Jon Summers is the Motoring Historian. He was a company car thrashing technology sales rep that turned into a fairly inept sports bike rider. On his show he gets together with various co-hosts to talk about new and old cars, driving, motorbikes, motor racing, motoring travel.
On this special bonus episode of The Motoring Historian, Jon is accompanied by William Ross from The Ferrari Marketplace Podcast and Crew Chief Eric from Break/Fix Podcast to discuss the history of the Mille Miglia; however, as conversations tend to go, they went a bit far afield talking about stories involving Enzo, Ferrucio, Ferdinand and other famous automotive characters of the period. Enjoy!
[00:00:00] John Summers is the motoring historian. He was a company car thrashing, technology sales rep that turned into a fairly inept sports bike rider. Hailing from California, he collects cars and bikes built with plenty of cheap and fast, and not much reliable. On his show, he gets together with various co hosts to talk about new and old cars, driving, motorbikes, motor racing, and motoring travel.
Good day, good morning, good afternoon, and welcome to The Motoring Historian with me, Jon Summers. This is an extra episode, way shorter than all of the other ones. This is the vignettes and non sequiturs. Which didn’t make the Ferrari at the Mille Miglia pods that appear on, on the Grand Touring Motorsport website here with William and [00:01:00] Eric too.
Yeah, so that’s the contents of today. Music wise, whenever people talk about Ferrari, they’re always of opera. Don’t they? But I mean, to me, it’s, it’s not that. If you look at the cars, they were dirty and grimy in period and Modena was a industrial city. And although Ferrari liked Op, the things he built, they didn’t seem that operatic to me.
So we’ve got Motorhead. Basically, with Megadeth’s homage to speeding, 502, but mostly Motorhead and, and mostly the sense of that wall of sound, which really sets, uh, set Motorhead apart years ago, and other bands, I think, have tried to emulate, but have not done, uh, not done successfully, because to me, right, 150 miles an hour on the open road, my word, this is not for the faint hearted, this is not Rigoletto, this is Motorhead.
It’s not for the faint hearted. Iron Child out of Vulcan’s Forge. Metal Screaming Thrash. Thank you, Drive Thru. [00:02:00] Iron Child out of Vulcan’s Forge. Metal Screaming Thrash. It’s an interesting parallel that can be drawn with the Porsche family as well. Because if you think about it, you know, a lot of Germans, Austro Hungarians, uh, all the people from Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, all those areas that are now, you know, under different names that were absorbed by Germany were forced to become part of the party or die.
Right. It’s sort of like the board resistance is futile, but Porsche, just like Ferrari kept himself at arm’s length, although under contract to build the Volkswagen, to build a Beetle, right. That started in the thirties, the whole nother story there too. Interesting how. Two of the greats, their stories are so similar at the end of the day, right?
And then took off post war in a very similar way because only car manufacturers could build agricultural equipment and get the countries back on their feet. Again, that’s what really brought Europe back into fruition. And then from there, they were able to take the money from building the [00:03:00] tractors, you know, don’t watch the Lamborghini movie, but take it to the next level and build their empires.
based on that agrarian society, which brought Europe back onto its feet. It’s always interesting to compare Ferrari and Porsche, even though they’ve been rivals from the bitter beginning, but how similar their life stories are. I would say Eric, that’s something of a strain because I feel like Ferrari.
Yeah, sure. He did his machine tools and there’s a line in his memoirs, isn’t there, about how when the Nazis came and looked at it, they said that they carry on using his machine tools because his copy was as good as the ones that they were making. So, you know, there’s, there’s that. So he did the machine tools then when, when he was bombed the first time.
Didn’t he then move out to Maranello and then start doing ball bearings? There’s ball bearings out there. So I, I would say that ball bearings aren’t quite as significant a contribution to the war effort as designing the best tank of the second world war, a rotating gun turret, as well as the Volkswagen Beetle.
I feel like that was, [00:04:00] you know, somebody who was working under duress. He would seem to be very productive, tomato, tomato. Well, you know, it’s interesting too, and the ball bearings, you know, he was making. He copied off of, um, what’s his name in the UK? Oh, Vandervelde. Yes, that’s it. Vandervelde. He copied those.
