Throughout the 1950s, Argentina would seemingly produce an endless number of talented racing drivers including the great Juan Manuel Fangio and the fast Jose Froilan Gonzalez. South American drivers seemed to be aces in the hole when it came to Formula One and Sportscar racing. However, not all would be as successful. In the case of Alejandro de Tomaso, his fame would come along another path.
Alejandro de Tomaso would be born in Argentina in 1928. However, the young man's dreams would soon turn Italian red as he dreamed of becoming a racing driver for one of the fabled Italian marques. Of course, the dream of Italian racing red would be somewhat thrust upon him by the rise of Juan Peron to president in Argentina. De Tomaso's family was of high political rank and would become implicated in a plot to overthrow Peron. This would necessitate the family leaving to what was the home of his paternal grandfather.
De Tomaso's family would flee Argentina in 1955. Due to the family's financial position, Alejandro would be free to chase his dreams of becoming a famous racing driver for an Italian team. Unfortunately, de Tomaso's dreams were larger than his talent and, by 1959, he was already looking for another route in which to enjoy his love of motor racing.
De Tomaso would only end up taking part in two Formula One World Championship races and they would come over a period of three years. The first race, amazingly, would come in 1957 at the Argentine Grand Prix. His last would be at the 1959 United States Grand Prix driving a Cooper-OSCA. Neither of the two races would earn de Tomaso World Championship points. And the Argentine Grand Prix in 1957 would, in fact, be the only one of the two in which he would actually finish.
It certainly seemed clear his Formula One career was finished. But, having settled in Modena with his family, de Tomaso would find himself in what would have to have been considered the heart of Italy's motor racing scene. Living within walking distance of Ferrari, Maserati and within a hours drive away from OSCA, de Tomaso would find himself in the company of some of the greatest motor racing manufacturers of the day. Yet, despite such an overwhelming presence, de Tomaso would decide that though his racing career, as a driver, may be at an end, his career as a manufacturer may just be beginning.
Therefore, in 1959, de Tomaso would establish De Tomaso Automobili SpA and would make yet another manufacturer to be based in Modena. De Tomaso's first focus would be upon becoming yet another Italian racing car manufacturer, hopefully earning as strong a reputation as Ferrari and Maserati. But, to be able to fund the company's racing interest, de Tomaso would begin construction of his first major production car just a handful of years after having established his company.
De Tomaso's interests had changed. He realized he would never achieve the dream of becoming a major racing driver, but that didn't mean he couldn't achieve such a dream as a car manufacturer. Therefore, de Tomaso would set about preparing his first cars for competition. Just two years after establishing his company, he would be rolling out his first Formula One chassis—the 1961 De Tomaso F1.
De Tomaso's first foray into the racing world as a car manufacturer would be by designing and building a Formula Junior car. Just starting out, de Tomaso would look to inspiration from others to help him with his first design and, ultimately, the de Tomaso Formula Junior car would bear a striking resemblance to a Cooper chassis. However, de Tomaso knew that building Formula Junior cars would not achieve him the acclaim he was in search of. Therefore, the following year, 1960, he would set about building an OSCA-powered Formula 2 car.
De Tomaso would set about designing his first Formula 2 car. He would start out with a space-frame chassis that would end up sporting a long, rather slim nose with an elegant oval-shaped radiator inlet that was similar in design to most every other design of the time. This nose design would end up changing depending upon the venue. The higher-speed events would see the car adorned with a much more shallow radiator inlet design than at some of the other slower-speed venues.
De Tomaso would then look to the car's front and rear suspension. He would determine to use double-wishbone front and rear suspension that would feature coil springs at all four corners of the car. All four wheels would sport specially-cast alloy wheels and disc brakes.
The car's fuel tanks would be positioned in tanks on either side of the cockpit making the driver's office quite tight. The cockpit would be made even more tight by the wrap-around windscreen pulling in on the driver's soldiers. The overall small car would make for the driver to sit up tall inside the tight cockpit. Within the cockpit, the driver would find the raised footbox and the gear lever controlling the de Tomaso designed 5-speed gearbox.
Initially, de Tomaso had designed the small Formula 2 car for a 4-cylinder, twin-cam, OSCA engine. Given the small size of the 1.5-liter engine, de Tomaso would design a contoured piece of bodywork to cover the rear end of the car, making for a nicely streamlined car.
