Cars

<em>Photo: Leda Paleari</em>

THE INDIANAPOLIS DREAM

The Indianapolis 500 is the only race missing from Ferrari's list of winning achievements. In 1953, Enzo Ferrari built a special chassis for the race, but due to various reasons he never took part in it. Today, that chassis runs in all its naked beauty on the Fiorano track

To Enzo Ferrari, Indianapolis means above all a name: Ralph De Palma, winner of the Indy in 1915, who ended up on the cover of La Stampa Sportiva magazine. Seeing a photograph of the Apulian driver, little Enzo told a friend: “He’s Italian. So why couldn’t I be a driver someday, too?”. A sentiment he included in his autobiography, adding: “All my acts after that were a consequence of this adolescent dream”. He decided to become a driver, then a team manager, and finally a manufacturer. Indy had kindled a passion in him, but it still took a lot of persuasion from a man then living in the US to persuade him to build a car for the Indiana Oval track; that man was Luigi Chinetti, who has the merit of having made Ferrari popular overseas.

The Ferrari running “naked” on the Fiorano track in this footage, however, is not one of the four 375 cars prepared for the 1952 race in which Alberto Ascari, the first and last Italian driver to become Formula 1 world champion with Ferrari, took part. The car we see on the track is the Monoposto Corsa Indianapolis, as it appears in the bill of materials dated March 1953, a project created specifically for racing on the Indy oval track.  A project with chassis number 0388, manufactured by Gilco and designed to accommodate a 12-cylinder engine generating 4500 hp capable of developing more than 500 hp, initially equipped with a single-stage compressor and then with two compressors and Weber double carburettors. Probably due to Scuderia Ferrari’s too many racing commitments, the Indianapolis project was shelved and the 0388 chassis did not cross the ocean that year.

The racing debut took place in February 1955 at the Daytona Speed ​Week, where Bob Said set a class speed record with it. But the triumphant year for the Monoposto Corsa Indianapolis was 1956. In May, Giuseppe Farina passed the Indianapolis rookie test with it, though he then chose another model to try his luck in the 500 race. In July, the Monoposto Corsa was thus entrusted to the renowned driver Carroll Shelby, who drove it in three hill climbs that shattered all past records: three races that made Shelby the 1956 SCCA champion.

In 1958, the car returned to the Maranello-based factory, where it was modified to take part in the Monza 500 race, “The Race of Two Worlds” that brought together Monza and Indianapolis. Harry Schell drove it: the capacity of its modified engine had been reduced to 4.2 litres and its bodywork painted in white and blue. However, after the first two tournaments, Schell had to give up due to a mechanical problem. 

After the unlucky appearance in Monza, the Monoposto Corsa Indianapolis never raced again, changing owners several times before it was bought by an Austrian collector and, after 40 years in the United States, returned to Ferrari Classiche for a complete restoration.

The Ferrari Classiche department delivered it in perfect condition to its owner in October 2009, and since then it has been stored in the Maranello-based factory. Every now and then, the owner shows up at the Fiorano track to drive it and have some fun with a truly unique car with a fascinating history. Marc Genè was also able to drive it, fully enjoying the extraordinary roar of its 12 cylinders perfectly restored by the Ferrari Classiche department which, finding the original documentation in its archives, was able to reconstruct its whole adventurous life in every detail.

A rare &lsquo;naked&rsquo; Ferrari Monoposto Corsa Indianapolis speeds along the Fiorano track<em> Photo: Leda Paleari</em>
A rare ‘naked’ Ferrari Monoposto Corsa Indianapolis speeds along the Fiorano track Photo: Leda Paleari

The car was completely disassembled and each piece compared against the original assembly sheet: the car’s conformity to its original design and any changes made by the factory over time were verified by examining the assembly sheet and list of components (which includes all components necessary to manufacture a car, subdivided by group). An inspection of the installed components and their conformity to the original design was then carried out, followed by a verification of any treatment the components may have been subjected to, to ensure that they were brought in line with the original specifications. Work was done on the engine, gearbox, differential, suspensions, brakes, transmission unit, distribution, ignition, lubrication, cooling and exhaust systems. Among other things, each wheel is equipped with a double Houdaille shock absorber, probably because the car had been specially designed to run on the Indy oval track. Another masterpiece by Ferrari Classiche, which has brought back to its original look one of the most mysterious jewels born in Maranello.

Ferrari