Yeah, that’s all he did. He’s basically just copied those. That’s all he did. Whilst we’re down this sort of little rat hole, I only learned this very recently. Tony Vandervelde creates the Van War. The Van War becomes the first successful British Formula One car. It gives rise to the whole garagista culture of the 60s and the 70s.
That Van Wall engine, it was four Norton motorcycle engines fixed together. Vandervelde watched Norton, the Italians doing all these MV four cylinders and so on, and Norton still beating them by tuning the bejesus out of this single that they’d got. And he thought, well, I’ll just put four of those together.
And see if that can [00:05:00] beat Ferrari in a Formula One car as well. And after a little bit, sure enough, uh, sure enough, it did. Lucky Brits with your ingenuity, making gold out of garbage. But what that, doesn’t that speak to sort of what we’re, what we’re thinking about almost with ourselves and, and the Chinese at the moment that really what we’re talking about is that in Britain.
At that time, there was engineering thought leadership, right, or at least Vandervoort had engineering. Thought leadership, which other nations look to copy. And since that time, that engineering leadership battle has passed how and when that passes and what causes that to pass, that’s really interesting.
And it means that this conversation about Ferrari’s about more than. You know, just fast cars and, and, and motor races or tractors, but yes, or track or tractors. Yeah. Ferrari never made tractors [00:06:00] though. Did he made the ball bearings? Porsche made tractors Lamborghini. There are Ferrari tractors from way back when.
Yes. Just like Lamborghinis. And the whole story about Lamborghini with Ferruccio is that he couldn’t buy a tractor from Ferrari. He wouldn’t sell him one. So he said, basically go shove it up your tailpipe and he made his own. Right. And then it became the car thing. Oh, I thought it was the business lunch in Bologna.
Ferruccio’s bought a Ferrari. Approaches. Sees Ferrari at the business lunch. Approaches him. Yeah, that’s the whole story they told in the movie about how the clutches were terrible. Yeah. The story that I learned, that I read and was told was that. Perruccio had gone to Enzo to buy a tractor because Ferrari and Fiat and whatever, because they were existing under the fascist regime, designated manufacturers, engineering companies, whatever, just like Porsche was, they were allowed to build the equipment to [00:07:00] get Europe back on its feet.
That’s why I’m saying it draws a parallel between Ferdinand Porsche and Enzo because Ferrari and Porsche were building tractors and that’s where they made their money. And at the time Lamborghini had gone to Enzo to buy a tractor and he wouldn’t sell him one. Whatever’s truth, fact, fiction, or myth, or otherwise, I don’t know, but that’s the story that I learned versus the other one, which I’ve also heard.
And I’m just like, really? Seriously? Okay. So my understanding of that one is, of the Bologna business meeting story, is that Lamborghini complains to Ferrari about the clutch. Ferrari says something along the lines of what do you know about cars tractor maker? It may have been more polite. It may have been less polite than that, but it was.
Something along those kind of, of lines, and Lamborghini’s so incensed he decides he will go out and build something better, which is a wonderful creation myth, but has the feel of a creation myth rather than a true story. My aside to that was that Ferrari himself, apparently when there was heavy [00:08:00] traffic, he wouldn’t sit in it.
He would just park the car at the side of the road, get a coffee, and wait for the traffic to clear. The point being that, yes, of course you would just fit a ra you would fit a racing clutch, wouldn’t you? A racing clutch is better at any point when you’re not in traffic, if you don’t sit in traffic. So once again, I’m building cars for a racing driver.
I’m not building cars for a road driver or a tractor maker. It’s that beautiful Italian logic, right? That’s why, don’t you need a racing clutch in your street car? Of course. It just makes sense, but that all jokes aside,
Bugatti had forgotten where he buried all his cars too. Right. So they were still trying to figure all that out. I didn’t know about that. The story of the 57 G tank. It was buried [00:09:00] underground. Then they forgot where they buried it. Yeah. That’s a whole different. That’s all different podcasts. William and I were talking about a guy called Lou Brero, some contact with some years ago and, and famously Lou Brero supposedly had a car that Ascari had used in the 1953 Mille Miglia.
