Peter Collins photographed by Louis Klemantaski aboard their Ferrari 335S during the ill-fated 1957 Mille Miglia…
This stunning, evocative shot, one of motor racings’ most famous, was taken by acclaimed photographer Louis Klementaski who ‘navigated’ for Collins capturing the essence of the event and times which seem so long ago.
Klemantaski picks up the story in ‘Automobile Year 44’…’In the fateful Mille Miglia of 1957 I was in the Ferrari Team in the car driven by Peter Collins, a 335 Sport. This model was the ultimate achievement of Ferraris’ creativity of that period. Peter said it was the best handling sports-racing Ferrari he had driven so far. It was certainly the most powerful and I had to adjust my course notes accordingly’.
‘ This photograph was taken as we went through a series of hairpin bends in the Abruzzi Mountains on the way to l’Aquila and Rome. There were no trees around and Peter could see the whole road for quite a way ahead, so I was able to take some time off from giving him signals as to the severity of the next corner and take some shots of the cockpit and him in action. As the G-forces were considerable, I had to make the exposure on the right-hand corner, so that I would be thrown outwards and away from him. We had no seat belts in those days and it was very difficult not to impede Peter on occasion. In those very tight corners first on one lock and then the other, Peter could cope without changing the position of his hands on the wheel, which was just as well, as the corners came up with remarkable rapidity. This is my favourite Ferrari photograph because it was of a Ferrari in action, taken from a Ferrari cockpit- and how much closer to the spirit of these wonderful cars can you get?’
Scuderia Ferrari entered five cars in the 1957 event... 315S models for Piero Taruffi (his car fitted with a 335 engine) and Count Wolfgang ‘Taffy’ von Trips, and the latest 4 litre quad-cam 335S models for Collins/ Klemantaski and Marquis ‘Fon’ de Portago and Ed Nelson. Finally, a 250LWB was entered for Olivier Gendebien and his navigator M Washer.
Taruffi won the race and then retired with Von Trips in second. The Collins car retired at the 5 hour 3 minute mark with a broken driveshaft. Sadly, and infamously de Portago/ Nelson perished in a gruesome accident also which took the lives of nine spectators, five of whom were children in the village of Guidizzolo, Lombardy, 110 Km east of Milan.
Some reports say de Portago should have changed his tyres earlier, a blowout the cause of the accident. The race was banned as a consequence, and so ended a tradition which commenced in 1927, the event run 24 times from then until 1957.
The view at speed…somewhere in Italy! Klemantaski shot from the Collins 335S (Louis Klemantaski)
The Mile Miglia was started by Count Aymo Maggi and Franco Mazzotti… after the Italian Grand Prix was moved from their home town of Brescia to Monza. They chose a race from Brescia to Rome and back, a figure-eight course of 1500Km or 1000 Roman Miles.
1957 Mille Miglia course, the race won by Piero Taruffi, Ferrari 315S, from Taffy Von Trips in a similar car and the Scuderia Ferrari 250GT LWB of Gendebien/ Washer
Fon de Portago/Ed Nelson in their Ferrari 335S go thru the Futa Pass on their fateful ’57 Mille run. (Yves Debraine)
Various courses were used over the years with many of the greats of the day winning. Tazio Nuvolari Alfa 6C 1750 in 1930 and 8C 2300 in 1933, Rudy Caracciola in a Benz SSK 1931, Achille Varzi Alfa Monza 1934 and Alberto Ascari in a Lancia B24 in 1954 included.
Over the years Italians won the race the most, from 1953 to 1957 the event was a round of the World Sports Car Championship, Stirling Moss famously winning navigated by ‘Motor Sport’ magazines’ Denis Jenkinson, the pair setting the fastest ever time of 10 hours 7 minutes and 48 seconds.
The team covered six reconnaisance laps, Jenkinson making ‘pace notes’ on a scroll of paper contained in an aluminium housing. Dennis ‘calling’ the corners and the stunning ability of Moss resulted in an emphatic and famous 1955 victory in their Mercedes Benz 300SLR.
The 1957 Ferrari 335S…was a development of the 860 Monza and 290 MM sports racers of 1956.
The Collins/ P Hill Ferrari 335S at Le Mans 1957, DNF engine failure on lap 2 (Unattributed)
A tubular steel chassis frame was fitted with independent unequal length wishbones, coil springs and hydraulic shocks at the front. A de Dion rear axle located by twin radius arms, transverse leaf spring and hydraulic shocks was fitted at the rear.
Drum brakes were used all round, steering was by worm and sector. A strong 4 speed transaxle took all the torque of the big V12 with 6X16 inch and 7X 16 inch tyres fitted front/rear, the whole lot weighing a relatively light 880Kg dry.
The 335 Sport was the height of development of Ferraris’ complex but powerful 4 cam front-engined sports cars which won the World Sports Car Championship in 1957, defeating arch rivals Maserati in the process.
Side profile of the Hawthorn Ferrari 335S on the exit of Tertre Rouge corner Le Mans 1957. He shared the car with Luigi Musso, and again DNF due to engine failure (Louis Klemantaski)
4 litre V12 engine of the Collins 335S during a Mille Miglia pitstop (Louis Klemantaski)
The engines of the 290, 315 and 335S were primarily designed by Vittorio Bellantani…the ex-Maserati engineer received assistance from Vittorio Jano, some elements of the engine having a passing design relationship to Janos’ fabulous D50 Lancia V8 of 1954/55. Jano of course came across to Ferrari from Lancia in the deal which ‘saved Ferrari’s bacon’, devoid of a competitive Grand Prix car at the time.
The 60 degree all aluminium V12 displaced 4023cc with a bore/stroke of 77X72mm. DOHC were deployed with 2 valves per cylinder. Six Weber 44DCN carbs fed the engine with twin plugs and four coils providing the spark. Maximum power was 390bhp @ 7400rpm.
The Klemantaski Archive quotes Phil Hill as saying ‘the 335S was the best front-engined car ever built by Ferrari and certainly the fastest’.
Cockpit of restored 335S ‘0764’ . 4 speed rear mounted transaxle, worm and sector steering. (Unattributed)
Scuderia Ferrari in Brescia before the 1957 MM start. #534 Collins/Klemantaski, #531 de Portago/Nelson, #417 Gendebien/Washer, #532 Von Trips and the privately entered Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa of Gino Munaron
Piero Taruffi in the winning 335 engined Ferrari 315S. MM 1957. This very successful driver retired after winning the event then writing ‘The Technique of Motor Racing’, a rather good book! (Unattributed)
De Portago and Peter Collins in colored beanie before the MM start. Louise Collins in the striped blouse at the rear (Louis Klementaski)
de Portago and Nelson leave the Rome control in 4th place (Louis Klemantaski)
Louis Klemantaski Archive, Yves Debraine, G Cavara cutaway drawing
An equally stunning shot as the one at the start of this article. It reflects the fanatical Italian crowd and their proximity to the cars. Its poignant for that reason as it is one of the last shots of ‘Fon’ de Portago before the fatal accident which took his and ten others lives. Ferrari 335S ‘0676’ Mille Miglia 1957. (Unattributed)