When people think of Ferrari and Formula One, often first impressions, or thoughts, stray to those championship winning cars Ferrari has had throughout its history. When people think of Ferrari in Formula One many think of the 312 that won twenty-seven races throughout the middle-to-late part of the 1970s, or, the team's dominant models from 2000 through 2004. Rarely to thoughts stray to those models that set the stage for Ferrari's championship winning machines. The Ferrari 375 was one of those models the needs to be remembered.
The motor racing community is rather small. A relatively small number of people will ever take part in auto racing of any type. Amongst the elite racing series, most of the competition comes from 'in-house'. That is to say individuals that were part of one team end up finding the capital and investments necessary in order to go start their own ventures. One of the earliest and best examples of this is Scuderia Ferrari.
Enzo Ferrari got his start creating cars for his own team, Scuderia Ferrari, back in the late twenties and thirties. Up until the later part of the thirties, Alfa Romeo had been funding Ferrari's work. Then, in 1938, it was decided by those within Alfa Romeo they would enter racing under their own name. This basically forced Enzo out after he disagreed with the decision. Working alongside Ferrari was a man by the name of Gioacchino Colombo. Colombo was then given the task of designing a race car for Alfa Romeo. What he designed was the 158, known as the 'Alfetta'. The 158 was incredibly successful before the war. After the war, Enzo hired Colombo to help him build an engine for his race cars. By 1950, Colombo was faced with the task of creating engines capable of helping Ferrari battle with his own 158 design that Alfa Romeo was racing. Gioacchino's answer to Ferrari's quest for power was the same as he had produced to power the 158/159. So, Ferrari's 125 chassis, as it was used in 1950, sported a 1.5 liter Roots supercharged V12 engine. The engine produced a lot of power, but absolutely guzzled down the gasoline. Ferrari wanted a powerful, but more economical alternative. If a car drank that much gasoline during a race any performance advantage could be eaten up just by time taken in the pits to refuel. This wasn't going to work.
Throughout 1950, Formula One's first season, Enzo Ferrari directed his workers to not try and do too much. Instead, he wanted his people to work on specific areas where the greatest improvements could be made. One obvious place to start was the engine. Aurelio Lampredi was hired to replace Gioacchino Colombo. Enzo directed Lampredi to build a larger-displacement engine to overcome the power short-comings that would happen due to removing the supercharger. The decision was to make an engine that fit the maximum size of natural aspiration the rules allowed. By the end of July, Ferrari had built its 340 F1.
The Ferrari 340 F1 housed a 4.1 liter V12 engine and had proven itself very capable. However, the design team wasn't done. By the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Ferrari debuted its new 375 F1 machine. The 375 had achieved the desired goal of having a 4.5 liter engine, although it didn't really produce any more power than the 4.1 liter V12 used in the model 340. Right from its beginnings, the 375 proved to be Ferrari's machine to help the race team achieve success. In that debut race, Alberto Ascari was able to finish second.
By 1951, the Ferrari 375 would not only become Alfa Romeo's main competition. It would, throughout the course of the season, in essence supplant the 158/159 as the dominant car for 1951.
The basic design of the 375 was similar to that of a cigar or a torpedo. The body, from head-on, was similar to a 'D' laid on its side. The nose was rounded and had a higher angle out at its tip, but then, would lessen as it traveled back and up toward the cockpit. The nose was dominated, as was the case in most designs of the time, by a large rounded grill that helped direct the flowing cooler air toward the large 60 degree V12 engine under the engine cowling. Some applications used a blunt front nose. The grill was then placed inside the opening of the blunt-nosed car. The grill would be flatter in this application.
The front suspension was made up of a double-wishbone and transverse lower leaf spring arrangement. The paneling was aluminum. The chassis was tubular. However, it had elliptical side members and tubular cross members.
The engine cowling was littered with numerous louvers on both the top and the sides. The large V12's of that day developed a good deal of power, but, much more energy was lost in heat. This heat was one huge culprit for failed engines in that day. Therefore, all of the built up heat had to be eradicated. This is the reason for the louvers in the engine cowling. The low pressure caused by the air flowing over these openings caused a suction effect that pulled the hot air out of the engine cowling. Also on top of the engine cowling was a single airbox meant to feed air into the engine. Air from this airbox on the top fed into three carburetors that fed the fuel and air into the cylinders to create somewhere around 350 brake horsepower.
A single, large exhaust pipe exited out of the chassis down low along the each side of the car. This exhaust pipe travelled back along the lower portion of the car, and then, gently angled down and slightly under the car. The exhaust actually left the pipes out past the rear wheels.