So after that, it had come to America, been bought by Brero’s father. And then Brero had raced it. And then in the eighties, when there was the classic car boom, lots of people had come trying to buy it off him. And every person who came to see him, he agreed a higher price. And then when the truck turned up, price had changed and this just went on and on and on.
You’ll, you’ll see this forums talking about a crazy guy on a beach in California with a Ferrari and a D type Jaguar. That’s Lou Brero. Those cars were supposedly buried. He supposedly got so beat off. He buried the, and then the classic car crash happened. And then the Ferrari was only disinterred 25 years ago or something like that.
And [00:10:00] those are all the ones I’m sure everyone knows the famous with that Dino that was buried in the backyard as well. So I see people say I have a penchant for burying Ferraris for some reason. People in California maybe ’cause that that Dino is down in la Wasn’t it something to do with him? I dunno.
one thing I did wanna ask you. I had noted that the 49 winner was a barta, yet the same chassis. was sold to Lord Selsden, and then Selsden and Kineti used that car to win Le Mans that year. Yeah. That was a closed car though, wasn’t it? The Le Mans, like it was, so it was open when it won the Million Million, then it had a closed body put on it.
If memory serves correctly, because they re bodied the car, the [00:11:00] Vignale. I have to go back and look. My, I I, I’m terrible about remembering this stuff. I think it’s tour. I think it’s a touring, isn’t it? Yeah, touring. But yeah, they, they get it. So, and that actually happens a few times in regards to like a, a, a car winning this and then get changed up and I don’t know if it just ’cause it damage and so they get it re bodied and do it, but yeah, it’s um, it’s kind of impressive how that happens.
And you, and you know, it’s same engine, everything. Obviously they rebuild it and whatnot, but it kind of goes to tell you. In regards to, you know, some of these cars are pretty durable. You would think that they’d be fragile, but like going to Le Mans racing for 24 hours straight. But, you know, obviously the race of the million million, you know, going through, it can take some abuse.
Obviously you got two totally kind of different, I guess, tracks, I guess you would say, in regards to the Le Mans to the million million. It’s kind of interesting when you delve into the chassis itself and look at its total history, what it did and who raced it and where. That’s a whole different [00:12:00] conversation in regards to going.
I mean, you could have, we could have podcasts on, on single cars, you know, each one, one chassis number. I think it’s interesting, though, when you look at the 1 6 6 design language, the cues that it has, it is the precursor to the 2 50 Testa Rosa pontoon fendered car. And you can really see it in the nose where, let’s say, shy of 10 years later, 1957, when the Testa Rosa comes out where they got the inspiration for that car.
So, I think that’s interesting. I mean, that’s very typical of. You know, a lot of the designs back then is let’s continue to refine that idea. Let’s continue to, you know, pull from that playbook to correct ourselves or correct me. Chinetti, they didn’t rebody that car. No, he won it with as a barketta. Uh, it was the second place car of Bonetto that got rebodied.
So when Chinetti got it and Stelza got it, basically the same car, they didn’t change anything. I was still barketta and that’s the one that he drove [00:13:00] 23, whatever hours it was and everything too. So. Which was, you know, impressive itself, but again, that’s a whole nother discussion. Yeah, you get, you get the impression.
I mean, Selsden, I know nothing about him beyond that. It’s not like he was a figure in British motorsport. You get the impression that he bought the car and, you know, did a few laps and then let this Italian Johnny win the race. Oh yeah, then he ties his name to it. You know, hey, I won. Yeah. I drove for 10 minutes.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, but, but, but, you know, and I think, uh, I don’t think, Eric, it was, wasn’t it, Le Verre that drove for 23 and a half hours and then Misty Gear and had to retire one year, 1950 or something. But yeah, Kennedy did. I don’t think, I think sales did only, he drove a couple of times, but only for a total of about an hour or something in the, in the course of the, uh, in the course of the, so[00:14:00]
it’s interesting you bring up the staggered start with the faster cars in the back a couple of years ago, we were going to participate in a. Endurance race that was actually set up with that same strategy in mind. And the idea was that if the slower cars started first, it gave the faster cars obstacles to have to overcome along the way, but in theory created enough distance between the vehicles that they would potentially finish all about the same time and therefore create this almost artificial dramatic.
