Posts Tagged ‘Piero Drogo’

(P Vestey)

A cold, snowy and wet Ferrari 250LM sits out front of the Hotel des Alpes, Aosta, between Courmayeur and the Mont Blanc Tunnel in 1968, this establishment is now closed.

Paul Vestey’s car is on its way back to the United Kingdon, or perhaps heading direct to Le Mans from Piero Drogo’s Carozzeria Sports Cars in Modena, via Emilia Ovest  524, near the old Autodromo. The tow vehicle is a Mercedes 250SE, either belonging to Paul Vestey or his friend and motor trader Don Parker.

These shots popped up whilst doing a ‘Getty Images Le Mans 1968’ search. I’m certainly not the first to post them, the story goes something like this, with thanks to DC Nye, whilst noting that some of the conclusions drawn are mine and therefore, so too are any errors.

Paul Vestey acquired 250LM ‘6167’ from Maranello Concessionaires in September 1967, after a successful life in the hands of Richard Attwood and Mike Parkes earlier in the year, to run throughout the 1968 endurance season.

In the early laps of the Targa Florio, his co-driver, David Piper, lost the car, probably after a steering arm parted company with the balance of the front suspension assembly, whereupon said vehicle tripped over a stone roadside marker and ended up, tit over arse, in a field about 50 feet below. Nye’s MotorSport article relates an amusing tale of Piper being fed some wonderful tucker by the owners whose real estate he smote, whilst the balance of the race was completed!

Targa 1968, ‘6167’ before the off in Cerda (unattributed)

 

Cripes, what a mess, or words to that general effect. David Piper surveys his ‘walk on the wild side’ into a Sicilian field, the morning after the day before. Paul Vestey took the shot from the point at which Piper left the road (P Vestey/GP Library)

 

It doesn’t look any better up close (P Vestey/GP Library)

 

Franco Zucchi, British racer F3 ace and occasional F1 driver Tony Lanfranchi and Piper ponder pre-Le Mans repairs (P Vestey/GP Library)

The wreck was dragged up to road level by the teams transporter with a bit of additional assistance from British racer Tony Lanfranchi, who co-drove Mark Konig’s Nomad Mk1 Ford in the race, and looked quite a sad and sorry sight.

Shortly thereafter Vestey acquired George Drummond’s sister 250LM rolling chassis ‘6053’ into which ‘6167’s engine and gearbox were fitted at Piero Drogo’s workshop in time for him to co-drive with Roy Pike at Le Mans, where, Nye notes, the salvaged transaxle broke.

This is the repaired car ‘6053’ heading back in the direction of the UK in the care of Paul Vestey, who took the photographs, and Don Parker.

(P Vestey/GP Library)

Oh yes, what became of ‘6167’ you ask? The ‘Barchetta’ website records that the original chassis remains, left at Carozzeria Cars were sold to Stefano Sebastiani, a Roman in April 1969 with a new chassis and body built by Franco Ferrari in 1992.

Final exchange on price, extra unanticipated additional work and all that kind of stuff between Paul Vestey and Piero Drogo above before the off and lunch in The Alps- Modena to Courmayeur is 400 km, a four to five hour tow i guess.

This set of panels are fibreglass unlike the hand formed aluminium originals.

 

Tony Lanfranchi, BRM P261, Oulton Park Gold Cup, August 1968. He was fifth in the 2 litre V8 engined car behind four 3 litre machines, Jackie Stewart won in a Matra MS10 Ford

Etcetera: Tony Lanfranchi…

Gee, i really did a flashback when i saw the photograph of Tony Lanfranchi, the very first motor racing book i ever had was an X-Mas stocking filler from Santa, bless the old fella, circa 1967.

The wonderful book has a shot of Tony, his psychedelic helmet caught my eye and mind, so much so that my first Bell Star was subjected to the same treatment a decade later, so i always followed his career and must get a copy of his book.

