After using Scuderia Ferrari as Alfa Romeo’s official sporting division in the twenties and thirties, Enzo Ferrari left the company after a disagreement in order to form his own automotive legacy.
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Although the first true Ferrari to bare the marque’s Prancing Horse signature was the 1947 Ferrari 125 S, Enzo Ferrari had actually founded Auto Avio Costruzioni (AAC) in 1938 to manufacture aircraft parts and machine tools for the Italian Government before the Second World War.
1947 Ferrari 125 S
However, lingering contract agreements from his time with Alfa Romeo forbade Ferrari from using his name on any projects for four years. Despite this, Ferrari was able to start his new company in Modena and form successful partnerships with the aircraft manufacturer Compagnia Nazionale Aeronautica and Piaggio.
Ferrari’s racing past would soon come back to visit him. By December of 1939, Lotario Rangoni, Marquis of Modena, had commissioned Enzo and AAC to build two racing cars for himself and a young Alberto Ascari to use in the upcoming Mille Miglia.
1939 Fiat 508 C Balilla
The 815 was initially designed by to ex-Alfa Romeo engineers, Alberto Massimino and Vittorio Ballentani, with Enrico Nardi also helping develop the machine. The name ‘815’ was derived from the car’s eight-cylinder, 1.5-L engine. The engine in question was based on the 1.1-L engine of the Fiat 508 C Balilla 1100, with a specially designed aluminium block. It used a crankshaft and camshaft designed by AAC to better timing and balance for a total output of 75 bhp.
1940 Auto Avio Costruzioni 815
The gearbox for the 815 was also derived from Fiat, but with the gears themselves being made by AAC. As Mille Miglia regulations of the time required that any cars entered to the race must be based off road-going production models, the chassis of the AAC Tipo 815 was also derived from the Fiat 508 C Balilla.
1940 Brescia Grand Prix
With two cars completed in time for the Mille Miglia in April of 1940, both cars took to the start with the numbers 020 and 021. 020 belonged to Rangoni and his co-driver Enrico Nardi, while 021 was piloted by Ascari and his co-driver Giuseppe Minozzi. The race did go ahead despite the outbreak of the Second World War in Italy, but was changed to become a street circuit race dubbed the Brescia Grand Prix.
1940 Brescia Grand Prix
Ascari led away on the first lap but quickly developed valve problems and broke down before the first lap of the 103-mile street circuit could be completed. Rangoni then took the lead from his teammate and set a lap record with the car in the 1500cc class. He soon developed the quick pace of the car into a lead of over thirty minutes but after seven laps of the race completed, he too developed terminal engine issues and was forced to withdraw from the event.
After the event, Rangoni sent the car to a scrapyard after an accident. After he lost his life during the course of the Second World War, his brother Rolando Rangoni, had found the chassis and attempted to recover it from the scrapyard in 1958. After getting confirmation from Ferrari that it was indeed chassis 020, his hopes of collecting the car were shot down after he had found the car was crushed before he had got there.
Alberto Ascari behind the wheel of the AAC 815.
Chassis 021 was sold to Enrico Beltracchini, who raced the car in 1947 before selling the car to a museum. After re-purchasing the car, he sold it again to Mario Righini. As of 2020, the chassis is still in Righini’s collection at the Anzola dell’Emilia near Modena.
With Enzo now interested in returning to the motor racing scene with AAC after his work on the Tipo 815, his progress was quickly halted after 1940. Due to Italy’s presence in the war, Ferrari was forced by the Italian government to abandon any plans and developments and use his factory to help the country’s war efforts.
The Ferrari factory in Maranello.
The AAC factory in Modena would be bombed over the course of the war, which in turn prompted Ferrari to move his operation to Maranello, where Ferrari still reside today. When the war and Alfa Romeo’s ban lifted, 1947 saw the creation of Scuderia Ferrari and the first car to bare the proper Ferrari credentials, the 125 S.
Written by Cóilín Higgins.