Photo finish, right? We’re going to have to tidy this all up in the last two laps because now everybody’s on the lead lap basically at the same time. And so I wonder if that was the idea in the spirit of competition to stagger the start that way. And if you think about it, the slowest Fiat that rolled off the line being first was probably a solid hour ahead of the fastest [00:15:00] Jaguar that was starting, you know, 400 cars back.
Oh, more than. More that they would start the cars in the later years, they would start them leaving like at nine or ten o’clock at night. So, you know, Moss and, you know, the year they won Moss and Jenkinson went to bed as the race was starting and then got up and sorted themselves out ready for their 722.
You know, ready for that seven 22 style time. Some of that still carries today, but anyway, the milli milli, they had, they had to structure the millimeter that way because they could only close the country for a day if they had done it the other way around with the fastest cows, first, the event would have taken two days because he was taking, it would take the small cars like 18 hours to do the route.
So it would have, because one of the issues was. If you were one of the faster cars and then had problems, the roads would reopen. So if you had a problem, you couldn’t like, and you fix the car at the side of the road, there would then be normal traffic on the road while you were [00:16:00] still trying to race. If you can just imagine how eye popping that must’ve been.
So I have a, I have an interesting question about this. So you talked about Marzotto’s car, right? And the Italian word for it is Luovo, right? Or the egg, right? Which is the nickname for this re bodied by Fontana, 166 MM, what also known as the 212 export. And so why didn’t he run his own car? That was technically an older chassis by a couple of years, you know, modified all this kind of stuff.
Where was it at this point? You know, obviously they owned it. It was their car. So wherever, because they obviously industrialists, everything like that. So obviously it was sitting wherever they would keep it. Problem was it was I want to say it’s almost what a three or four year old car, right? Slow, I mean, you’re talking the street 40s got 300 horsepower That 212 I think had less than 200, you know, I had to go back really fast So, I mean you’re just talking I say night and [00:17:00] day but there was a huge jump in performance In regards to the two different cars what a point of pride it would have been for him to win in his own car Even if it was underpowered, I mean Granted, the Italian ethos doesn’t really allow for the whole underdog story.
It’s a very American concept. I think the moment you got out on the highway and felt, I mean, those, the 53 car that he used, those Vignale convertibles, they really, I mean, I, I love a big capacity V12 Ferrari sports racing car, but The early car, the early fifties cars with the narrower tires and less than 250 horsepower.
It doesn’t by this era, certainly with the veale body, by 53, this is when for me, they, it’s transitioned, it’s transitioning into this period of the, the greatest cars ever made. I’d put Martos as there. Otto’s Milli winner is as the beginning of that. This is the, this is the era when [00:18:00] Vignali did the portholes that Buick copied, you know, the fender portholes in the, in, in the side of, of, of the car.
And, and this is the era where Ali’s thinking about, I’m gonna make the gorilla’s largest possible and I’m gonna sink the headlights down. I’m gonna make it kind of squinty. It’s, it’s like it was Peter Schreyer before Peter Schreyer did it for Audi. and they’ve done it more recently for Kia. It came first with, uh, with Vignale in, in my opinion.
You know, there’s a absolutely magnificent book about Lancia and it talks about how Lancia and, and it’s the engineer that Lancia had, or Lancia, you should pronounce it correctly, yes, yes, please. You know, the Lancia himself. Was, was gone in the, uh, by the post war period, but we have this wonderful engineer Di Virilio and, and from it, we have this [00:19:00] reborn Lancia that has, Lancia that has so much engineering, innovation and, and promise and excitement.
And the book that, that’s, that’s published Jeffrey Goldberg. I want to say it’s called Di Virilio, at the center, and that’s really what I feel like the Mille Miglia is. It’s at the center. Of all of, of automobility really, but certainly European automobility and, and motor racing.
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