Reg Parnell and Peter Whitehead in line astern- Ferrari 555 Super Squalo 3.5’s during the Southland Road Race, Ryal Bush, New Zealand 16 February 1957…

The two Brits had a very successful New Zealand summer taking this race in a one-two in Whitehead’s favour with Horace Gould’s Maserati 250F third.

The Kiwi international season opened at Ardmore with the New Zealand Grand Prix, it was a Parnell-Whitehead one-two there, in fact it was the last major victory of Parnell’s very long career. There was little joy in the win though, fellow Brit Ken Wharton died after a tragic ‘racing incident’ accident aboard his Ferrari Monza in the sportscar preliminary immediately prior to the feature race.

At Wigram it was Whitehead from Jack Brabham’s Cooper T41 Climax 1.5, in Dunedin, Parnell from Brabham with Whitehead third, then Ryal Bush before the circus proceeded on to Mairehau although by that stage the two Brits had returned to Europe.

Parnell on the Dunedin Wharf road circuit, 2 February 1957- he won from Brabham’s Cooper T41 Climax and Whitehead’s Ferrari  (G Paape)

 

Peter Whitehead with his crew during the 1958 Le Mans 24 Hours. First Englishman since Dick Seaman to win a major European GP in taking the 1949 Czechoslovakian GP aboard a supercharged Ferrari- the first also to coax such a car from Enzo- the man really did have impeccable Ferrari connections (Motorsport)

Whilst these cars were never the weapons in Grand Prix racing the predecessor 2 litre Ferrari 500 was, they were pretty handy Formula Libre cars when fitted with 3431cc Tipo 860 Monza four cylinder motors rather than the 2.5 litre fours which sat below their bonnets in F1 events.

By January 1957 Ferrari’s frontline weapon was the Lancia-Ferrari D50 V8, variants of which they ran in F1 from the 11 September 1955 Italian GP, indeed the lack of pace of the 555 (and 625) was one of the reasons for the deal brokered gifting the cars to Ferrari when Lancia went bust. I really must get to the D50 at some stage, it’s one of my favourite Grand Prix cars.

The Parnell #2 and Whitehead in the Albert Park AGP practice in December 1956- the tail of car #9 is Lex Davison’s ex-Ascari/Gaze Ferrari 500/625 3 litre (J Lineham)

While the drivers returned to England after Ryal Bush the two Ferraris stayed in the Antipodes. Whitehead’s ‘555-1’ aka ‘FL/9001’ was bought by (later Sir) Tom Clark of Crown Lynn Potteries fame, later still becoming the famous ‘Morrari’ before its resurrection.

Parnell’s ‘555-2’ aka ‘FL/9002′ passed through the hands of McMillan/Glass and others including the Gilltrap Collection on the Gold Coast and eventually into Bernie Ecclestone’s hands. Click here for an article about this chassis’ ‘Australian phase’; https://primotipo.com/2015/08/25/arnold-glass-ferrari-555-super-squalo-bathurst-1958/

Reg Parnell in the Goodwood paddock in April 1954. Happy chappy that weekend- he won the Lavant Cup in this Ferrari 625 from Roy Salvadori’s Maserati 250F- a very good win

Both machines were works entries in 1955 but were surplus to requirements once the D50’s were unloaded at Maranello before being eagerly snapped up by existing customers Whitehead and Parnell after fitment of Tipo 860 Monza engines. The chassis’ were lengthened to allow them to fit, new chassis plates were affixed to the frames during this process.

Some older enthusiasts remember these cars in Australia as both contested races during the two weekend 1956 ‘Olympic’ Australian Tourist Trophy/Grand Prix carnival at Albert Park in late November/early December. The ‘Scuderia Ambrosiana’ duo were third and sixth, Peter was behind the ‘Officine Alfieri Maserati’ 250F’s of Stirling Moss and Jean Behra.

It was then off to Port Melbourne and across the Tasman Sea then, the NZ GP was on 13 January.

The #4 Parnell Ferrari 555 and Whitehead’s behind at Wigram in 1957, note the aircraft hangars in the background. Car #46 and driver folks? (Library NZ)

 

(CAN)

Lady Wigram Trophy start 1957.

Ron Roycroft, Ferrari 375, Parnell and Whitehead Ferrari 555’s and Brabham’s tiny Cooper T43 Climax at far left on row one. Gibbons, Jensen and Gould on row two and Shuter, Jensen, Clark and Freeman on row three. Whitehead won from Brabham and Roycroft- the shot below shows the Whitehead crew in the Wigram pitlane, make that runway!

(J Manhire)

 

Tom Clark at Levin circa 1957, he first raced the car- having graduated through a pre-war Maserati 8CM and the ex-Macklin/Gaze supercharged HWM Alta, in February 1957.

He contested six meetings in it from then until February 1959, his best result was a victory in the South Island Championship Road Race at Mairehau in 1957.

(CAN)

Stunning Hillclimb vista in New Zealand with Tom Clark right on the apex- whereizzit I wonder Kiwis?

(M Clayton)

Ferrari 555 Super Squalo cutaway drawing, perhaps by Giuseppe Cavara, technical specifications as per text.

Etcetera…

The front view of Paul Frere’s Ferrari 555 ‘555/1’ during the 1955 Belgian GP meeting at Spa- the local boy did well in what would become Whitehead’s car.

He was fourth behind Farina’s third placed 555 but the first and second placed Mercedes Benz W196’s of Fangio and Moss were nearly a couple of minutes up the road. Castellotti was on pole that day in a Lancia D50- a single car final entry for the team, with Farina’s third slot the best of the four Ferrari 555’s which practiced.

And the rear view of Eugenio Castellotti’s ‘555/2’ at Zandvoort in 1955- Mike Hawthorn raced ‘555/1′ at this meeting for seventh place. Castellotti (in Reg’s car) was fifth with the ole’ Mercedes W196 one-two delivered by Fangio from Moss.

The Ferrari’s weren’t quick though, Maurice Trintignant’s was the best of the Ferrari qualifiers with eighth slot in his 555.

Its interesting to see how the bodywork of the cars evolved from F1 to Formula Libre specifications.

Lady Wigram Trophy 1957 start. #4 Parnell, Ferrari 555, #19 Ron Roycroft, Ferrari 375, #2 Horace Gould, Maserati 250F, #5 Whitehead, Ferrari 555, #3 Brabham, Cooper T41 Climax (S Dalton)

Credits…

John Manhire Collection, Godfrey Paape, James Lineham, Getty Images, Ellis French, Stephen Dalton Collection

Tailpiece…

(E French)

Arnold Glass in the #2 ex-Parnell ‘555-2’ alongside Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S at Longford in March 1958 before the Gold Star race won by Ted Gray in Tornado 2 Chev. The bit of blue is the tail of the Bruce Walton driven, Norman Hamilton owned Porsche 550 Spyder.

Finito…

Comments
  1. robert king says:

    Mark, according to Lou Molina, Ken Wharton’s fatal accident in the Ferrari Monza was an unnecessary one. He hit strawbales and the binding got caught up by his hub-nut and went under a wheel and tipped him over. A really sad way to end a long motor racing career.

  2. Andrew says:

    Many thanks. I have many fond memories of this Ferrari

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