From Le Mans to Monterey
Plus – Bugatti Atalante sells well, mementos of Jenks and a stunning DB4GT That Monterey bonanza of Pebble Beach always pulls in interesting machinery. A 1952 Allard J2X should be…
“MOTOR SPORT” Uses Porsche Super 75 and Mercedes-Benz 220SE Cars to Drive Through Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy and Visit the Daimler-Benz Museum and Test Track at Stuttgart, the Bugatti Factory at Molsheim, the Geneva Show, Fiat, Pininfarina and the Automobile Museum in Turin, and Ferrari at Modena
Road-Test Report on the Mercedes-Benz 220SEb Saloon
Road Impressions of the Ferrari 250 G.T. 2+2
IT so happened that the Editor was told he was in need of a holiday and the Production Manager thought it advisable to take his Porsche Super 75 to the Zuffenhausen factory for a check-over, and so it came about that this European Ramble was laid on. It might be, in fact, described as ten days in the life of a motoring journalist and went as follows :–
Wednesday, March 22nd
Having the previous evening left my home in Hampshire in the Mini-bric to spend the night with the P.M. at his home off the Southend road, I was called at an ungodly hour the following morning and we set off in the Porsche to enplane in an Air Charter Bristol Freighter of the always efficient and exceedingly useful Channel Air Bridge from Southend aerodrome. The crossing from this point to the landfall at Ostend takes slightly more than forty minutes and by grace of the Belgian motor roads it was possible to drive from the coast to Cologne in a matter of three hours or so. The Michelin ” X “-shod Porsche cruised contentedly at 4,500 r.p.m. in top gear, equivalent to a corrected speed of 92 m.p.h., cars which strayed into the fast lane ahead of us melting before its flashing headlamps like snow before the mid-day sun. As the car is superbly comfortable and quiet at this cruising speed, and as it returned a fuel consumption of 31 1/2 m.p.g. Of super-grade petrol at these throttle openings, I think I may without hesitation remark that this is a pretty formidable performance for a car of only 1.6-litres capacity.
There is nothing particular to record about the journey from the coast to our destination, which was Stuttgart, apart from noting that quite a number of belt-drive D.A.F.s are now in slow motion across Belgium. After passing the new Motel which is being built adjacent to the autobahn at Frankfurt we left the motor road and took in some of the old-world Germany before arriving at the clean, brilliantly-lit city which is so closely associated with Daimler-Benz, a town which is a window-shopper’s paradise.
Thursday, March 23rd
After calling at the Porsche factory to arrange the servicing of the P.M.’s Super 75 with Dr. Biesenberger, we set off, still in the Porsche, along more autobahn to Strasbourg, where we turned off to see whether the circuit used for the French Grand Prix of 1922 is still in being. It pleased, but did not surprise me, to find that the fast triangular circuit is indeed in practically the same condition today, apart from the road surface, as it was when Felice Nazzaro’s 2-litre Fiat vanquished the Bugattis there 39 years ago.
At the Duttlenheim and Innenheim corners even the houses, the name of the hotels, and the crucifixes are just as they were, while the lonely memorial still stands, as legible and undefaced as when it was first erected, on the right of the Enzheim road, where Biagio Nazzaro was killed when a wheel came off his Fiat as the race was nearly over. Such is the permanence of the French scene. . . .! The Porsche proved able to complete a lap in 5 min. 34.2 sec., and it is something of a tribute to the performance abilities of the winning Fiat of 1922 that this was only 24.8 sec, faster than the best lap made during the race; although we undoubtedly had better road surfaces it was necessary to brake heavily for a 2cv Citroen and an approaching horse and cart and we could not, of course, take the corners in racing fashion on roads open to the public. Moreover, it seems likely that we cut oil a corner, where a new connecting road has been made before the Enzheim hairpin, and so did not cover quite the full distance. Thus, and allowing for the inferior road conditions that prevailed in Nazzaro’s time and the appalling weather conditions under which the race was run, it will be seen there was not a great deal between the Porsche of today and the victorious 92-b.h.p. G.P. car of 1922.
After this nostalgic experience we drove into Molsheim for lunch and afterwards visited the Bugatti works. Before the war this was a shrine visited by motoring pilgrims from England and all over Europe but today the house where the late Ettore Bugatti lived stands empty, as it has been since the family went to Paris during the war. The Bugatti establishment today is turning out a number of unmentionable military productions and is making a great number of V8 engines for Simca, horizontally-opposed tank engine for high-speed tanks, and is doing machining work on 4- and 8-cylinder Hispano-Suiza camion engines. In a couple of years time they hope to be making complete Hispano engines and they talk of reviving the Bugatti car, although this may be wishful thinking. . . .
The purpose of our visit was to look at the historic Bugatti cars and engines which are fortunately preserved within the factory grounds. At first we were told that the cars were not in presentable condition and that they would probably not interest us, but having established that they most certainly would, we were taken round most politely by Francois Seyfried, with his lady secretary in attendance to act as interpreter. In one of the famous Bugatti stables some extremely interesting engines are displayed, mounted on stands, and in a large barn with stone-strewn floor stand some quite breath-taking Bugattis out of history. The engines include an enormous Royale, one of the 16-cylinder Bugatti aeroplane engines of the 1914 to 1918 war, and other engines well known to Bugatti enthusiasts from any year between the wars, together with an example of each of Ettore Bugatti’s post-war engines, including the blown 350-cc. 4-cylinder and the little 60 x 60 mm. single-cylinder o.h.c. boat engine which Ettore designed, together with a hull, to while away the war years.
The cars in the barn, although many of them are in a very sorry state, are quite fabulous. Outside the stable building stood a rather ugly-looking prototype with B.M.W. engine. The first thing we came upon within the barn was the chassis of the four wheel-drive sprint car which the late Jean Bugatti crashed at Shelsley Walsh. There was a 4.7-litre Grand Prix Bugatti in seemingly good if dusty condition, with very sound racing tyres on its multi-spoke wire wheels. This was pretty breath-taking, but as the eye ran along the double line of Bugattis in this vast barn one took in such historic vehicles as one of the 2-litre straight-eight ” tank ” Bugattis which raced at Tours in 1923, the experimental straight-eight 3-litre of circa 1921 which has double 1/2 elliptic front springs and an I-section front axle as on the 5-litre chain-drive Bugatti ” Black Bess,” twin carburetters and a central water pump on the near side of the engine, and one of the 1936 Le Mans chassis with fuel tanks running along each side within the frame. Then there was a Type 57SC chassis, a complete Type 46 saloon, a Type 44 tourer, and, going further back in years, one of the Bébé Peugeots, this one with the horseshoe-shaped Bugatti radiator, settling for all time, surely, the question of whether Ettore Bugatti did or did not design this ingenious light car. Unusual was a Type 40 made in 1928 for a trans-Sahara expedition, when it competed against the Citroen with their Kegresse caterpillar tracks, whereas the Bugatti was a normal four-wheel car. There is one of the very rare Type 47 16-cylinder twin crankshaft competition cars, the quite fabulous supercharged Type 68B; 370-c.c. 4-cylinder baby Bugatti made in 1946, while amongst all these Bugatti is it was surprising to find a model-T Ford with rather battered plated radiator, circa 1926, which we were told Jean Bugatti used for driving over rough going on hunting expeditions.
