Il Mago di Modena
Auto Italia|April 2017

We tell the story of the ‘wizard’ of Modena, Stanguellini, through two of his exceptional and pioneering race cars

Matt Zuchowski

Driving along Via Emilia Est in Modena, among the numerous car dealerships, you will eventually stumble upon a sign that few will recognise: Stanguellini. It wasn’t always like that, though. Only a brief walk from here (and half a century back in time), the very same name hung on the Modena’s largest Fiat dealership, which would attract motorsport professionals and enthusiasts from all over the world. There was a time when the Stanguellini name was one of the brightest stars on the motorsport scene, regularly beating the likes of Scuderia Ferrari and achieving dominance in Formula Junior.

As it turns out, the Stanguellini family has always been good at two things: doing business and racing. The first success came around 150 years ago with the production of orchestral kettledrums (!) patented by Celso Sanguellini. Celso’s son Francesco introduced the people of Modena to motorised tricycles in the early 20th century, then registered Modena’s first ever car, a 1908 Fiat Tipo (registered MO 1, it’s still in the possession of the Stanguellini family). Francesco soon became Modena’s first motorsport competitor, racing Ceiranos and Fiats, and in 1925 he set up a successful scuderia armed with Modena-made Mignon motorcycles. These activities were financed by Stanguellini’s car dealership, Francesco having become Modena’s first official car dealer in 1910.

So it was that the Stanguellini family could be said to have laid the foundations for the Maserati brothers and for Enzo Ferrari; they all knew each other well. It was a devastating blow that Francesco died prematurely in 1932, leaving the business to his son, Vittorio, then aged just 22.

Soon Stanguellini was manufacturing truck bodies but the passion for racing remained. The company’s first race car was built in 1935, and experience gained modifying Fiats 500 Topolinos and 508Cs led to tuned 750cc and 1100cc engines. Vittorio set up Squadra Corse Stanguellini, campaigning custom-built cars, but it was a lone Maserati 6CM tuned by Vittorio that brought his team fame when it won the 1937 Targa Florio in the hands of Francesco Severi. Fiat-based cars followed the theme; they claimed victories at Monza, Tobruk-Tripoli and a clean sweep of the 1940 Mille Miglia in the 750cc and 1100cc classes. The company reached new heights with a grand Fiat 2800-based one-off completed in 1939, Stanguellini’s fastest and most complex project to date.

After WW2, the racing team returned to full swing. There would be no Sunday when a Stanguellini-badged Fiat wouldn’t win somewhere. Some of the victories reached legendary status, like two triumphs over the factory-backed Ferrari 125 driven by Franco Cortese, and one over the Simca 8 driven by Amadeo Gordini at the 1946 Belgian Grand Prix. In 1947, Squadra Stanguellini took no fewer than ten outright race wins and four national titles.

1947 also saw Stanguellini release its first road-going model, a four-seater berlinetta that mixed an extravagant Bertone body with humble 1100cc Fiat 508C underpinnings. Only a few such cars were sold, but significantly it evolved into the historically important Bertone-bodied Berlinetta and Spider designs, both inspired by the Alfa Romeo BAT concept cars (all these designs were penned by Franco Scaglione).

Vittorio’s cars were much like the man himself: small and skinny, but endowed with charisma and vigour. One fruitful partnership was established with Carrozzeria Ala d’Oro, founded in 1946 by the 1100cc Italian Champion of 1938, Franco Bertani. He employed one of Stanguellini’s former workers as a coach builder, and the two companies collaborated on a series of racing barchett as and aerodynamic coupes.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM AUTO ITALIAView All

Lusso Or Sport?

Maserati’s executive saloon is relaunched for 2018 with a subtle facelift, more equipment, a power boost and new GranSport/GranLusso versions. Is it better to drive, though?

4 mins read
Auto Italia
February 2018

Toy Boy

We survive heckling nuns and comedy proportions as we climb aboard this 1948 Mille Miglia racing Siata-Fiat 750 Spider Corsa.

7 mins read
Auto Italia
March 2017

A-Lister

What should you replace a clunky old Ford Fiesta with? Something from the top drawer, naturally: a tastily modified Alfa Romeo 147 GTA .

