Vittorio Stanguellini was a good businessman and an excellent builder of racing cars. He was born on March 24th of 1910. 23 years later he was creating racers and building a reputation. The Second World War slowed his progress but shortly after the treaty he had regained momentum. His 1100 twin cam Fiat-based engines were in high demand. War torn Europe was eager to get back to racing and these were excellent, durable, competitive, and affordable racers. By 1950 he was producing, what would become legendary, a dual overhead camshaft 750 engine which would be used successfully in single seater and sports cars racing.
Much like other specialty-equipment producers such as Abarth, Stanguellini often modified and enhanced pre-existing equipment. He operated Modena's larger Fiat dealership and was renowned for his metal work and truck-body fabrication business. His legacy though, was with his racers. Part of that success was due to his Sporting Director Adolfo Bedoni who aided Stanguellini in the creation of some of the world's best F1 feeder series racers.
Count Giovanni Lurani envisioned a racing series that would be inexpensive and could help drivers prepare for the next level of racing, such as Formula 2 or Grand Prix. The series would be called the Formula Junior and it took some convincing to get it approved by the Italian Automobile Club. Stanguellini saw an opportunity and by 1958 had created some racers that would qualify for this new series. More importantly he created machinery and had gathered components to construct more racers. By the time the series was granted full international status in 1959, Stanguellini had a front-engined racer that was competitive, tested, and proven. Over its racing career in the Formula Junior series the Stanguellini cars would capture over forty national and international victories and several championships.
For the 1958 season the rules stated that any engines of Italian origin could be used. This rule was relaxed in 1959 to include any production car classified in the FIA's Appendix J GT category. The other major components were the gearbox and brakes which also had to come from FIA homologated cars in their International Touring Class. Other rules for 1958 stated that the front suspension was to come from the vehicle that had housed the engine. The minimum weight allowed was 400kg.
For 1958 the Stanguellini was created from a tubular steel ladder type frame and reinforced with integral stiffening tubes. The front suspension was an independent suspension with parallel wishbones, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar. The coil springs were tilted at a steep angle pointed inwards. In the rear was a live axle located by parallel trailing arms with coil springs pointed at a vertical angle. There were angled telescopic shock absorbers similar to the ones used on the Stanguellini 750 cc Formula Corse. Al-Fin drum brakes were placed on all four corners and provided adequate stopping power for the 12-inch Borrani wire wheels. The driver sat low in the seat and located to the right was the shifter. Regulations stated that the gearbox had to be similar to production cars so Stanguellini selected a unit from the Fiat 1100. Minor modifications by Stanguellini included a special gear ratio and a single dry plate clutch.
There were strict requirements for the engine such as overhead cams were not permitted. The Fiat 1100 Millecento motor meet most of the requirements and was chosen for the Stanguellini racer. Located in the front the 1.1 liter Fiat four-cylinder engine had a 68 mm stroke and a 75 mm bore resulting in a 1089 cc of displacement. With some special tuning, the engine was modified to produce 78 horsepower; an increase of 42 horsepower over the standard unit. The engine kept cool by the front-mounted radiator and a unique duct that was located atop of the engine cover. Louvres located above the front wheel aided in the circulation of cool air.
The body work was courtesy of the coachbuilder Gransport of Modena. The body was similar to the Grand Prix racers of its day, but smaller. The body was aluminum due to its lightweight features and rigidity. The resulting 420kg racer could race from zero-to-sixty in just 6.6 seconds and reaching top speed at 135 mph.
In 1957 Stanguellini created a prototype bearing chassis number 04087 which was based on their prio 750 formula Corse single seater cars. The prototype was powered by a Fiat 1100 engine which received modifications to include a two-port head and two downdraught Weber carburetors. After time, these were replaced with two Dell'Ortos. The legendary Juan Fangio was given the honor of performing test runs at the Modena Autodrome. With additional tweaking and testing, the prototype proved to be a potent competitor. By the following year there were 15 Stanguellini Formula Junior's created, each with production-specification Fiat front suspension. Driven by Roberto Lippi and sponsored by Bardahl, a Stanguellini racer captured the first Italian FJ Championship in 1958 after winning an astonishing four races during the season. The popularity of the proven racer skyrocketed and for 1959, around seventy examples were produced. Thirty more were created in the following year.
There were around 30 examples created in 1959 that were given an independent rear suspension setup.
In 1959 the Stanguellini captured the International Championship in 1958 and in 1959. They also captured the International Series Championship in 1959. The racers dominated until 1960 when competitors such as Colin Chapman and his mid-engined Lotus 30's and the mid-engined Cooper's proved too nimble and powerful for the Stanguellini.By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2009