Having assured M. Seyfried that we found these Bugattis extremely interesting, we were taken over to part of the main factory where Bugattis are still serviced for enthusiastic clients from all over the world. Here we were shown the Type 64, built for Jean Bugatti, with a very impressive closed body offset by streamlined Bosch headlamps, this car having a light alloy chassis and bulkhead, Cotal electric gearbox, a Speedometer reading to 200 k.p.h. and a tachometer reading to 8,000 r.p.m. Only one of these post-war 4 1/2-litre twin-overhead-camshaft cars was built. There were also three of the 3.3-litre Type 101s, virtually the last production Bugatti to be made, one of them with twin Weber carburetters, a Type 57C saloon in good order, a Type 37 Grand Prix Bugatti rather spoilt by non-original tail and aerodynamic wings, but, most fabulous of all, a Type 57SC with sports 2-seater bodywork very like that of the Symondson car so well known in England, this having been sent from New York for a complete overhaul. It had been restored to absolutely immaculate condition; behind it stood a tatty Type 49 saloon which we were assured will eventually be put back into the same original, as-new condition. For the moment it had a non-original manifold and carburetter, seemingly off some American automobile.
Friday, March 24th
The morning was spent at the Daimler-Benz factory, looking round the new museum building. Like everything that this famous German Company undertakes, this is fabulously laid out and a veritable architect’s dream. Part of, and accessible from, one of the main factory buildings, the museum block is set off by a pool in which fountains play, and is on three floors. The exhibits in this comprehensive manufacturers’ museum have been described previously in MAMA SPORT and there is no point in going over them all again in detail, nor will space permit, for this is a very comprehensive museum and although confined almost entirely to Benz and Mercedes productions, it is already very complete and space would be cramped were further exhibits brought in. They range from the very earliest productions of Karl Benz, and amongst the Daimler-Benz exhibits is an 1898 2-cylinder 1.6-litre commercial vehicle chassis, surely one of the earliest commercial vehicles in captivity? I was also interested to see a four-wheel-drive lorry chassis built as long ago as 1909. Of more recent vehicles, in which I must confess I am more interested, should be mentioned a 1921 1 1/2 litre Mercedes with the classic supercharger, an engine of this type, a 1924 6.2-litre Mercedes and a 1914 7.2-litre 28/95 Mercedes with very sporting open body, this having front-wheel-brakes and really looking much later than the age quoted. There are examples of the sleeve-valve Mercedes-Knight 4.1-litre car and engine of 1910, a 1930 ” Grosser ” Mercedes, and the first diesel Mercedes, which is the 2.6-litre 4-cylinder saloon built in 1936. Volkswagen enthusiasts will be interested in an aircooled, horizontally-opposed engine made by Mercedes in 1932 for their rear-engined car, although this never got very far, as the 4-cylinder water-cooled engine used in the Type 170 was thought to be superior. Continuing with some of the more interesting exhibits, these include a 1928 Type 460 8-cylinder Mercedes, a 1931 Type 370S 6-cylinder, a 1927 Type 320 and a 1928 Type 260, while there is a fine Type 540K cabriolet brought to the museum recently from Southern Rhodesia by an Englishman who is taking delivery of a new Mercedes-Benz. Each of the exhibits bears a plate giving the year, type, number of cylinders, engine capacity in litres, the horse-power, and the maximum speed obtainable. The top floor is given over to racing exhibits and any of our readers who have not-seen these previously should approach cautiously, as they may be in grave danger of suffering severe shock from the excitement of seeing so many fine racing -cars together under one roof. I will spare them the suspense of having to read through a list of all the historic racing cars which Daimler-Benz have managed to collect together in this fantastic museum and will content myself with saying that the first car we encountered was a 300SLR with the air brake behind the cockpit, that the 441/2-litre Tipo V80 record-breaker that never ran forms one of the exhibits, and that racing history is portrayed in practically every type of car raced by Mercedes including the 5.6-litre streamlined Avus car, the pre-war Grand Prix cars in road and record-breaking trim, the 1924 supercharged 2-litre, 4-cylinder car, and the 1914 Grand Prix car which hears No. 28, that of Lautenschlager’s victorious car. Mercedes still lack a Sixty, a Ninety, and an SSKL, but otherwise have an almost complete representation of their historic models, the pre-war sports cars being represented by a fine 36/220S 4-seater. There is also an engine from one of these cars. Special exhibits portray the increased horse-power-per-litre obtainable both front touring and racing engines down the years, while on the top floor amongst the racing cars are bas-reliefed maps of La Turbie Hill-Climb and the Monaco and Nice Circuits, together with another of the tortuous Nurburgring. There is also the streamlined chain-drive Blitzen Benz, and it was only by travelling to Stuttgart that I was able to satisfy myself that the engine in the museum is the one which was used at Brooklands by Homsted and later by Barlow and not that used there in 1909 by Hemery. The ground foor of this modernistic and breath-taking museum building contains one of each of the present-day models of the great Daimler-Benz organisation, from their smallest private car to their biggest camion.
Walking out of the museum into the sunshine, we came back to the present by climbing into a 220SE Girling disc-brake MercedesBenz coupé in which to drive to the Test Track that is adjacent to the Stuttgart factory. This is by no means a high-speed track, although it might well have been had not the American Army built a large laundry in the centre of the ground which meant that reverse curves of a blind nature had to be incorporated in the outer circuit. However, banked on one of the turns, it is possible to do continuous semi-high-speed motoring round this track, and adjacent to it is a very large-diameter skid-pan which possesses surfaces varying from concrete to cobble, asphalt to rough gravel of two different sorts. In the centre of the skid-pan is a spray which enables it to be flooded when required, and adjacent to the outer circuit are all manner of rough and smooth road surfaces, concrete, smoother concrete, tarmac, and different types of rough going, such as washboard, very rough potholed surfaces, and even sections of road inlaid with tramlines. ‘These test sections seem longer than those at the M.I.R.A. course in England, and we were reminded that as Germany has no such manufacturers’ test ground it is up to car manufacturers, such as Daimler-Benz, to build their own. The roughest surfaces are intended for testing the suspension of Mercedes-Benz lorries and Unimogs, while a new mud-section is in course of construction at one end of the track. The outer circuit measures just over 2 km. in length and is approached through a tunnel guarded by a traffic light.