As was the case in that day and age, all of the brakes on the Ferrari 375 were drums. The drum had numerous fins machined into them to help cool them. The heat built up within the drum would be absorbed into these fins. The fins were exposed to the cooler passing air. This helped to cool the brakes. There was even a small air duct that protruded from between the brake drum housing and the chassis that helped direct more air directly into the drum to help with cooling.
Just prior to the cockpit, the lines of the bodywork design ascended upward at a sharper angle. At the very top of the deeply cut-out cockpit sat a small (variable in some cases) windscreen. To either side of the windscreen were attached two round rear-view mirrors.
If the driver wasn't too big, the lines of the car design would give the feel of not sitting too exposed, but rather, tucked down within the car. To either side of the driver were large channels that made getting in and out of the cockpit a relatively straight-forward affair. The cockpit was rather roomy because of the deep-cut sides. Right in front of the driver was the large wooden steering wheel with that famous prancing horse in the center. The gauges were few. The structure of the car, how it was built, was clearly visible within the cockpit. Through the center of the floor ran the rear-wheel driven transmission. The gearbox on the 375 was a four-speed manual.
Behind the driver, housed in a large piece of bodywork, was hidden the car's massive fuel tank. Though not as thirsty as a 1.5 liter supercharged V12, the 4.5 liter V12 still consumed healthy amounts of gasoline.
Right near either elbow of the driver were the large balloon rear tires. The rear suspension on the 375 was accomplished through a de Dion axle and a transverse lower leaf spring. This was used in tandem with two radius arms hydraulic lever dampers.
Right from the very start of the 1951 season, the 375 was victorious. Alberto Ascari took the pole for the Grand Prix of Siracusa in March of 1951. While Alberto's race came to an early end with an engine failure, the Ferrari 375 was still able to achieve victory when Luigi Villoresi drove one to victory over his teammate Dorino Serafini. Serafini was driving a Ferrari 212.
Villoresi made it two in a row for the 375 when he took the victory at the Grand Prix of Pau at the end of March. It was entirely possible there could have been two 375s at the top had it not been for a transmission problem in Ascari's car.
Two 375s finishing at the top was achieved at the next non-championship event in which Scuderia Ferrari took part. Once again, Alberto Ascari took the pole in his 375. In fact, Scuderia Ferrari's 375s started the Grand Prix of San Remo first, second and fourth. By the end of the 90 lap event, Ascari had achieved his first win of the season and Dorino Serafini followed home in second.
A G.A. Vanderwell owned Ferrari 375 was able to keep from floating away at the 3rd BRDC International Trophy race at Silverstone, England to take the victory. Torrential rains and flooding brought the event to an early end after only six laps, but, Reg Parnell truly dominated those six laps in the 375.
At the end of May, the Ferrari 375 squared off for the first time against its championship nemesis, the Alfa Romeo 159, at the Swiss Grand Prix. The Alfa Romeo took top honors during qualifying, although the 375 was well inter-mixed amongst the 159s. The race was similar. Fangio took the win in his 159. In fact, the Alfa Romeo 159 finished the Swiss Grand Prix first, third, fourth and fifth. However, Piero Taruffi was able to push his 375 up into second in order to prevent an absolute domination by Alfa Romeo.
At what was the second round of the championship in 1951 (not counting Indianapolis), The Alfa 159s took the top-two spots in qualifying, but the 375s sat third, fourth and fifth. Victory continued to allude the 375 drivers, but Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi were able to finish second and third. It was obvious to any one that Ferrari was beginning to catch up to Alfa's dominant 159.
Despite getting closer, if not equal, with the 159, frustration continued to follow into the next round of the championship, which was the European Grand Prix held at Reims, France. Alfa drivers, Fangio and Farina started one-two. They were followed by two Ferrari 375 drivers Ascari and Villoresi. Troubles hit Alfa Romeo throughout the length of the 77 lap race. However, Ferrari could break through. Luigi Fagioli's Alfa, driven by Juan Manuel Fangio, was able to take the victory. However, three Ferrari 375s finished second through fourth.
Alfa Romeo was only going to be able to hold back the 375 for so long. Finally, at the British Grand Prix, the dam burst. Jose Froilan Gonzalez took the pole for the race in his 375. Alberto would also start the race fourth in his 375. Gonzalez showed what the 375 was truly capable of as he beat his famous fellow Argentinean (Fangio) by almost a minute. Another Ferrari 375, driven by Luigi Villoresi, finished the race in third place. From this point on, Ferrari began their rise to prominence in Formula One.
