REGIONE Emilia-Romagna is rightfully known as Motor Valley. This northern Italian region begat Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and the wonderfully passionate famiglia Stanguellini.
In Modena, an ancient town of the region, Celso Stanguellini began producing timpani (kettledrums) of his own patented design in 1879. His son Francesco developed a passion for the earliest automobiles. Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino was established in 1899 and, before long, Francesco opened a dealership in his hometown. His personal F.I.A.T. (on displayed at the Stanguellini museum) carries the license plate 1-MO, Modena’s first.
Francesco died prematurely in 1932 and his son Vittorio, age 19, took over the business. Vittorio had his father’s passion for cars and his grandfather’s engineering skills. In 1937, he set up Squadra Corsa Stanguellini. That same year, a Stanguellini-enhanced Maserati 1500 was the outright winner of Sicily’s famed Targa Florio. Cars with Stanguellini-modified 750-cc and 1100-cc Fiat power scored a multiplicity of class victories in the 1938 and 1940 Mille Miglias. (No 1939 Mille Miglia was held.)
The company’s successes continued post-war. In 1949, Vittorio designed and fabricated a bialbero (twincam) head for the 1100-cc Fiat engine. Other conversions followed and, in 1950, the officine built an entire 750-cc dohc powerplant of its own.
The 1950s and 1960s were highpoints for Stanguellini’s “Courtyard of Miracles,” as the works became known. Its sports and racing cars continued to be Fiat-based, but components such as their tubular frames were fabricated in-house. Local carrozzeria Reggiano fabricated many of Stanguellini’s handsome aluminum designs; other cars carried Bertone, Campana and Scaglione bodywork.
In 1958, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile established Formula Junior, an open-wheel class envisioned as a stepping stone to Formula 1. A car with 1100-cc powerplant and 400-kg (882-lb.) overall weight was one of the Formula Junior options, a configuration that suited Vittorio to a T. (at the top of this article, image)
Juan Manuel Fangio had become a friend of the Stanguellini family. In fact, his suggestions and initial testing contributed to the success of their Junior 1100 race cars.
About 100 Stanguellini Formula Juniors were built; they accumulated more than 100 victories. In time, the mid-engine evolution of open-wheel race cars displaced front-engine Stanguellinis and others of their type. However, the front-engine Stanguellini, a mini Maserati 250F in appearance, remains a beauty and is popular today in vintage racing.
In 1963, two enthusiasts offered Stanguellini opportunity to develop a land-speed-record car. Vittorio did his magic on a pair of Moto Guzzi motorcycles engines, one of 500 cc, the other a single-cylinder 250 cc.
Fellow Modenese Franco Scaglione fabricated the streamliner’s sleek bodywork. Named the Colibri (hummingbird), the car set a total of 24 international records, six with the diminutive powerplant at Monza.
Vittorio passed away, age 72, in 1981. His son Francesco had already inherited his passion for automobiles. What’s more, Francesco evidently passed it on his two children, daughter Francesca and son Simone. These days, all three take an active role in the company, which remains a Fiat dealership as well as a vintage maintenance facility and museum for the marque.
Today, F. Stanguellini is still doing business at Via Emilia Est, 756, Modena. The officine has a handsome website, in English or Italian. Videos at the website show Francesco and Simone giving a tour of the works and its museum. The videos are in Italian only, but words passione, famiglia and macchina come through loud and clear. ds
source: Dennis Simanaitis