On a previous visit to Stuttgart we had been able to drive a petrol injection 220SE Mercedes for a short distance but on this occasion, after lunching in the extremely pleasant Daimler-Benz executives’ and visitors’ canteen, we took away one of these line motor cars for a full week’s testing. Our destination that afternoon was Basle in Switzerland but en route at the suggestion of Artur Keser. the Daimler-Benz P.R.O., we drove over the course of the fabulous Freiburg Hill-Climb, which is something like 11 miles long and abounds in bends, with a sheer drop on the outside of the road, so that I can hardly imagine the R.A.C. passing it for a speed hill-climb had it been situated in England instead of in Germany! As we neared the top of the hill it was snowbound and we were held up for a time, first in helping a ditched Fiat 500 to continue its journey and then to enable a Ford Taunus which had run out of adhesion to get clear. The Mercedes-Benz. aided by independent rear suspension, got away smoothly and easily on every occasion.
Saturday, March 25th
Leaving Basle after breakfast, we drove to Geneva in order to look in at the Motor Show. In the spacious comfort of the 220SEb saloon we had a fast drive along traffic-infested roads, the only car to pass us being an enterprisingly driven Twin-Cam M.G. which got by on the section front Viel to Lausanne but as we again got on its tail, gave up the tussle and stopped in a town. We drove on to Geneva unaccompanied, arriving in good time for lunch at a town where the sun shone warmly from a cloudless blue sky, lighting up the vast lake in which a fountain higher than the surrounding buildings played, its spray cascading back like silver smoke into the water, and where everyone seemed at peace in a peaceful world. How great a part the city of Geneva has played, and will continue to play, in ensuring World Peace I leave to politically and historically-minded readers. . . .
The 1961 Geneva Exhibition was not particularly exciting. It did not seem to attract the same attention as does Earls Court, for we were able to park the Mercedes without difficulty a few hundred yards from the entrance, which one cannot do in London at the time of a Motor Exhibition. A vast open air park was devoted to caravan exhibits, which we ignored, and inside the hall there was an enormous display of lorries and commercial vehicles. The car exhibits were in a smaller hall flanked on each side by rather congested coachbuilders’ stands. The only entirely new private car exhibits were the B.M.W. 700 sports coupé with a new 40-b.h.p. engine, separate seats and revised interior, the Jaguar E-type, which was described in MOTOR SPORT last month and was certainly the ” star ” of the Geneva Show, the new Mercedes-Benz 220SE coupe with Girling disc-brakes on the front wheels, a maximum speed of 100 m.p.h. being claimed for this 2-door version of the famous petrol injection model, although as we had already timed our 220SEb to cruise happily along the autobahn at a steady to 108.6 m.p.h. this seemed decidedly pessimistic, while Mercedes-Benz also showed for the first time the 300SL model equipped with Dunlop disc-brakes on all four wheels. Saab had a 4-speed gearbox in the 96, and the only other entirely new exhibit was a Willys-Overland Universal Jeep CJ/5 de luxe model with Perkins Four-199 diesel engine developing 62 b.h.p. at 3,000 r.p.m. D.A.F. were proving the practicability of’ their automatic belt transmission by exhibiting the car which has recently completed a 22,000-km. journey to the North Cape via Moscow, Athens and Brussels and back to Amsterdam, and on the Lancia stand the spacious 6-seater Flavia was an impressive exhibit. This new small car from the famous Italian factory is notable for its ” boxer ” engine and disc-brakes on all four wheels, and a completely flat floor is made possible by front-wheel-drive. The Innocenti 950 attracted us, this being a properly-styled version of the Austin Healey Sprite, with a proper boot; why it had to be left to Italy to make such a car when this should have emanated in the first place from Birmingham is another of those mysteries. . . . Sunbeam were well represented, with a stand on which were advertised eight of their important rally and race successes. Stratoplastic showed an ugly 2-door fibre glass saloon on a VW chassis. Osca showed a very attractive G.T. coupé, and there were a number of special-bodied cars such as the Devin glass-fibre effort which takes VW, Renault and other engines. A virginal Wolseley was circulating on a rotating stand, Aston Martins showed not only a DB4 and a DB4 G.T. but also the lighter but more ugly Zagato G.T. coupé. Opel had some large American-looking vehicles of impressive dimensions and I liked the Bertone G.T. Aston Martin, while a similar body by the same maker on an Alfa Romeo chassis was somewhat reminiscent of a scaled-down Jaguar E-type. Fissore showed a remarkable-car disguised as a boat, and also an enormous Auto Union drophead, while the Pininfarina G.T. Ferrari had separate hoods over each of its instruments dials. Italsuisse showed a G.T. Maserati with four headlamps and they also had a 2-door coupe, styled by B. Frua, on a Citroën ID19 base. On the Maserati stand there was a remarkable exhibit in the form of the rear-engined sports car, the front of its body with Perspex panels to show the frame construction and cockpit layout, the tail bearing the name of the Scuderia Seranissima. The Fiat stand had as a background a fine coloured, illuminated illustration of the test track at the Turin factory, which we were to see later in our ramble, crowds were gathered round a partly-sectioned Volkswagen chassis, moving the gear-lever about to see how the gearbox works and so on, Vauxhall had a spacious stand where I was surprised to see the weight of the Victor given as 2 tons (there must be a metric catch in this, I feel), the dancing Dauphines were present at Geneva as they have been at Earls Court and other Shows, and on this stand the 4cv still appeared in sliding-roof form as the ” Champs EIysee ” model. At this important automobile gathering, where the Jaguar E-type was spoken of with bated breath on all sides, the British firms who had decided to exhibit were Rover, Vauxhall, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Austin, Austin Healey, Austin Princess, which in England is now known as the Vanden Plas, Humber, Hillman, Singer, Sunbeam, Standard, Triumph, Ford, Jaguar, Morris, Wolseley, M.G., Riley, Lotus, showing the Elite in Switzerland for the first time, Aston Martin and A.C.-Bristol.
Sunday, March 26th
Just as, before the war, all true believers in fast motor cars made the pilgrimage to Molsheim, as we had already done on this European Ramble, so today motorists who are interested in fast cars make their way, sooner or later, to Modena. This was our objective today, and we got off to an early start, going over the Simplon Pass, which had not been previously opened this year. The ascent was made effortlessly in the 220SEb, but the snowcapped peaks all around and snow banks on either side of the road made the journey an impressive one. Soon afterwards we were on the Italian autostrada, and the Mercedes-Benz was once again cruising silently and effortlessly at just under 109 m.p.h. towards our exciting destination. We arrived comfortably in time for an early dinner and thereafter spent the evening reminiscing with two old Brooklands racing drivers.