Alberto made it two in a row for the 375 when he took the victory at the next round of the championship, which took place on the famous 14 mile long Nordschleife. Not only did Ascari win, he did so having started from the pole. It wasn't just for Ascari's win that Ferrari got to celebrate. The 375 helped carry Ferrari home to a first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth finish at the German Grand Prix.
Jose Froilan Gonzalez ended up making it three grand prix victories in a row for the 375 when he drove to victory at the non-championship Pescara Grand Prix during the middle of August in that year. Scuderia Ferrari 375 drivers started the race on the 15 mile long course first, second and fourth. By the end of the twelve laps, Gonzalez had lapped the field up to fourth place. Also, when Jose crossed the line to win the race it would take another seven minutes before the second place car of Louis Rosier would cross the line to finish the race. Third place was another two minutes behind.
Each of Ferrari's models throughout the 1950 and 51 seasons were stepping stones, in the mind of Enzo Ferrari, in order to reach the true championship contender. The Alfa Romeo 159 had continued to win races throughout the early part of the Formula One calendar. This led the Ferrari stable to not sit on their hands and not improve. Instead, the team continued to build upon the success of the 375 and produced the model 500, which was debuted at the non-championship Bari Grand Prix in the early part of September.
Fangio was able to start from the pole. He was also able to ride the good starting spot all the way to the victory. Piero Taruffi was called upon to drive the new Ferrari 500, while the rest of his teammates drove 375s. Piero was able achieve an impressive finish in third after starting the race from eleventh. Piero, however, was bested by Gonzalez driving a 375. Besides finishing the race second, Gonzalez was the only other driver Fangio wasn't able to lap by the end of the 65 lap race.
Fangio had been able to break up the string of victories the Ferrari drivers had been able to achieve in their 375. However, the streak would get right back on track at the next-to-last round of the championship.
Fangio and Farina managed to start the Italian Grand Prix from the first two spots on the grid, but that wasn't where they would finish. Alberto Ascari and Jose Gonzalez disappeared into the distance in their Ferraris. The 375s carried them to a one-two finish. The duo had been able to lap everyone. Ascari finished ahead of Jose by over twenty-one seconds. More importantly, the Ferrari 375 had been able to carry Scuderia Ferrari to a first, second, fourth and fifth place finish in Italy, at the notoriously attrition laden Italian Grand Prix.
Going into the last round of the championship for 1951, it is important to ask the question, 'What if Ferrari had bigger tires?' Incredible heat, both in the air and in track temperature, made all the difference in the championship. The last race wasn't a dogfight between Fangio and Ascari. The heat had decided who would win the championship. Ferrari suffered from delaminating tires due to the smaller tires inability to eradicate the oppressive heat. Had the team used larger tires, could the 375 been Ferrari's first championship winner?
Because such questions have to be asked, the Ferrari 375 is due much honor, perhaps more than it receives now against Ferrari's 312 or any produced throughout the early 21st century. At the very least, Ferrari's 375 must be remembered as the car that burst through and led Ferrari to its first victories in Formula One and set the stage for the team's early championship winning chassis. The 375 deserves to be remembered with such fond memories. In addition, it deserves to be remembered among Ferrari's most influential and successful models.Source:
'Race Results by Year (1951)', (http://www.ultimateracinghistory.com/race.php?raceid=1166). Ultimateracinghistory.com. http://www.ultimateracinghistory.com/race.php?raceid=1166. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
'Race Results by Year (1950)', (http://www.ultimateracinghistory.com/racelist.php?year=1950). Ultimateracinghistory.com. http://www.ultimateracinghistory.com/racelist.php?year=1950. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
Wikipedia contributors, '1951 Formula One season', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 December 2010, 12:39 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=1951_Formula_One_season&oldid=403692799 accessed 22 December 2010
Wikipedia contributors, 'Scuderia Ferrari', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 December 2010, 15:58 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Scuderia_Ferrari&oldid=403364298 accessed 22 December 2010
Wikipedia contributors, 'Ferrari 375 F1', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 November 2010, 23:25 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ferrari_375_F1&oldid=394881928 accessed 22 December 2010
'1951 Non-World Championship Grands Prix', (http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/nc/1951/1951.html). 1951 Non-World Championship Grands Prix. http://www.silhouet.com/motorsport/archive/f1/nc/1951/1951.html. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
'Ferrari 375 F1', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/120/Ferrari-375-F1.html). Ultimatecarpage.com. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/120/Ferrari-375-F1.html. Retrieved 22 December 2010.By Jeremy McMullen