Tony Lanfranchi, Mike Spence and Jack Brabham in the 1968 publication ‘Car Sports Book’,

 

Lanfranchi lifts the singer ‘Lulu’ into a Lotus 51 Formula Ford at Brands Hatch in February 1967, she had just failed her road licence test, no doubt Tony knocked her into shape

Of Swiss extraction but Yorkshire born, Lanfranchi was a ‘doyen’ of British national racing, all the way up to non-championship F1 mind you, he was no slouch behind the wheel at all, of anything; single-seaters, sports cars and taxis.

He died of cancer in 2004, i like this tribute from MotorSport ‘He was the archetypal racing driver of yesteryear- booze, birds and cars, though in which order of priority was always up for debate.’

Tony aboard a Lola T140 Chev at Brands Hatch early in 1969, must be a Libre race, it does not appear to be a Guards F5000 round (unattributed)

Credits…

Paul Vestey, GP Library, Alamy, ‘VIP Hospitality at the Targa Florio’ Doug Nye in MotorSport June 2009, Marcel Massini, Miki Paki, barchetta.cc, ‘Car Sports Book’ Young World Productions 1968, Getty Images

Tailpiece…

What a lovely bit of kit the Nomad Mk1 Lotus-Ford is. Here at Targa in 1968 at the start.

The car was designed by ex-Lotus man Bob Curl, it has a spaceframe chassis and a body built in aluminium by Williams and Pritchard, it was very quick in endurance events in the UK and Europe in 1969 and still exists.

Finito…

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Iso Grifo A3/C Chevrolet at rest. Piero Drogo’s Carrozzeria Sports Cars, Modena, Italy December 1964…

Renzo Rivolta was an ingenious Italian entrepreneur in postwar Italy.

He owned the Isothermos heater and refrigeration company and postwar decided to build cars, his passion. He started with motorcycles and then introduced the Isetta, an incredibly successful economy car he subsequently and very profitably  licensed to BMW and others.

Into the early sixties he formed Iso Automobili and introduced the Iso Rivolta GT to rave reviews at the 1962 Turin Auto Salon.

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The Iso Rivolta GT being driven the way it’s creators intended on the roads outside LA in August 1966 during this road test (Darryl Norenberg)

One of Rivolta’s key players in his nascent enterprise was Giotto Bizzarrini, the gifted engineer who played a key role in the development of the Ferrari Testa Rossa and 250 GTO. After the so-called ‘Palace Revolution’ of 1962, Bizzarrini left Maranello with Carlo Chiti and others and soon found work as a freelance engineer, then with Iso. There, Bizzarrini worked with Iso’s chief technician Pierluigi Raggi to develop the sophisticated platform type chassis which formed the basis of the 2+2 Iso Rivolta GT.

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Berney/Noblet Iso Grifo A3/C on its way to 14th place at Le Mans 22 June 1964. Car behind the Dumay/von Ophem Ferrari 250LM 16th (Getty)

Bizzarrini, Bertone and others encouraged Rivolta to build a sports car to enhance sales of the Rivolta, which were flagging, partly due, its said, to the failure of the US importer to meet its contractual obligations. The result was the Iso Grifo two seater GT built on a shortened Rivolta chassis.

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Grifo Lusso on Bertone’s stand at the 1963 Turin Salon, and doesn’t it look just so sweet in a brutal kinda way. The alloy wheels are Borrani’s (GP Library)

The chassis had a fabricated sheet steel platform as a base with tubular ‘space frame’ upper sections clearly shown in the photographs below. Two Iso Grifo versions were built and shown at the Turin show in November 1963. The luxury touring ‘Stradale’ A3/L (Lusso) was displayed on coachbuilder Bertone’s stand, while Bizzarrini’s race-prepped A3/C (Corsa) was long, low and lean on Iso’s stand.

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Chassis as per text; platform type lower sections and cockpit bulkhead with tubular steel spaceframe otherwise, December 1964 (Klemantaski)

 

Wearing lightweight aluminum coachwork penned by Bertone’s great and immaculately credentialled Giorgietto Giugiaro, and built by Piero Drogo’s Carrozzeria Sports Cars in Modena, the A3/C ‘was a spectacular vision with aerodynamic flair. The result was an impossibly low and wide car that was exotically curved from every angle’. Some regard the car as one of the most beautiful shapes Giugiaro ever created.