Monday, March 27th
In Modena, just around the corner from where we stayed at the Palace Hotel, are the service depot and offices of Ferrari. Here prince and peasant alike ring a bell on the wall and are admitted through the same insignificant side door. Something like 27 of these splendid motor cats were standing together in the service bay, including some famous machines, such as the winner of the Tour de France last year, a 2-litre which ran at Le Mans in 1959 and gave evidence of a bad prang, and an old Ferrari-engined prototype known as the ” AA.” A single test-bed is kept here on which engines that have been overhauled are tested, and there is a wind tunnel in which models can be experimented with. Dusty and forlorn in the corner stood one of the 1951 4 1/2-litre G.P. Ferraris. Indeed, the whole point of this small but extremely enthusiastic and select Italian factory is that every car turned out is a high-performance machine and they have no truck whatsoever with small sports cars and would certainly not look in the direction of family saloons.
Before driving out to Maranello to look over the Ferrari factory we were taken for a short sharp drive in a 3-litre 2+2 coupé. This proved to be a comfortable full 4-seater, which we timed along the Autostrada del Sole at 136.4 m.p.h. in overdrive top gear. It would be impossible to drive at this speed in the wet because the windscreen wipers were blown clear of the glass. Perhaps the solution is that it never rains in Italy. At this speed there is a certain amount of engine noise within the car but practically no wind noise, while water temperature remains steady at 90°C. Two up, the car proved able to accelerate from 0-100 m.p.h., after we had corrected the speedometer for optimism, in 19.2 sec. After some fast laps of the Modena circuit, which lies behind a petrol filling station conveniently close to the Ferrari service depot, in the course of which the 2+2 did a lap in 74 sec., driven by a Ferrari test driver, I formed the opinion that this is a very stable motor car which can be taken fast through acute corners, the 185 x 15 Pirelli Cinturauto tyres making no protest even when indulging in a fairly violent understeer, while roll is absent. The brakes, being of disc-type, stood up extremely well to heavy applications when speed had to be retarded for the acute corners of this short, rather Aintree-like circuit. The Ferrari factory at Maranello is compact, but larger than I had expected, and is nothing short of a racing-car factory expanded to accommodate 386 workers, who in a 51-day week produce twelve cars, of which eight are the 250 G.T. 2+2 model. Within the single-storey cream-coloured buildings, lit in the summer by the Italian sunshine streaming in through the open windows, these Ferraris are hand-built with monastic devotion, by skilled blue-overalled workmen. Ferrari have their own foundry, where all the castings used on the cars, even those of magnesium and other light alloys, are made. Even this foundry is spotlessly clean and the work in this separate building is unhurried, as everywhere else throughout the factory. There is one vast machine shop in which each machine is a separate entity, in charge of one operative, who works to close tolerances from a drawing on his machine. Here racing-car parts are machined at one end and-production-car parts in the rest of the building. Valve seats are cut on two Oerlikon cutters, crankshaft journals are lapped in by hand, cylinder bores are precision checked on an R.I.V. pneumatic measuring machine which indicates the cylinder diameter on two dials, one accurate to within 100ths of a millimetre, the other to within 1,000th of a millimetre, the machine boring out the cylinders until they are the correct size. Crankshaft oilways are reamed on a U.I.F. machine, and other machines in this fabulously clean and airy building include Klingelnberg cutters on which the final drive bevels and pinions are machined, a Minganti chamfering tool for finishing connecting rods, Klingelnberg camshaft grinders, and Wanderer, Mario Pinto, Ucimo, Beradi and other machine tools. Every machined part is subjected to a crack test under ultra-violet light, on a Magnalglo testing machine, and in the test laboratory the breaking strain of all manufactured parts is tested on a Briviskop machine and every gear flange is measured by microscope to close dimensions stipulated on drawings for the particular batch of gears which is going through the shop. In the case-hardening department E. P. Humbert and Sapin ovens are in use, and even the bolts used in the construction of the cars are heat treated in the factory. Naturally, Ferrari have their own copper deposit and plating plants, Parker electrically-heated vats being used. The chassis frames are welded-up beside the single assembly line and are then taken by lorry to the coachbuilders, who are Farina in Turin for the 2+2, the cabriolet and the America Super-Fast, Scaglietti in Modena for the Spyder California and Berlinetta coupé, and after the bodies have been fitted to them they are returned to Maranello. The cars then go on to the shoulder-height assembly line for fitting of the suspension units, back axle, etc. The workers stand beside the cars on a wooden runway, and at the end of the line the cars reach ground level down wooden ramps.
Everywhere throughout the Marancllo factory the emphasis is on skilled craftsmanship by hand and not mass-production by machines. Even on the chassis assembly line much hand filing and fitting goes on, and the same thing is evident in the spotless engine assembly shop.
In this engine shop two men work on each engine, the work being up to racing-car standards, so that 35 or 36 hours is necessary for the assembly of each power unit. The engines are mounted on rigs which enable them to be swung round so that sump and head can be fitted with equal facility. The gearboxes are assembled in a separate bay and afterwards mated with the engine. Racing and production engines are tested in the same test shop, which contains four Schenck Waage electric dynamometers. Each production engine is first run-in for a period of ten hours at speeds of between 1,400 and 3,600 r.p.m. Then for a further two hours the engine is run at between 4,000 and 6,000 r.p.m. Finally, a check is made for maximum power output at 7,000 r.p.m., the tolerance being plus or minus 2 1/2 h.p. Just beyond the test shop is the experimental engine shop, in which a number of interesting things were seen which it would be improper to commit to paper. Finally, each complete Ferrari is taken out by a test driver for a matter of 20 minutes, or for longer periods if any defects have to be investigated and reported.
If this factory which specialises entirely in very high-performance G.T. cars is fascinating in the extreme, even more exciting is their racing department. Here, at the time of our visit, ten cars were being prepared for the coming season. These will consist of two 1 1/2-litre Formula One rear-engined cars with the 120° V6 Dino 156 engine, two Formula One 1 1/2-litre cars with the older 60° Dino 156 engine, two 2 1/2-litre ears for Inter-Continental Formula racing, two Tipo 246/61 2 1/2-litre rear-engined sports cars using the old Formula One 6-cylinder engine, and two Tipo Tri/61 front-engined sports cars with 3-litre V12 engine. There was no ridiculous secrecy about the racing department, through which we were allowed to roam freely, taking photographs of the first of the nearly completed Formula One 1 1/2-litre cars with its unusual fishlike nose having air-intake entries at either side, and its Dunlop disc-brakes.
That then is Ferrari, of Maranello, the factory which today lives in the affection of enthusiasts as the Bugatti factory at Molsheim did in pre-war days. You walk round this quiet unhurried works, with its cobbled ways between the low buildings, and marvel at the skill and care which goes into the production of each Ferrari. Already a vast new 7,000 sq. metre machine shop is in course of erection, which it is expected will be completed by the end of June, and which will employ something like 60 more operatives, so that three or possibly four more cars may be made every day. At present, the 4-seater 2+2 is the main production model, although two of the very fast Berlinettas are produced in a day, whereas the Super Fast for the American market is made at the rate of one a month.
