Ten years. That’s how long Tom Hartley Jnr tracked Ferrari 312T no023, featured here in our pictures, before he finally landed one of the most prestigious deals of his career. Best known for buying and selling supercars and classics, Hartley Jnr is also a serial dealer in Formula 1 grand prix cars, but he’s choosy. “Unless it is very special in a different way, the cars I look to buy are those that won a grand prix,” he states. “For me, history is all about a car that won, and which races it won. As long as it won a grand prix, then I’m interested.”
As he admits, that narrows the market. Consider the afterlife of hard-working F1 cars, and it soon becomes clear how few there are in existence with certified winning provenance. After a season’s racing, some became B-spec iterations for the next year; some – and this specifically and most infamously counts for Ferrari – were broken up without a thought of their future; and when it comes to the grand prix cars that really count, those that won the most races and perhaps a championship in the hands of one of the greats, if they survived, are usually impossible to prise out of the hands of the owner. That’s why Hartley Jnr coveted no023.
“What makes no023 special is it didn’t just win multiple races, it won six over two seasons – and a world title [in 1975],” he says. “It was only ever driven by one driver too, and that was Niki Lauda. Perhaps there’s a Michael Schumacher-era Ferrari that can match such an illustrious history, but that car is of a different era; the two can’t be compared”.
So how on earth did he buy it? “I’d been offered the car several times in the past by brokers,” says Hartley Jnr (left). “We all knew its whereabouts and who owned it. Enzo Ferrari sold it to his friend Pierre Bardinon, who had the finest Ferrari collection in the world. Then Jacques Setton, another coveted French Ferrari collector and a guy who was friendly with Bardinon, asked Enzo which was his most successful grand prix car. He was told this one and where it was. He went to buy it from Bardinon, who told him he would only sell it if it was part of a package deal. So, he bought four or five cars from Pierre in order to get this car. Over the years, Jacques has dwindled his collection, and the only car he kept was this 312T. I’d made some strong offers, but I don’t think they were ever getting passed on to Jacques.
“Then a few months ago, I decided one Saturday morning to call him up direct. I did so, and 30 minutes later I bought it. The car had been kept in the same spot in a bonded warehouse in Switzerland for 30 years. He’d owned it for around 37.” Why sell now? “If you don’t sell it when you are his age, when do you sell it?” says the dealer. “He’s got a fantastic return when you think about what he paid, and how much I paid. We would all say yes…”
The moment Hartley Jnr first clapped eyes on his purchase comes almost straight from an Indiana Jones movie. “I flew out to inspect the car and took Rob Hall with me, a good friend who prepares and maintains my grand prix cars. It was mind- blowing. It had an inch thick of dust on it, but it was all there. There was clear evidence of its last outing, a general patination all around the car. When Ferrari sold it to Bardinon, it was in an ‘as is’ state and that’s how it was sold to Setton.”
What next for 312T no023? Hartley Jnr bought its sister no022 at Gooding & Co’s Pebble Beach auction last year, then sold it on. All he’ll say is: “We have agreed to sell the car, and it is going to a very special Ferrari home.” But right now, he says it is downstairs in his bar, next to Hunt’s 1976 title- winning McLaren M23…
Numbers? Don’t ask. But Hartley Jnr bought no022 at the Gooding auction for a reported $6m – and that chassis ‘only’ won the 1975 International Trophy and French GP. “This car [no023] should not be restored, it’s about preservation,” he says. “It would be sacrilege to restore it. We will send it to Ferrari to be recommissioned.
Ferrari is the best in this era of their GP cars. They have the personnel, knowledge and all the drawings. It was due to go, but it’s delayed because of coronavirus. They will probably open the engine up, change the ancillary items and rebuild the engine so it can be started and driven. It’s probably never going to be raced.”
The Ferrari 312T bestrode F1 in the heart of a golden era. Quite simply, it is one of the great grand prix cars. This particular chassis, with its direct relevance to Lauda, is a treasure that deserves better than gathering dust in a warehouse. Let’s hope the new owner brings it out to show it off to an appreciative world.