COUPE’S CLAIM TO FAME
RACE CARS BEGET STREET CARS…
In the beginning, there were race cars. Only race cars. When Enzo Ferrari began manufacturing automobiles under his own name after World War II, the first cars he built in 1947 were designed for track use, to compete and win. For Ferrari, that’s what had always mattered most. But soon after achieving success on European road circuits, mainly in Italy, Ferrari began adding road cars to his line-up.
Like many new ventures, Ferrari’s first steps into the world of passenger cars were cautious and tentative. Some of his earliest cars were dual purpose road or race machines, made in very limited numbers, while others were purely street vehicles with a few offering occasional seating for three, or even four, passengers. In 1948, less than ten Ferraris were completed, with probably five aimed at highway driving. These first road cars with serial numbers ending in odd numbered digits – for many years this was Ferrari’s way of identifying passenger vehicles – were Touring or Stabilimenti Farina bodied coupes powered by a small two liter V-12 engine. The next year, passenger car production rocketed ahead to approximately 21 units, continuing with Touring or Stabilimenti Farina bodies in both closed coupe and open barchetta styles, all right hand drive, and still with the small two liter 166 engine. The following year, 1950, an additional 26 street cars marched out of the Ferrari gates and onto the world’s highways.
AND ACHIEVE INSTANT STATUS…
Even though by 1949 the oldest Ferrari was hardly two years old, they had already achieved “gotta have” status among the enlightened, but getting one was no easy matter, even for the cognoscenti. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the names of English lords, Italian counts, and automotive dilettantes began to pepper Ferrari’s roster of new clients. Many of these important new owners wanted Ferraris to race, but celebrated movie director, Roberto Rossellini, bought his for road use after seeing it at the 1949 Geneva show, thereby putting the Rossellini stamp of approval on Ferrari as a touring car. And in 1950, international playboy and sometimes racer Porfirio Rubirosa from the Dominican Republic, and Italian industrialist, Gianni Agnelli, took possession of their first Ferraris. Victories on the race track had begun to allow Ferrari to parlay his new-found reputation into the beginnings of a commercially successful business.
212 INTERS AND EXPORTS…
By late 1950, Ferrari had added a new 2.3 liter V-12 engine, the type 195, to his passenger car menu, but barely two dozen had been built by January of 1952, when the last one was completed. Ferrari 195s received bodies by Vignale, Touring, and Ghia, and were all right hand drive coupes or berlinettas.
Then came the 212 Inters and Exports, Inters for road use, Exports for the track. These Ferraris were powered by 2.6 liter V-12 engines, developed from the 195, but with their bores increased three mm, they produced around 155 bhp, about 20 more than the 195 Inters.
With the 212 series, Ferrari was off and running. About 25 Exports and 80 Inters were completed between early 1951 and late 1953, by far the most of any one series Ferrari had yet built. The Exports received open and closed bodies primarily by Vignale and Touring, while Inters went all over the place for coachwork – Stabilimenti Farina, Ghia, Ghia-Aigle, Abbott, Touring, Vignale, and Pinin Farina all had a hand in clothing these cars. Ferrari was still struggling with its identity, but one design by Touring of Milan was destined for hall-of-fame status.
LE MANS BERLINETTA…
Back in 1950, Ferrari and Touring had combined to produce six lightweight competition 166 MM “Le Mans” Berlinettas, all painted light blue (azzurro metallizzato), in deference to the team’s success on the French circuit the year before. They were built on the 2.25 meter frame used under the 166 MM Barchettas, and came with the classic long hood and fastback roofline profile. Gianni Marzotto, with Marco Crosara navigating, won the 1950 Mille Miglia in one (s/n 0026 M) that had been fitted with a 2.3 liter type 195 V-12 engine just prior to the race.
With the arrival of the 195 and 212 Ferraris in 1951 and 1952, however, Vignale began replacing Touring as Ferrari’s favored coachbuilder for GT cars, despite Touring’s “Le Mans” berlinetta design. Derivations of this body style, stretched to fit on a longer 2.5 meter wheelbase, were used on several 2.3 and 2.6 liter Ferraris during this period, the most notable example probably being chassis number 0143 E.
This Ferrari, a 212 Inter, was destined to provide seat time for Mike Hawthorn, who went on to win the Formula One Driver’s Championship for Ferrari in 1958.