Enzo Ferrari lives in an apartment over the offices in Modena, and here his dedicated staff think nothing of working six or even seven days a week in the interests of this small but World-famous Company. Having seen Ferrari engines assembled as racing-car engines are assembled it is not surprising to learn that although the peak speed of the 3-litre V12 engine is normally 7,000 r.p.m. it can be taken to 8,000 r.p.m. momentarily, if necessary.
Ferrari is concerned with the present and does not maintain a museum but some historic racing photographs, going back to his Alfa Romeo days, are framed in the waiting-room in Modena, and I was pleased to see that a specially-finished 1960 F.1 chassis was ready for dispatch to the Turin Museum and that an F.1 racing car was being sent to the Ford Museum in Dearborn.
Tuesday, March 28th
Up to this point the Mercedes-Benz had .provided completely reliable and comfortable transportation but there had been very little time in which to concern ourselves with the details of the 220SEb. We decided to devote today to thinking about and investigating this fine car, during a drive from Modena along the remarkable new motor-road to Florence, from whence we went to Pisa in order to see the Leaning Tower, returning to Florence for lunch. Here it was possible to enjoy the many attractions of this old City, including the Bridge of Sighs, and generally to see the sights, not forgetting the silk-stocking scenery, which, of course, is interesting the World over. . . .
This Mercedes really is an outstanding motor car. Although its 6-cylinder overhead camshaft engine is of only 2.2-litres capacity (80 x 72.8 mm.), it develops 134 b.h.p. and renders this very large 5 or 6-seater saloon a high-performance vehicle. The car is very fully equipped, the keynote to the interior appointments and the conception of the car as a whole being one of dignity, as befits the long-established and mighty organisation which manufactures it.
The facia is discretely finished with a narrow band of unpolished beechwood and it has a hooded vertical Vdo ribbon speedometer before the driver, which reads to 180 k.p.h., and is flanked on the left by a water thermometer and fuel gauge and on the right by the oil-pressure gauge, below which are three indicator lights. The speedometer also has total and trip mileage recorders, and a novel feature is that the speed-ribbon changes from yellow to red when the town speed-limit is exceeded. In the centre of the facia was a Becker Mexico radio with automatic station selection, and, above this, the neat paired horizontal quadrant controls for the extremely efficient heater, demister, and a ventilatory system. Adjustable vents at each side of the fads project hot air on to the side windows to keep them demisted, and it is also possible to induce into the car a flow of cool air and, by setting the windscreen vizors at an angle, to deflect this air-stream onto the faces of the driver and front-seat occupants. This efficient ventilating system picks up its air from a scuttle intake or from an under-bonnet vent should snow block this intake, and air is extracted from vents behind each rear window, which it reaches via the porous roof lining. Thus it is possible to keep the car cool with all the windows closed, when it will proceed at over 100 m.p.h, in commendable silence, road noise, wind noise and engine noise being virtually absent and the body entirely free from tattles and squeaks.
Reverting to the interior arrangements, there is a good lockable cubby-hole before the front-seat occupant, an extremely reliable electric clock, a neat turn-button for putting on the head- and side-lamps, a switch on the dashboard controlling the rear compartment interior lamp, a cigar-lighter, a switch for the quiet-running 2-speed screen wipers, and generous-grab handles both on the roof and on the doors in both front and back compartments on each side of the car. A particularly good feature of the controls is a foot-switch by means of which the windscreen washers are brought quickly into operation for emergency clearing of the screen, while by pressing the control more firmly the screenwipers can also be brought into operation without recourse to the facia control. This test car, upholstered in cloth, had separate front seats with squabs adjustable right down a a fully-reclining position and up again merely by turning knobs at their base, a far better system than the more usual cams or ratchets, and there were generous-sized central folding arm-rests front and back, while a map tray between the front seats was fitted with a removable cushion, so that the front compartment had what was virtually a bench-type seat. Moreover, not only the front seats, but the back seat too, are adjustable fore and aft to one of two positions.
The doors have sill locks, and commendably-arranged safety interior handles which fit flush with the door and are hooked out by a finger to open them. There is proper safety padding, not only at the facia but also in the centre of the 2-spoke steering wheel, the latter carrying a full horn-ring. The screen-wipers, with their aforesaid very convenient control arrangements, overlap so that the wipers sweep a large arc of the windscreen.
The wood finish of the facia is matched by very slim wood window rails at the base of the windows only, and the interior of the Mercedes-Benz, coupled with its sober exterior appearance and splendid finish without and within, is, as aforesaid, in keeping with the dignity of this fine motor car.
The steering-column gear-change protrudes on the right of the steering column in I.h.d. cars and operates extremely well of its kind. A stalk control on the left of the column (again in I.h.d. cars) looks after the direction-flashers. There are good armrests on all the doors and the quarter-lights in the front doors are opened and closed by turning knobs, Which makes for precision operation and also renders the car extremely thief-proof when these are closed. No choke control is required with the petrol injection system. The window winding handles worked with commendable ease, 2 3/4 turns being required to raise or lower the front windows. A pull-out ash-tray of generous dimensions is incorporated in the facia equipment and, is with everything else about this Mercedes-Benz, there is close attention to detail, for as the drawer is pulled out a metal guard springs up to protect the leather finish of the facia padding from being burned by cigarettes. Each front door possesses a spring-loaded pocket capable of accommodating all manner or maps, notebooks and odds and ends, and behind the back seat is a lipped shelf of very considerable capacity. Apart from the light in the rear compartment, there is a neat lamp for illuminating the front compartment above the anti-dazzle rear-view mirror; this lamp being protected when not in use by a shield incorporated in its switch, and having courtesy action when the front doors are opened.
Externally, this Mercedes-Benz is an unobtrusive although large and very imposing vehicle. It has a rather aggressive, typically Mercedes, but very likeable shape of radiator grille incorporated in the bonnet, and always before the driver’s vision is the famous Daimler-Benz three-pointed star. The three points of the star represent the Company’s achievements on land, on water, and in the air. In this there is a link with MOTOR SPORT, because before the war the Slogan of this magazine used to be just that—Land, Air, Water. Whether this link will induce the Proprietor to purchase a Mercedes-Benz for the Editor, now that the price of the magazine has been increased, is a debatable point, however!
At the back of the car is a boot with a simply enormous appetite for swallowing luggage, in spite of the fact that the spare wheel occupies the right-hand side of it. This boot has a lockable lid which stays up automatically. The lockable petrol filler cap is hidden behind the hinged rear number-plate. At the front of the car the deep Bosch headlamps incorporate the sidelarnps and also log-lamps, which is a neat arrangement which has many obvious advantages. The fog-lamps shine round corners, which proved invaltgible when descending the Simplon Pass after dark, and is just another practical aspect provided by the Mercedes-Benz engineers, who are clearly practical motorists. Other items that endorse this practical approach include the well-placed controls, sliding coat-hooks on the roof grab-handles, lamps flasher operated by the flashers-stalk, clock automatically illuminated when the facia lighting is on, etc. The facia lighting has rheostat dimming but does not douse entirely, and I could have done with a map-lamp, although my chubby-size Bardic ” BM ” torch, an invaluable travelling companion and the only truly foolproof portable illuminator I have ever owned, proved a ready substitute.