7 mins read
Auto Italia
March 2017

Wind of Change

Levante is a Mediterranean breeze – we test Maserati’s first-ever SUV in UK-spec right-hand drive form to find out if it’s a breath of fresh air 

7 mins read
Auto Italia
February 2017

Il Mago di Modena

We tell the story of the ‘wizard’ of Modena, Stanguellini, through two of his exceptional and pioneering race cars

7 mins read
Auto Italia
April 2017

Alfa Romeo TZ2

We attempt to shed light on the mysteries of the ultra-rare and delectable TZ2 – and get behind the wheel of one

4 mins read
Auto Italia
April 2017

Tail Sliders

Recent Lamborghinis have majored on four-wheel drive. But there’s a hardcore enthusiast market for rear-wheel drive cars – a great excuse for us to compare three generations of mid-engined rear-drive Lambos: Huracán, Gallardo Balboni and Urraco.

9 mins read
Auto Italia
December 2017

Usefully Sporty

Alfa’s new Sports Utility Vehicle has finally landed in the UK. We head to Northern Ireland to put the Stelvio through its paces in right-hook form.

7 mins read
Auto Italia
December 2017

Andrea Zagato Face To Face

In an exclusive interview with Andrea Zagato, we find out why Italians don’t believe in perfection, why electric cars are great for designers and how Zagato’s future includes Alfa Romeo.

6 mins read
Auto Italia
December 2017

Heart of the Scorpion

Abarth is tapping into its rich heritage by opening a new ‘Classiche’ department. We take a tour around Abarth’s Turin HQ to delve deep into the heart and soul of the scorpion brand Story & images by Chris Rees

5 mins read
Auto Italia
May 2017
RELATED STORIES

MUSK WARS WITH TWITTER OVER HIS BUYOUT DEAL - ON TWITTER

Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised that taking over Twitter would enable him to rid the social media platform of its annoying “spam bots.” Now he’s arguing — without presenting any evidence — that there might be just too many of those automated accounts for the $44 billion deal to move ahead.

2 mins read
Techlife News
May 21, 2022

MCDONALD'S ERA IN RUSSIA COMING TO A CLOSE, RESTAURANTS SOLD

McDonald’s is selling all of its restaurants in Russia 30 years after the burger chain became a powerful symbol of easing Cold War tensions between the United States and Soviet Union.

2 mins read
Techlife News
May 21, 2022

HARLEY-DAVIDSON SUSPENDS PRODUCTION FOR 2 WEEKS, SHARES FALL

Harley-Davidson announced a two-week suspension of vehicle assembly and most shipments, citing a regulatory compliance issue with one of its suppliers.

1 min read
Techlife News
May 21, 2022

CONSUMERS SHIFT AGAIN, FLUMMOXING BIG RETAILERS LIKE TARGET

The pandemic vastly changed the way Americans spend money and now as they return to pre-pandemic behavior, they’re tripping up retailers again.

3 mins read
Techlife News
May 21, 2022

CONGRESS DIVES INTO UFOS, BUT NO SIGNS OF EXTRATERRESTRIALS

Congress held its first hearing in half a century on unidentified flying objects. And no, there is still no government confirmation of extraterrestrial life.

2 mins read
Techlife News
May 21, 2022

NY AGENCY FILES DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT AGAINST AMAZON

A state agency in New York has filed an administrative complaint against Amazon, alleging the e-commerce giant discriminated against pregnant and disabled workers by denying them “reasonable accommodations” and forcing them to take unpaid leave, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced this week.

1 min read
Techlife News
May 21, 2022

GOOGLE'S RUSSIAN BUSINESS PLANS TO FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY

Google says its Russian subsidiary is planning to file for bankruptcy because it can’t pay staff and suppliers.

1 min read
Techlife News
May 21, 2022

DUSTY DEMISE FOR NASA MARS LANDER IN JULY; POWER DWINDLING

A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise.

2 mins read
Techlife News
May 21, 2022

‘TWITTER PHILANTHROPY' REVEALS CHASMS IN SOCIAL SAFETY NET

Single father Billy Price was already struggling to make ends meet before someone broke into his Michigan storage unit, stole his identity and ruined his credit.

6 mins read
Techlife News
May 21, 2022

ARGO TOUTS DRIVERLESS OPERATIONS IN MIAMI AND AUSTIN, TEXAS

An autonomous vehicle technology company that partners with Ford and Volkswagen says it has started driverless operations in two of eight cities where it is developing its technology.

1 min read
Techlife News
May 21, 2022