A Look at the Rare and Racy Nardi-Danese 6C
Photography by Jeremy Heslup
Nardi steering wheels are some of the world’s finest, and often sit at a slight, inviting angle inside the many of the most exceptional classic and vintage cars. These steering wheels are just one part of the Nardi story that stretches back to the turn of the 20th century, a story with Enrico Nardi at its center.
As man with strong engineering abilities, a fine aesthetic sense, and raw driving talent, it’s no wonder that Nardi not only found himself a career in the automotive industry, but one that would see him rubbing shoulders with its luminaries.
Born in 1907, Enrico Nardi started his career at Lancia in the late-1920s, working as an engineer and test driver. During this time, he competed in several runnings of the Mille Miglia race and even built, with partner Augusto Monaco, the Chichibo, the first car to bear his name.
In 1937, Nardi moved to the racing outfit Scuderia Ferrari, becoming team’s first test driver. In 1938, when Enzo Ferrari was exiled from the team he created, Nardi followed Ferrari on his next venture. By 1940, Nardi was the co-driver in the Tipo 815, the first Ferrari to run the Mille Miglia.
In 1948, having parted ways with Ferrari, Nardi and Renato Danese joined forces to establish Nardi-Danese, building race cars, prototypes, and limited-production special designs based on existing chassis in a small hangar behind the Lancia works in Turin.
One piece of that legacy is this car, the svelte 1948 Nardi-Danese 6C, of which only three were ever made. Nardi built the car specifically for the 1948-49 Mille Miglia and Targa Florio and, for power, installed an Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 overhead twin-cam, dry sump marine engine that produces 145 horsepower and torque aplenty. Wrapped around its strong powerplant was a lightweight, handcrafted Corsa-Barchetta body.
After only two years of European racing, the car was purchased in 1950 by Perry Fina, an American who specialized in the sale and preparation of high-performance cars. Fina and his team campaigned the car at Palm Beach, Bridgehampton, and at Watkins Glen in its original form but in the early 1950s, unable to compete with the Jaguars and Allards of the time, Fina and his team removed the Alfa Romeo engine and installed a more powerful Cadillac one.
Fortunately, current owner Richard DeLuna has returned this Nardi-Danese to its original glory, complete with an Alfa Romeo 6C marine engine and, of course, its original Nardi competition steering wheel. His ground-up, 2,700 man-hour restoration touched every component on the car, with cost a faint memory once its motor is fired up.
“I go back 30, 40, 50 years when I’m driving it,” says DeLuna. “You put a helmet on with some goggles, this is the way it was…even though you’re driving on the road you feel like you’re driving on a racetrack”.
Even though Nardi-Danese had some racing success with its designs, in 1951 Nardi decided to strike out on his own, and focused on building prototypes and speed equipment. The company began to specialize in manifolds, crankshafts, camshafts, and of course, steering wheels. Enrico Nardi died of blood poisoning at the age of 58 in 1966 after exposing himself to noxious exhaust fumes, and yet the company he built lives on, as do some of his automotive creations.
Thankfully, as one of the few survivors from the marque, DeLuna’s beloved Nardi-Danese is no garage queen and can often be seen at some of the world’s flagship classic car events, including the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Tour Auto, and the Monterey Historics.