The bonnet props up automatically and reveals the efficient but plainly-finished engine. All fillers, the oil filler cap being of screw type, dip-stick and Varta battery are readily accessible, but the plugs are buried deep.
Daimler-Benz certainly conveyed to us their confidence in the 220SEb by letting us take it away for rather more than a week, during the course of which we drove through three countries at speeds which for very long distances on the motor roads exceeded 100 m.p.h. This sort of test is thoroughly convincing, and in direct contrast to those of manufacturers who think that a weekend is quite long enough for journalists to assess the merits or otherwise of their motor cars! In fact, we covered a total of 1,766 miles at very high average speeds, and in the course of this mileage the car gave no semblance of being in any way stressed. It required less than half-a-gallon of oil, and the fuel consumption came out at 20.1 m.p.g., a commendable figure for a car of this size and performance, especially as it was driven far faster than practically every other vehicle in all the three countries that we crossed. This notable petrol economy, prompt starting and excellent, unhesitant acceleration emphasise the worth of Bosch petrol-injection into the inlet ports.
It is a car which, although of large size and flexibly sprung, possesses highly commendable handling characteristics. Although this big Mercedes-Benz rolls considerably on fast corners, it does this with consistency, enabling the driver to control it properly with the light, responsive steering. The cornering tendency is understeer, and the car sits down on the road extremely well, nor do the Dunlop 6.70 x 13 Road Speed nylon D7 tyres protest at such treatment. The swing axle independent rear suspension with transverse restraining spring is of great benefit, not only in ensuring this safe, fast cornering, but also in enhancing the comfort of the occupants over bad surfaces. Very slight tremors are transmitted through the body shell, but the car rides with supreme disdain for rough roads and refuses to spin its wheels when taking off rapidly on slippery surfaces. The steering is free from kick-back, has useful castor-return action and is geared 3 3/4-turns lock-to-lock, the turning circle being notably compact.
In keeping with the silent running of this Mercedes product, the gearbox is commendably quiet. This saloon is equipped with 9.05 in. dia. drum brakes on all wheels (Alfin at the front) which work exceptionally well, aided by a vacuum servo, except perhaps when making a number of emergency stops from a three-figure speed, when the fade-free qualities of disc-brakes would be appreciated. A turn-and-pull-out hand-brake is conveniently situated under the facia.
The seats remain comfortable even when occupied for distances of 400 or 600 miles in a day, those at the front having tall, roll-top squabs.
Turning to performance, the indicated maximum speeds in the gears are 31, 50, and 75 m.p.h. The absolute maximum speed of the car, timed on the Modena-Milan autostrada, was fractionally over 111 m.p.h., and I have previously commented on the ability of this Mercedes to cruise within a few miles an hour of this speed for, it seems, eternity without weakening in any way. Having made use of the convenient kilometre posts which are a feature of autobahn and autostrada, although less prominent on the much-publicised M1, to calibrate the speedometer, we can quote acceleration figures for a genuine 0 to 60 and 0 to 80 m.p.h. The times recorded, with only one attempt, two up, were, respectively, 13.2 and 23.2 sec. This will give some idea of the ease in which this big car picks up speed. The speedometer had about the maximum amount of flatter, being, for example, 3 m.p.h. fast at 60 m.p.h. In top gear it is possible to go from 60 to 80 m.p.h. in 8 sec.
After this convincing Continental test I am of the opinion that the Mercedes-Benz 220SEb is one of the World’s great automobiles. It is certainly an exceptional car from the point of view of effortless running, high class finish, convenient equipment, and the very considerable performance which is given out by the single-overhead-camshaft, petrol injection engine, this performance being such that one has frequently to remind oneself that one is sitting behind a power unit of only 2.2-litres capacity.
If the Mercedes-Benz was impressive so was the new Autostrada del Sole which Italy has opened between Milan and Florence. This road is 173 miles long, and by means of fantastic viaducts across the valleys and by tunnelling through the hillsides, it makes its way with easy curves and gentle gradients from the industrial city to the historic town at its other extremity. In each direction it is a two-track road with a hard shoulder for those who are obliged to stop on it. This fine road enables the owner of a fast car to go from Milan to Florence in rather less than two hours, and in our case we covered the 57 miles from Florence back to Modena in 41 min. 26 sec., without in any way pushing the Mercedes-Benz. This included the need to slow down occasionally for road works and for passing a very large camion which was in trouble in one of the tunnels. It is interesting to note that the tunnels have pavé or cobbled floors, but the rest of the road is very well surfaced. But I was amused to find that whereas in Germany when the road workers are out on reconstruction or repair work, or a vehicle breaks down, danger signals are immediately placed on the road or men with flags are sent out to warn approaching traffic, on the Italian autostrada nobody bothers very much about these sort of safety precautions. In fact, on the aforesaid new road we came upon a man standing in the middle of it holding a post on which a surveyor was setting his sights!
It is not only this quite fantastic motor road which captures the imagination of all who like fast motoring when they visit the Continent. In Germany, the autobahns are extended so rapidly that fairly recently printed maps cannot always keep pace with them, and in Italy there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of miles of two-track well-surfaced autostrada, in many cases stretching dead straight across the country for miles on end. After a week of driving very largely on such roads, can I be blamed for thinking that we are making far too much fuss about our 65 miles or so of M1? Certainly those who have occasion to travel between German and Italian cities on such roads can fully appreciate the need for Gran Turismo-type motor cars, and it is only when you have had experience of such roads that you can appreciate that 100 m.p.h. is now a very commonplace speed and that manufacturers must, and are, setting their sights to cruising speeds of 150 m.p.h. and more. Just as the Freiburg Hill-Climb course, to which I referred earlier, makes Prescott and Shelsley Walsh seem like beginners’ slopes, so these German and Italian motor roads make M1 look like just a rather pleasant boulevard. . . .
Having returned to Modena, we said goodbye to V. W. Derrington, who was there on business, and to our American friend, Pete Coltrin, who resides in this City of Speed, and drove on up the autostrada to Milan and on another autostrada to Turin, home of Lancia and Fiat. The wealthy city of Turin is a curious mixture of the old and the new. There are many miles of covered colonades and beautifully-lit shops, perhaps too churches, many statues, a Roman gateway and the Royal Palace where the King of Italy resided until his exile in 1945. Yet near the new Turin Automobile Museum the Fair to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Unity of Italy will be opened this month. Visitors to this remarkable Pair will be able to arrive from a nearby hillside across the river on a wire-rope telefunken and travel through the Exhibition buildings on two miles of monorail, while the main hall is a simply stupendous modern structure of concrete and glass, covering an enormous area. At the other extreme Turin abounds in ancient buildings, a very fine Egyptian museum, and even a very accurate reproduction of a medieval village.
