Journal: Happy Sixtieth, Ferrari North America!

Happy Sixtieth, Ferrari North America!

Avatar By Yoav Gilad
April 23, 2014
8 comments

Images Courtesy of Ferrari North America and Mr. Bruce Meyer

In the US, Ferrari has fielded some of the most famous race cars ever to thunder down a raceway many of which were born of the close relationship between il Commendatore himself, Mr. Enzo Ferrari, and Mr. Luigi Chinetti.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Luigi left France with racer Rene Dreyfus’s Ecurie Bleu team (owned by Ms. Lucy O’Reilly Schell) to compete in the Indianapolis 500, but remained throughout the war working for importer and dealer Mr. Alfred Momo. He eventually received his US citizenship, and it is around this time that Luigi’s importance increased tremendously.

However, Luigi was initially important because he won the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1932 and ’34 in an Alfa Romeo (it was probably around this time that he met Enzo). Later, anecdotal evidence states that Luigi visited his old friend Enzo, his factory bombed by the allies as it had produced tools and materiel for the Italian forces during the war. During this visit, he supposedly told Enzo that if he could build twenty or so cars, Luigi would sell them in America. Whether or not this exact conversation took place is almost beside the point.

What certainly did happen was that Luigi took Ferrari’s first victory at Le Mans in 1949, which began to establish Ferrari’s reputation and re-established Italy (defeated in the war) on the world stage. More impressive was that Chinetti drove all but twenty minutes of that twenty-four hour contest.

In 1956, he formed the NART (North American Racing Team) with backing from wealthy racers Mr. George Arents and Mr. Jan de Vroom. Luigi’s close relationship with Ferrari ensured a consistent string of competitive cars and allowed the vaunted North American Racing Team to enjoy great successes including victories at the 24 hours of Le Mans, 24 hours of Spa (technically not a NART win, although Chinetti won in 1949, driving a Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta), Daytona (before it was even a twenty-four hour race!), and countless smaller tracks around the US and world. It became the team that established the high ranking of Ferraris on American racing circuits, and largely, was responsible for Ferrari’s survival as a retailer of cars through the quantity he sold to wealthy individuals in North America. In addition to the racing cars, the team commissioned many limited-run special variants of Ferrari road cars, most notably, the spyder version of the Ferrari 275GTB/4.

Additionally, according to Ferrari historian Mr. David Seibert, “It is very probable that the concept of the original 250 GT California Spyder was John Von Neumann’s–he was the California distributor, and thought that a lightweight open fairly simple Ferrari–think of the Porsche Speedster, which he also distributed–would do well in California. That idea was taken forward to Ferrari by Chinetti. (Ferrari 250 GT SWB Spider California, Seibert) The now hugely valuable California Spyder was essentially an open version of the Ferrari 250 GT Long Wheelbase Berlinetta, known as the “Tour de France” for its successes in that event. This was roughly ten years before the 275 GTS/4 NART.”

As a result of his direct Emilia-Romagna connection, Luigi was often able to get engines and cars for his customers that he may otherwise been unable to get.

This year, Ferrari North America celebrates their sixtieth birthday and we’re celebrating this storied motor company’s history too. In the coming weeks we’ll be featuring editorials, graphics, photos, and videos that showcase some of the personalities, the rarest cars, and events that shaped their history and helped to make Ferrari what it is today. Stay tuned!

Special thanks to Mr. David Seibert and Ms. Morgan Theys for their help.

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santosh konisaDeetta GlennChristopher GayYoav GiladMatthew Lange Recent comment authors
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santosh konisa
santosh konisa

Great to see these kind of aritcle….now i am completely addicted ot movies which are giveing me great resoite from my hectic schedule..Currently using CInema APK(https://cinemahdapkapp.com/)

Deetta Glenn
Deetta Glenn

Just love this car, who won’t !I was once offered to ride it, similar to the one in the third pic.It belonged to my elder brothers friend’s relative. But obviously it doesn’t allow much space for legs and I ended up looking like a fool in skirt. From then onwards have always kept at hand some good [url=”http://casual-plus.com”]plus size denim[/url], cause you just look out of place without the proper clothing in this elegant car.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

Great pictures and story although not all the pictures relate to Ferrari North America. The Group IV spec Ferrari 308s were run by the French importer Charles Pozzi, and the 312PB’s were only ever run by the works team.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay

It’s great to see these old photos of these guys on the podium. Didier Theys was always one of my favorite drivers, and it’s fun to see Mad Max looking so young and enthusiastic. He is still kicking butt on the circuit. I also spot a young T.K. on the podium, although not for Ferrari. Love me the 312PB and 512LM. My son and I recently met Mario Andretti, and I forgot to ask him what it was like to drive the 512LM. He is a great guy, and took the time to chat with my son. I’m sure he… Read more »

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay

Good times at the track.

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle

Has it been sixty years already? Time sure seems to fly by you doesn’t it. Very good article and tons of great ole Ferrari pictures as well. I think most people seem to forget that the North America Ferrari did have its fair share of victories on the race track as well. Its nice to see a article like this from time to time to show off the cars and/or racing teams that may have been forgotten by most people. Thanks Petrolicious.