Mike Hawthorn was born on April 10, 1929, in Yorkshire, England. His father, Leslie, an electrical engineer, had an interest in motor racing, first bikes and then cars, but his real calling was as an automobile mechanic. This avocation took the family to the south of England in 1931, where Hawthorn’s father established a garage at Farnham near the fabled Brooklands race track, which is where young Mike was first exposed to motor racing. By the time he had turned 19, and with his father’s encouragement, Hawthorn was racing and winning in a variety of machinery, which eventually led to a ride in a Cooper-Bristol Formula II single seater for the 1952 season. His success on the continent in the car caught Ferrari’s eye, and by the following season Hawthorn was a Ferrari Factory team driver.
One of Hawthorn’s first sports car driving assignments for Ferrari was the 1953 Mille Miglia. In order to learn as much about the race and route as possible, Hawthorn enlisted the experienced Swiss journalist, Hans Tanner, to accompany him on a three day journey around Italy, on the roads to be used in the Mille Miglia (two more three day laps had been planned but car trouble intervened).
Their transportation was this light blue 212 Ferrari coupe, bodied by Touring, with dark blue cloth seats, serial number 0143 E, which Enzo Ferrari had presented to Hawthorn that spring. For the race, Hawthorn was put into a 250 MM Vignale spyder, s/n 0288 MM, with Azelio Cappi navigating, but they retired at Pescara on the Adriatic coast barely 630 kilometers into the race.
During their first Mille Miglia practice lap, the blue Touring coupe began showing signs of engine trouble, with overheating and traces of water in the sump so, after that one lap, Hawthorn left the Ferrari at the Factory for repairs, expecting it would be ready in time to use it to get to Le Mans a few weeks later. The idea was to drive it up to Le Mans prior to the 24 hour race but, in those days, race cars were the priority in Maranello, so Hawthorn’s Ferrari was not ready as expected. Thus, the job of getting Hawthorn’s car to the Sarthe circuit fell to Hans Tanner a few days later.
Hawthorn continued to use his 212 on the continent and on trips back to England in 1953, but on one journey to Paris the car took a hit from a truck on its right side and had to be left with the Ferrari concessionaire in Paris. When Hawthorn departed Ferrari following the 1953 season, he purchased the 212 coupe but had it registered in the name of his father’s Tourist Trophy garage in Farnham. The official sale date was recorded as March 29, 1954. But what about the car that Hawthorn had just bought?
HAWTHORN’S 212 COUPE…
Chassis 0143 E is one of those Touring bodied coupes (body no. 3467) stretched to fit on a 2,500 mm chassis, with styling ties to the French blue 166 MM “Le Mans” berlinettas by Touring mentioned above. According to Factory documents, it was to be delivered to its first owner on July 20, 1951, but the actual delivery and issuance of a certificate of origin for the car took place on the following September 22. That owner was a commercial concern called La Biscina S.p.A. in Gubbio, Italy.
Although originally built with a single 36 DCF carburetor in the style of the 212 Inters, s/n 143 E was converted to three twin choke 36 DCF Webers in November of 1952 at the Factory while the coupe was in for front suspension work. Curiously, the car’s engine compartment contains a 212 Export identification plate, which may have been added when the triple carbs were installed. Information on file at Ferrari indicates that the car was sold on the following April 3rd to SAIPA Srl. of Modena, but Ferrari retained possession and was able to provide the car to Hawthorn for 1953, although when Hawthorn purchased s/n 0143 E he bought it from SAIPA Srl., not Ferrari.
Hawthorn’s association with the blue 212 coupe ended on January 2, 1955, when it was sold to Anthony Crook of Surrey, England.
STOCK BUT SPECIAL…
The technical details of s/n 0143 E are pure Ferrari for the period. They include finned alloy drum brakes, a five speed gearbox, independent front suspension via double wishbones and a transverse leaf spring with Houdaille shocks, and a live rear axle suspended by semi-elliptics and damped by Houdailles.
The 60 degree V-12 displaces 2,562 cubic centimeters, produces up to 154 bhp at 6,500 rpm running on seven main bearings, and works with a compression ratio of about 7.8 to 1. Two coils and two distributors are provided, one pair for each bank of six cylinders. Fifteen inch Borranis were originally shod, with 5.90 by 15 Pirelli Corsa tires.