The saying is now well known that in France the State owns Renault, in Germany nobody knows who owns Volkswagen, but that Fiat owns Italy, and if the Fiat industrial organisation is taken into account, for they are not only concerned with making motor cars and lorries, this is not very far from the truth. If Fiat are one of the richest enterprises in the world, recent statements to the effect that they have taken over the Lancia Company are untrue, but the State does assist the Alfa Romeo concern. It was a visit to the Fiat plant that occupied the following day.
Wednesday, March 29th
We were scarcely awake when the telephone rang and informed us that a car would be sent to take us to the Mirafiori factory, thereby endorsing the opinion we have heard recently that Italy now works harder than any other country in Europe. Hustling our ablutions and breakfast, we were soon on our way in a smooth Fiat 2100, first to the new Fiat Spare Parts Depot at Ricambi. Superlatives such as great, vast, incredible, and stupendous are perfectly permissible when describing the Fiat organisation. For example, this new Fiat spare parts factory on the bank of the river Stura covers an area of nearly four million square feet and would dwarf many an automobile manufacturing plant. Spare parts for every Fiat model back to about ten years are stored for dispatch to Continued on page 387
agents and dealers. In addition, parts for models now out of production are made here, and over-sized pistons manufactured. As the parts arrive they are placed in metal baskets and these are put on hanging boxes below overhead conveyors Or into rubber-tyred trolleys which are moved automatically by being hooked to an under-floor conveyor, and they are thus conveyed to the vast storage bays. Parts that require rust-proofing before being stored are automatically dipped in oil and the boxes of spares are stacked up in their tall racks by being put into travelling hoists in which the operative sits and in which he can take himself upwards and backwards and forwards between the racks so that he can deposit the boxes in the appropriate bays. Body panels arrive in the raw state and are rust-proofed before beirig OM into store. The aforesaid lifts serve 80,000 bins that can be turther sub-divided, these being arranged along 36 facades each 33 ft, high and 345 ft. long. In all 18 of these travelling lifts are used to give easy and quick access to each bin.
An elaborate computing system, both for listing invoices and checking each day the number of parts in each bin, on the Bull system, etc., keeps control of this vast spares storage factory. In the spares production department heat treatmentis carried out in furnaces using either natural gas or electricity, and one of the machines is a Pangborn Rotoblast in which final-drive crown wheels and pinions are blasted with steel pellets.
The workers have their own Welfare Department and can bring their own food. which is heated in cans while they work. I had hardly recovered from the shock of seeing a spares department which could in fact have been a full-sized automobile factory, when I was driven to the new Fiat Technical School on the site of the original Fiat factory that was opened in 1899, this school being absolutely fabulous. Here, 1,000 boys undergo a free three years’ training course. They not only work on every kind of component found in the Fiat car factories, but also rebuild complete machine tools to new condition, these either returning to the factories from which they have come, or being given to other schools which were in need of such machines for training purpose. The equipment in the big, neat and orderly shops, which are as spotless as a hospital. does not end there. There are complete transfer machines. electronic equipment., and even television equipment of the kind with which the boys will have to deal when they go out to work in the Fiat factories. They are also trained in machining operations. making various complicated parts from raw steel, such as model crankshafts, working to close tolerances, and, in fact, have training in every possible aspect of automobile production. They have their own gymnasium, a magnificent hospital block with its own infra-red-ray room, their canteen and their lecture rooms. Each boy’s progress is noted in a personal book which is also the responsibility of his father, and the boys march in pairs with military precision from class to class, accompanied by their blue-overalled instructors, who are sometimes picked from amongst the senior boys.
The extent of this training school and the scope of its equipment roust make it the finest training centre of its type to be found anywhere in the World. Certainly it will be of enormous value not only to Fiat, but to the Italian nation, for in future Italy will not have to go beyond her own boundaries for technicians who will be conversant with the complicated transfer machinery and electronic apparatus found in modern automobile factories.
If I was staggered by this first impression of Fiat, what followed after lunch was absolutely breath-taking. Alter seeing the Ferrari plant, to be driven round in a special Perspex-roofed Fiat 600 through the vast Mirafiori factory was to go, to coin a much overworked phrase, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Not that there is anything ridiculous about the vast Fiat factory, which occupies 370 acres of ground, of which 158 acres are covered by buildings and employs 19,000 workmen and about 2,500 office employees. In this factory there are some 10,000 machine tools, 46 1/2 miles of overhead conveyor lines, 2 1/2 miles of subways connecting the central with the south factory, an overall total of seven miles of subways, 12 miles of internal railway track, and a car test track with banked turns at either end, 1 1/2 miles long. Here 2,200 cars are produced daily, but when the considerable extensions to the buildings are completed it is possible that the production will rise by the end of the year to some 3,000 cars a day.
The shops are not only vast but spotlessly clean and I was interested to find that Fiat make a very great number of parts themselves, even down to door-handles, ash-trays, aluminium-alloy brake drums, brake shoes and the like. The plant is housed in horizontal buildings, as Fiat prefer this for easy operation, which is not possible in many-storeyed factories.
It would take a week to go round the plant fully, even when being driven comfortably along in the aforesaid little Fiat 600, and it is only possible here to give impressions of the plant. Fiats have their own foundry, although no blast furnaces, a feature of this foundry being three big electric furnaces and other furnaces burning natural gas. They cast their own alloys and shape the castings in a press shop containing 130 presses ranging in scope from 250 to 2,000 tons. A big C.M.C. Clearing press was automatically stamping out a disc wheel in five operations, after which the rim was welded on, and other presses such as Danly, Clearing (the latter of both British and Italian manufacture, for whereas before the war German machine tools and presses were largely used, since the end of hostilities Fiat has had to look very largely to America for equipping its factories) are seen at work.
The big presses have changeable dies, so that several different parts can be made on each of them, and scrap steel is sucked away from beneath the press and returned to the steel mills at the rate of several hundred tons a day.
Fiat have their own power station, consisting of diesel engines and steam turbines for driving the generators, and petrol storage tanks, the latter being very necessary as the engine test benches consume petrol at the rate of nearly 1,700 gallons a day. Customers can have Michelin or Pirelli tyres to choice, and as we were driven round I noticed a vast transporter unloading Michelin tyres in the works. Fiats make their own pistons, and cylinder blocks are drilled by transfer machinery.
