The Era of Gentleman Racers
Photography of Bruce Meyer’s 1957 Ferrari 625/250 TRC by Afshin Behnia for Petrolicious
Motorsport has always attracted a level of gentry, due to the wealth needed to participate, coupled with the zest for living life to the full, the thrill of danger, and the glory of victory. In the classic motoring world, no other era is met with more prestige than the ‘Gentleman Racer’ era, cemented by privateer race cars carossing the auction block for record sums.
Throughout Ferrari’s history, the company has always enjoyed a close relationship with Gentleman Racers, some of whom played a key part in Ferrari’s development and forging the company we all know today. Back in 1947, Ferrari’s first customers were all wealthy privateers for whom a Servizio Clienti department was set up in 1948 in Viale Trento e Trieste, Modena. A sporting spirit with a flair for driving, coupled with the ability to endure fatigue and passion for engineering were all elements required to become one of the few Gentleman Racers, willing to face the same risks as the professional drivers.
There was also a level of eccentricity associated with many of the racers, notably including Count Gianni Marzotto who always raced whilst dressed impeccably in a jacket and tie, once stating “I raced like that because that was my normal working attire… it meant I was always ready, if forced to retire, to take the train home… But above all, I wanted to play down the danger and risk normally associated with motor sport. I wanted to show that a race could be run as recreation, a nice long drive along the Italian roads in a powerful car, but just for fun.”
Another such racer was Mr. John von Neumann who was pivotal in establishing the Southern California sports car scene. He initially went to work for the famed Barlow Motors but eventually left to form his own dealership, Competition Motors, that also helped customers prep their cars for racing. He established the legitimacy of his business by racing the cars he sold and prepared, effectively demonstrating that he could sell you winning cars. As his victories on tracks and his showroom increased, he began selling more exotic brands eventually adding Ferrari to his company’s portfolio and this 625/250TRC was one of the earlier fruits of his hard work and success.