As it would have it, de Tomaso would never race his Formula 2 car. Beginning with the 1961 Formula One season, the engine regulations would force a maximum displacement of 1.5-liters. While many of those involved in Formula One would look at the new regulations with much disdain, de Tomaso would see it as his opportunity to move up to the big time as his Formula 2 was now eligible.
De Tomaso would make his De Tomaso F1 available to a number of privateer customers. Producing a total of six chassis, one of the first examples de Tomaso would sell would end up being purchased by Scuderia Serenissima and it would be driven by Giorgio Scarlatti. The team would purchase an OSCA-powered version of the car and would enter the French Grand Prix held at the fast Reims circuit. Given the small size of the 4-cylinder OSCA engine, Scarlatti would be destined to run at the back of the field.
A total of 26 cars would end up qualifying for the 52 lap race. Scarlatti would find himself 26th, dead-last. Around 7 seconds slower than the 25th starter on the grid, Scarlatti would be destined to start from the eleventh row of the grid and stare at the back of the field all race long, that is, if the small 4-cylinder engine could make the entire race distance.
While he would not be the first one out of the race, Scarlatti wouldn't even manage to make it half distance before the engine expired. Unfortunately, it seemed the small OSCA engine just would not be able to compete over the course of the season. Therefore, Scarlatti would not take part in another race in the De Tomaso the rest of the season. The Scuderia Serenissima team, then, would look to a different driver, and engine, over the course of the 1961 season.
De Tomaso would make another engine available for his car. Based upon the production Guillietta 4-cylinder, Alfa-Romeo would take its popular engine and would then send it to tuner Conrero to have the engine enlarged and modified. One of those modifications would include a twin plug cylinder head. This engine would then be mated to de Tomaso's F1 car. Unfortunately, the Alfa-powered derivative would only prove to be slightly more powerful, but still, not quick enough to pull itself out of the back of the pack.
The highlight of the Alfa-powered versions of de Tomaso's F1 cars throughout the 1961 season would come with the third chassis at the Italian Grand Prix. While the OSCA-powered De Tomasos would find themselves within a couple of rows within being dead-last, the Alfa-powered car, driven by Nino Vaccarella, would end up qualifying 20th. And, among the De Tomaso entries, Vaccarella would prove the longest lasting. Unfortunately, it meant that none of the other drivers managed to make it past 13 laps, for that is when Nino retired from the race with engine failure.
This would be the end of the 1961 Formula One season for any De Tomaso entries. Unfortunately, what it all meant is that out of the two races in which De Tomaso F1 cars were entered, none of them would see even a single car cross the finish line. Most unfortunate is that this trend would spill over into the following year when neither car for either Scuderia Settecolli or Scuderia de Tomaso would manage to qualify for the Italian Grand Prix.
In the end, the 1961 De Tomaso F1 Alfa would prove no different to look at whether static or in motion as there really seemed to be no difference between the two stages of performance. Still, the car looked, aesthetically, very pleasing and provides all that rare opportunity of seeing the blue and white of Argentina contrasting beautifully with the red livery known the world over as pure Italian.Sources:
Whitelock, Mark. '1 ½ Liter Grand Prix Racing 1961-1965: Low Power, High Tech', (http://books.google.com/books?id=7E1vWo1JPJAC&dq=DeTomaso+F1+Alfa&source=gbs_navlinks_s). Google Books. Veloce Publishing Ltd. (2006).
Muelas, Felix & Diepraam, Mattijs. 'From Argentina to Italy to Grand Prix Racing', (http://8w.forix.com/detomaso.html). 8W: The Stories Behind Motor Racing Facts and Fiction. http://8w.forix.com/detomaso.html. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
Wikipedia contributors, 'De Tomaso', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 November 2012, 17:30 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=De_Tomaso&oldid=521229789 accessed 20 December 2012
Wikipedia contributors, 'Alejandro de Tomaso', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 December 2012, 23:03 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Alejandro_de_Tomaso&oldid=526940643 accessed 20 December 2012
'Seasons: 1961', (http://www.manipef1.com/seasons/1961/). ManipeF1. http://www.manipef1.com/seasons/1961/. Retrieved 20 December 2012. By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2012