I was particularly interested in the engine test department, which is in charge of G. A. Maggi. Here 68 test benches with Heenan and Froude dynamometers attached, are used to run-in every engine. The 1800 and 2100 6-cylinder engines are run-in on petrol for 30 minutes and the smaller engines for a few minutes, during which time clean filtered oil is pumped through them. One per cent, of the engines are put through a 4-hour test during which power readings are taken, and if the power drops below average the production line is slowed down so that rectifications can be made to engines before they are assembled. Some engines are taken into soundproof rooms to test for noise level. Painting of parts is carried out by transfer electrostatic paint ovens, and final assembly is undertaken on four conveyor lines, one for 500 saloons and station wagons, another for Fiat 600s, another for Fiat 1100s, and the final line for the 1800 and 2100 Fiats. It is fascinating to watch the power units being installed automatically in the rear of the Fiat 500 and 600 cars, the engine being attached to the body shell and being drawn up into it automatically as the car proceeds along the conveyor line.
After the usual final inspection, cars are picked at random to be tested either by the roller test beds, on the road, or on the test track. The test track has a 27° banking at one end and a 45° banking at the other, and within its 1 1/2 miles circumference are sections of every type of rough road to be found in Europe. There is also a water spray plant additional to that used within the factory, and a skid-pan.
As might well be imagined with such a far-reaching and efficient organisation, Fiat go to very great lengths to look after their workers. At the Mirafiori factory alone there are nine extremely pleasant dining-rooms, in all covering something like 1,200 yards in length, capable of seating 9,000 workers simultaneously. Adjacent to the factory are tall blocks of Fiat houses, which the workers can either rent or buy outright. Workers are also encouraged to purchase their own Fiats, by generous discounts and long-term repayments.
The output naturally varies to some extent from day to day, but a typical breakdown of vehicles is roughly as follows : 480 Fiat 500Ds, of which approximately 50% are the underfloor Giardiniare station wagons and the other 50% normal 500s, 870 600Dns, with about 30 Multiplas still going through, 490 Fiat 1100s, 52 Fiat 1800 and 2100 saloons, and 18 a week of the Fiat 1500 with Osca-type twin-cam engine. In addition, production of a new model, on the secret list at the time of my visit, was already in production at the rate of about 12 a day, in addition to which something like 100 trucks and 50 tractors are produced each day. In some departments, such as foundries, etc., a night shift is necessary, but normally two day shifts are worked during the 5 1/2-day week.
The main impression of the Fiat motor-car plant is of its vast and spacious shops and its efficient operation, although I have seen more transfer automation at, for example, the Renault factories at Billancourt and Flins.
On the way back to our hotel we passed an old Fiat factory, constructed at a time when they believed in multi-storey buildings, with a test track on its roof. Today this is used for producing electrical equipment, special bodywork, and aircraft engines, and also for servicing aircraft engines.
We had been shown around the Fiat factories by Cecil Gavuzzi, who, when he first introduced himself that morning, had brought home to me the truth of the adage that the world is really a very small place, by speaking of his boyhood days spent at Thames Ditton and Bedford, so that he recalled racing A.C.s coming out of the works on their way to Brooklands. When he went to live in Italy he was asked to act as interpreter to the Cordery sisters when they brought their 4 1/2-litre Invicta to Monza to attack the O.M.’s long-duration records.
Thursday, March 30th
Our last day in Italy was devoted to visiting in the morning the Pininfarina coachwork factory which lies to the south-west of Turin, and in the afternoon the now well-known Automobile Museum, which should be a very big attraction during the centenary celebrations which start this month.
The Pininfarina concern can be said to date back to 1905, when Giovanni Farina, elder brother of G. Battista Farina (nicknamed ” Pinin “) founded a small coachwork factory. Here the two brothers worked producing coachwork, but whereas Giovanni became more and more interested in supplying parts to the motor industry, his younger brother preferred to concentrate on special coachwork and for this reason he founded his own company in 1930. One of his first special bodies was built on a Lancia Dilambda.
Carrozzeria Pininfarina is an important concern with extensive connections with the motor industries of many countries, either as stylists of production bodywork or makers of limited-series special coachwork. In 1958 they moved to a new factory on the south-west of Turin, this covering an area of almost 25 acres, of which half are occupied by the factory buildings.
Although Pinin Farina has retired, the design work is still a family affair, his son-in-law Carli Farina, and Sergio Farina, being responsible for the body designs. The factory employs 1,200 people, whereas in the pre-1958 works the labour strength was a mere 300. They work a 40-hour week, many of the old workers being retained, helped by less experienced assistants. The work of the factory comes into three categories. In the first place there are experimental vehicles built mainly for publicity purposes, but also to learn lessons. Secondly there is the styling of production bodywork such as the B.M.C. range, Lancia, Peugeot, Fiat and other styles, and thirdly there are special bodies which Pininfarina make for such cars as the Alfa Romeo in Giulietta Spider form, the Fiat 1500 twin-cam convertible, the Ferrari 2+2 coupe and convertible and a new Fiat 1500 coupe, this last-named being the only car which Pininfarina sell direct, instead of through the appropriate manufacturers.
In the spacious new works 55 or 60 bodies are produced every day in a total of six or seven different models. For example, 30 to 35 Fiat 1500 convertibles leave the works every day, and Lancia Flaminia coupés are turned out it the rate of 7 to 10 per day and Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spiders at the rate of about eight a day. The Fiat 1500 coupé is being made at the rate of about four a day and an occasional Ferrari Super America still goes through.
In the showroom I was shown the startling Fiat 100-engined Pininfarina ” X ” experimental car with two wheels at the side and a wheel at either end. As Easter was approaching I felt that it was very appropriate to have seen this mechanical egg.
Special parts arriving from outside companies are inspected at the factory before being put into store. Farina uses Wilmot-Breeden equipment, Lucas wipers, while every bit of leather used in their factory comes from Connolly in England. Carpets are rolled up and hung from an overhead conveyor for storage, this conveyor also taking them to the assembly lines as required. The Farina factory has its own press shop, equipped with presses of up to 2,000 tons capacity, these including Gilmo, Brava, Müller, Allen West, Mariani, Shuler and Italian Clearing presses for making the body panels. Here a Fata overhead gantry crane is used for moving panels and dies, etc., about the shop. Farina make their own dies on Butler, Conti, and Heylingstaldt machines. As an insurance against possible power cuts they have a small power station using petrol-driven generating plant.
The special-series bodies are built on chassis frames which come direct from the car manufacturer, these having the steering-column in place so that it can be properly located in relation to the facia.
After the bodies have been completed a very great deal of skilled hand-finishing work is carried out, to ensure perfect fit of the doors and so forth. The body shells are then washed by hand with Maxaloid, before passing on to the paint ovens. The Alfa Romeo and Fiat bodies are finished in synthetic paint, receiving one coat of primer and three coats of paint, whereas the Lancia Flaminia and Ferrari bodies are finished in cellulose, and receive a fifth coat of spray painting in a final bay in which the temperature is maintained between 60° and 70° C, whereas the other ovens work at temperatures of 120° to 140° C.
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