Inside the car, the driver faces two main gauges on the instrument panel, a tachometer to the left of the steering column calibrated to 8,500 rpm, and a speedometer to the right which originally read in kilometers but which was converted by the Factory to miles per hour for Hawthorn. Within these two instruments are gauges measuring oil pressure, water temperature, and fuel level. A clock is also included. The starter button, with a charge-discharge warning light incorporated in it, is positioned in the center of the dash, along with the ignition and light switches, and a manual choke. Controls for the interior lights, wipers, driving lights, and side lights are located on a panel below the main instruments. Completing the package of driver aids is an average speed calculator which Hawthorn found depressing!
AND SUPERLATIVE ACCELERATION…
Test driver, J. Crossley, writing in the September, 1953 issue of Motor Sport, noted that “unless one is very careful with the throttle, the getaway is accompanied by two well-defined black marks. Actually, it is possible to leave rubber behind in all the gears, including fifth…. The high-speed performance is… all one hopes for from a manufacturer of this distinction.” In addition to the matchless acceleration, Crossley liked the engine’s docility, commenting that it was possible to accelerate hard from 10 mph in fifth gear without complaint, but he didn’t like the lack of headroom for rear seat passengers, and he despaired of his ability to get smooth, silent gear changes despite synchromesh in third and fourth.
THEN ON TO MIDDLE AGE…
After its sale to Crook, its color was changed from blue to red. It then went through a series of five owners in England, ending up with Robert Frazier in June of 1966. It was Frazier who brought the coupe to the U.S., although by August of 1970 it had been sold to Otto Bowden of Jacksonville, Florida.
Over the next twenty nine years, Bowden drove the car, then stored it, and eventually attempted to restore it, but in 1999 it was sold to Frank Gallogly of Englewood, New Jersey, in need of a complete going over.
Deconstructing the car prior to restoration was not a major problem, because what Gallogly received was a body shell on wheels, with its motor separate, and an assortment of boxes, cartons, and crates containing the mortal remains of s/n 0143 E, all of which was turned over to Greg Jones Restorations of Stuart, Florida, in early 2001.
BACK FROM THE DEAD...
Over the next 2 1/2 years, the car was put right but it was no easy task. There were no seats or interior, no headliner or door panels, and only a few scraps of the original interior materials to serve as the basis for obtaining the proper replacement items. So Jones undertook trips to Peter Markowski’s shop in Vermont, and to the Factory museum in Maranello, where similarly bodied 212s were available for inspection, photos, and measurements.
In addition to the new interior, a new wiring harness was required, and most trim pieces had to be fabricated from scratch, along with the car’s woodwork. A new radiator core was required, but the engine and five speed gearbox were complete, and only required restoration. The Houdaille shocks were rebuilt, the drum brakes refurbished, and the dash instruments cleaned up and recalibrated. A new trafficator was obtained from David Smith in Washington, while all the instrument panel switches and buttons, which were missing, had to be outsourced.
Although the alloy body was in poor condition, with corrosion especially evident in the rocker panels and sills, Jones was able to work with what he had to put the metal work back to the way it was when new. The restoration turned the corner once the Touring body shell was resprayed in its original French blue color.
ON TO THE SHOW CIRCUIT…
The car was finished in time for the 2003 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on California’s Monterey Peninsula, where the new blue Touring coupe was placed in a nine car class of GT Ferraris, which included three other 212 coupes and berlinettas. Against this world class opposition, Gallogly’s 212 Inter scored a very impressive 97.5 out of 100 points. The car was then shown at the January 2004 Cavallino Classic Concorso in Palm Beach, Florida, where it was a Gold Award winner.
A PLACE IN HISTORY…
While Hawthorn’s 212 coupe is certainly an interesting and historically important Ferrari, its real significance is that it is one of a small number of early Ferraris that, collectively, brought attention to the automobiles being built in Maranello, Italy. For that reason, as well as its history, s/n 0143 E will always rate VIP status in the world of Ferrari.
Alan Boe is one of the foremost Ferrari historians and researchers of our day, and he writes intelligently, and extensively, on Ferraris for many serious publications. He is also Chief Judge of the Ferrari Class at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Copyright © 2005 Cavallino Magazine.