In an effort to avoid the cost, time and complications of engine construction, Iso specified a 5.3 litre Chev V8 engine which was highly tuned for racing in the A3/C. Depending upon specification the famous Chevy 90 degree, cast iron, push-rod OHV ‘small block’ V8 produced between 350 and 420 bhp. The latter spec involved steel internals, roller-rocker valve gear, 4 Webers and the rest, the car good for circa 180mph down the Mulsanne. In addition the engine was placed far behind the front axle, giving the car a very racey front but mid-engined layout that plonked all the masses right where they needed to be. The engine was mounted so far back in the chassis that the Chevy’s distributor, famously, had to be accessed through a removable panel in the top of the dashboard!

The gearbox was a 4 speed Borg Warner T4.

According to some historians, Bizzarrini described the A3/C as the second coming of his GTO, a more refined one at that.

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Carozzeria Sports Cars May 1965, note the full race Chevy topped by four side draft 58mm Webers on crossover manifold (Klemantaski)

Suspension of the car was conventional upper and lower wishbones up front with coil spring/damper units and an adjustable roll bar. At the rear a de Dion rear axle was located by twin radius rods and a Watts linkage,  again with coil spring/dampers.

Burmann recirculating ball steering, 4 wheel disc brakes and lightweight magnesium alloy wheels (7X15inch/9X15inch wheels) completed a beautifully specified and integrated package.

The car was 4369mm long, 1730mm wide, 1135mm high, had a wheelbase of 2451mm, a track of 1410/1435mm front/rear and weighed circa 1000Kg

Bizzarrini provided full build execution for the AC/3 at his Autostar Works factory in Livorno, for 18 months Giotto built the car under agreement with Iso. Iso and Bertone produced the Grifo A3/L road car.

To Rivolta the Grifo was a tool to promote his GT car, but Bizzarrini was a racer to the core so fissures developed in the relationship between the two men as to where the primary focus should be. After about 20 examples of the Drogo-bodied A3/C’s were made, in the summer of 1965, Bizzarrini left Iso and produced the model under his own name, in both Strada and Corsa forms. As few as 115 examples of the cars were made under both names.

Most of the cars pictured in this article are some of the 20 A3/C coupes built using very lightweight, riveted (over 7000 of them were utilised in each body) aluminium bodies fabricated by Piero Drogo’s Carozzeria Sports Auto, the photos were taken in Drogo’s workshop in Modena in December 1964 and early 1965.

Part of the A3/C’s transition from an Iso to a Bizzarrini involved a change of coachbuilders from Drogo to Salvatore Diomante and his Carbondio concern, which was eventually reborn as Autocostruzione SD of Torino.

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The Pierre Noblet/Edgar Berney Grifo ahead of the #5 Dan Gurney/Bob Bondurant Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe 4th with the nose of the #24 Lucien Bianchi/Jean Blaton Ferrari 250GTO 5th during Le Mans 1964 (Getty)

From a racing perspective amongst the cars best international results are 14th outright and 4th in class at Le Mans in 1964, 5th in the Monza 1000Km and 19th at the Nurburgring 1000Km in 1965 a season which started badly with one car destroyed at Sebring and then another at Daytona.

Given the cars low build numbers it raced as a prototype against outright class mid-engined sports-prototypes rather than amongst the GT cars more akin to the Grifo in specification.

Credits…

Bonhams, Sotheby’s, Getty Images, Klemantaski Collection. Darryl Norenberg/The Enthusiast Network, The GP Library, F2 Register

Etcetera…

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The Getty caption describes this car as a Lusso, outside Drogo’s workshop in December 1964, same chassis as the opening photo (Klemantaski)

Tailpiece: A car fit for a King. John Lennon susses the interior of his new Iso Fidia S4 at Earls Court in October 1967…

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