From Farina to Gonzalez - a plotted history

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Just 27 miles from the start, Nino Farina’s dream of winning the Mille Miglia shattered. Farina had driven Alfa Romeos into second place in the 1936 and ’37 Mille Miglias and, in 1954, he believed his 375Plus offered the best chance of victory. But the mix of the powerful Ferrari, wet tyres on dry roads and, maybe, Farina admitted from hospital, too much speed, and the Ferrari had crashed at over 110mph, glancing a barrier before thumping into a tree.

The Ferrari, chassis no. 0386AM and one of just six 375P1us built, went back to Maranello where, apparently, it sat for a couple of years. Now, as often happens with the history of old Ferraris, things mysterious came to pass and the whole truth will probably never be known.

It seems Ferrari couldn’t afford to pay Froilon Gonzalez the agreed fee after he won the 1954 Le Mans. Instead, Ferrari gave him the winning car which was shipped to Argentina. Gonzalez then crashed it and appealed to Maranello for spares. Rather than send individual parts, Ferrari shipped out the still badly damaged Farina car. Bernardo Favero, who owns 0386AM, has copies of government documents to prove this 375P1us was given temporary admission to Argentina on December 3, 1954, though other sources say the car was scrapped in Maranello.

Once the admission expired the Ferrari was sent to Uruguay. In 1956, the car was owned by one Duijo d’Alejandro, who sold it unseen for $3500 to Olivier Gendebien, the four-time Le Mans-winning Belgian driver. According to Favero, Gendebien was so disappointed with the car’s condition he realised he’d bought a wreck, not a car and refused to accept the car, though 1993 FIA documents accept the fact that Gendebien became the owner in 1956.

Based upon Favero’s record, the 375Plus was still in Uruguay in 1960. At some stage it was confiscated by the Government and later went to public auction. Nothing then is known of its life until 1989 when Favero discovered it was to be auctioned. Thus, 33 years after he first bought the car, Gendebien, now a close friend of Favero, re-bought the car. Favero admits that Gendebien, who died in 1999, did not obtain a complete car. There were the front and rear chassis sections, suspension, brakes, instruments, and the engine’s conrods, cams, crankshaft, one cylinder head and a box of gears. Missing were the block, the other head, the differential, the central section of the chassis, and the body.

Gendebien and Favero wanted to restore the car but a letter to Ferrari was ignored so they began to search for replacements. Through contacts in South America and the US, Favero found some parts including the original wheels and tyres, still fitted when we drove the car.

“Parts for the 375Plus were always bigger than similar parts for normal Ferraris,” he explains. “The hubs were too big to fit any other model, so they were of no use to anybody else.”

The breakthrough came when Gonzalez admitted he had the engine from the Le Mans winner, and would provide it for the rebuild. Restoration was completed in time for Gonzalez and Gendebien to run the 375 Plus in the 1993 Mille Miglia but the magneto broke three miles from the start. So 0386M never did complete Italy’s famed sportscar race, not even today’s mobile museum. Peter Robinson

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