Yeah! You read it right.
The first car ever to use the Ferrari name and have the prancing horse badge displayed proudly on its body was the 125 S of 1947. But strictly speaking, that wasn’t the first Ferrari – if your definition stretches to incorporate the first car designed and built by Enzo Ferrari. For that was the Auto Avio Costruzioni TIPO 815 of 1940. And this is the story of TIPO 815
Life was going so smooth and well for Enzo Ferrari until 1938, undertaking one of the most exciting and prestigious jobs of the era – that of a racing driver, for Alfa Romeo. But his 18 years career came to an unexpected stop when he was fired from Alfa Romeo for some reasons still unknown. While the crass and misinformed view nowadays is that Enzo left Alfa to set up his own company, this wasn’t strictly the case. In fact, Enzo’s firing caused upset to filter into the deepest pores of the Alfa ranks, which led to key figures following him out the door
Even though Enzo Ferrari and Alfa Romeo have parted ways, their shackles held Enzo from personally taking part in motor sport or from using the Ferrari name for 4 years. In 1939, he founded Auto Avio Costruzioni to manufacture aircraft components for the Italian government. But Enzo couldn’t hold himself out of the alluring motor sport for long. He
came back to the motor sport when he was approached by a 19-year-old Alberto Ascari – the son of one of Enzo’s closest friends, Antonio Ascari – and fellow Italian racing driver Lotario Rangoni to build two racing cars for the competition “Gran Premio Brescia della Mille Miglia 1940″.
Soon after he started, Enzo started realizing the seemingly insurmountable challenge in front of him. He had to make two racing cars from the scratch within a 4 month time frame.
The name of the car – 815 – references the engine’s 8-cylinders and 1.5L displacement. Initially Enzo wanted to utilize the potential of 2 Fiat 508C Balilla 1100 4-cylinder engines for his racing car – but soon he found out the need to accommodate 8-cylinders totaling 1500cc rather than the 2200cc that would’ve resulted from the joining of two Fiat engines. The smaller displacement meant the pistons from the Fiat engines weren’t suitable for the AAC. The Fiat’s cranks and cams were also of no use to Ferrari as he wanted the AAC to have the correct timing for a Straight-8 engine – resulting in him making his own crank to house all 8 cylinders, along with a single cam. The only components Ferrari could utilise from the original Fiat engines were the valves, the cylinder heads, and the connecting rods. The
engine produced what may seem like a poultry 75bhp but it was a lot for its time. And considering it only had to carry 1378lbs (625kg) up the road, a top speed of 110mph was possible.
The two 815s were numbered 020 and 021. The 020 car was driven by Lotario Rangoni and Enrico Nardi (who’d also had influence in the design); the 021 car was driven by Alberto Ascari and Giuseppe Minozzi. Upon the waving of the checkered flag, both cars set off in their pursuit of victory, and vengeance. Enzo’s cars stunned the racing world by outpacing the big boys. The impressive initial performance filled the tracks with new hopes but it was soon struck down as both the 815s couldn’t complete the race owing to some mechanical failure. The unreliability was very much expected due to rushed conception that didn’t leave them with the required time. The 020 car set the lap record, and built up an astonishing 30
minute lead over the rest of the field. This was enough for the world to recognize arguably the most legendary car maker of all time who soon changed the dynamics of the auto world
the only two models with their respective owners: the Italian racing drivers Lotario Rangoni Machiavelli and Alberto Ascari
After the deathly howls of war faded, Enzo established the now sacred Ferrari S.p.A brand in 1947. As mentioned at the beginning, the first car to wear the Prancing horse insignia was the 125 S – a car far more advanced than the 815. There’s little doubt that Enzo learnt a great deal from his act of defiance and the ‘secret’ Ferrari of 1940. Only one of the two AAV 815s still survives: the very first car, built for Ascari. It is currently held in the Righini collection owned by Mario Righini in Italy.
Grazie Tipo 815 !