was used as a model for a new nose – bringing the car in line with the styling of the day.
The car headed the Scuderia’s 9-hour attack and was driven by Bill Jennings and Don Philip. It led initially, but was slowed by overheating problems.
For the 1959 SA Grand Prix in East London (actually taking place on New Year’s Day of 1960) the 225S underwent a further transformation.
The whole rear end was removed and remodelled from new Ferrari drawings and a rear suspension similar to that of the Ferrari 250 GTO was fitted. As the car was thought to be underpowered, Lupini bought a new Colombo V12 to replace the Lampredi engine.
Exchanged; for a pair of handguns
In practice driver Fanie Viljoen was only a second off the pace of John Love’s D-Type Jaguar and Louis Jacobz’ Maserati 200SI. It didn’t finish the race, but the interesting part is that Gigi Lupini commandeered a Union Castle mail boat to transport the car to Cape Town for the next race...
Multiple South African champion John Love also drove the Ferrari – ostensibly in a 6-hour race in South Africa, as well as in the 1959 Rhodesia 100 at the Belvedere race track in Harare, Zimbabwe. In this the engine apparently blew a gasket and it didn't perform well.
In a bizarre twist the car then went to a farmer in the Three Sisters district of the Cape Province with the surname Rugani – exchanged for a pair of chrome Sturm Ruger .44 Magnum revolvers with grips inlayed with mother of pearl… A decision the Lupini family now rue.
The car was then sold to Marsiglia Motors in Cape Town, where it stood for years before it “went missing” – bought by Richard Phillips in 1993 and taken to the UK.
Restored to Monaco form
The car, still in its Scuderia Lupini form, partook in the Goodwood Festival of Speed of 1993 and then was sold to Sir Anthony Bamford on auction in 1997 – still without its original engine.
The Lampredi 0154 engine was then offered by Gregor Fisken and Bamford bought it before commissioning DK Engineering in Watford, UK, to restore the car to its original Monaco spec.
In May 2003 it was sold to Oscar Davis of New Jersey in the US, but later that year it was acquired by the Spaniard Jose Maria Fernandez from Madrid, the current owner.
Fully restored, it has been campaigned at select events, including the 2005 and 2006 Tutte le Ferrari at Mugello, and the 2000, 2006 and 2008 Monaco Historic Grands Prix. Following its Concorso appearance, the car, now valued at R160-million, might just be on its way to Monaco to participate in the 2016 historic event.
Ferrari 225 Sport Spider Vignale, no. 0154ED
Engine - Front, longitudinal, 12V 60 °
Bore and stroke - 70 x 58.8 mm
Displacement - 2.715 litres
Compression ratio - 8.5: 1
Maximum power - 154kW @ 7200rpm
Valve gear - SOHC, 2 valves per cylinder
Fuel system - 3 carburettors, Weber 36 DCF
Ignition - mono, 2 coils
Lubrication - wet sump
Clutch - Single-disc