June 08, 2009

Auto Avio 815

A little history

Pressed by Benito Mussolini himself to retire from motor sports in the early Thirties, Alfa Romeo had immediately complied – who would have dared disobeying the Duce? Nonetheless Alfa’s fame was built on its successes on the track, so giving up racing outright was a harsh decision to take. The company management found an alternative in promoting the creation of a private team which would receive technical support from the factory, thus becoming a semi-works racing outfit. Who would run such a team? Alfa found its man in one of its former pilots, ambitious and newly retired from racing: Enzo Ferrari.

Enzo Ferrari had created a little “Scuderia Enzo Ferrari”, and chosen a prancing horse (actually taken from an Italian flying ace from World War One), as the distinctive sign to be painted on all of his cars. No one would have guessed then that the first few words of a long legend had just been written down.

At first, this arrangement brought many more successes for Alfa Romeo, but these became scarce after the two German teams, Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union, entered the Grand Prix scene in 1934. In 1938, Alfa Romeo resumed its direct involvement in motor racing, pushing Enzo Ferrari out of the picture and, furthermore, forbidding him per contract to build any racing car sporting his name for the next four years.

Never mind the name, thought the cunning Enzo, who created another company, Auto Avio Costruzioni, and designed a racing car, the Tipo 815. Actually the first Ferrari but in name, the 815 was intended to compete in the 1940 Mille Miglia. Two cars were built, relying on Fiat components for the most part, and bodied as spyders by Touring. A 1.5-litre straight eight powered the car; thus, the very first machine designed by Ferrari wasn’t a V12, as so many other of its heirs. Thanks to a bunch of no less than four Weber carbs and a very light weight, the Auto Avio could reach 170 mph. Unfortunately, it lacked preparation on the race day and, though fast in their class,Link the two cars driven by Lotario Rangoni and the young and promising Alberto Ascari, son of Grand Prix great Antonio Ascari, had to retire. The Mille Miglia were to be the last major race held in Europe as Italy would enter the conflict by June of the same year, leaving the small factory fulfilling war contracts. One of the two Auto Avios was sold to a private competitor who, after the war was over, raced it at various events without any success. By that time, though, the contract linking Enzo Ferrari and Alfa Romeo would have expired, leaving the former free to build his first “real” car, the 125.

About the model

Model: Auto Avio Tipo 815
Year: 1940
Maker: Ixo
Scale: 1/43
Distributed by: Fabbri as no.29 of its Ferrari Collection press series
Acquired: brand new, in May 2006, in Souillac, France

For several models of racing cars from its Ferrari series, Fabbri has had the dubious idea of not presenting them in racing guise, but in plain red. This Auto Avio is among those so, rather than having one of the two Mille Miglia cars, you got a naked car with not much to talk about. Proportions are also somewhat doubtful, the model not resembling some of the rare pictures of the cars as they were built in 1940. I won’t give this model more than 9/20.



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