Amedee Gordini had been born in the heartland of the Italy's automotive industry. He would join a Fiat dealership, would have a close friendship with Eduardo Weber and would even work with Alfieri Maserati while at Isotta-Fraschini. However, after a trip to Paris in the early 1920s, he would forever fall in love with France and the powder-blue livery of his cars would be merely an extension of the love he felt in his heart. One of Gordini's first successful racing cars as a French manufacturer would come in the early years after the Second World War. The car would be the Simca-Gordini T11.
Toward the end of the 1930s, Gordini would begin his racing career and would be almost immediately successful. However, the Second World War would come into the picture and would bring a halt to his racing career. However, when the war ceased and racing resumed, Gordini would pick right up where he left off by being the first to win a post-war race in the Robert Benoist Cup.
There was a very serious situation for racing car manufacturers throughout Europe. The war would set the stage for who would be dominant in the decade following the war. The cost in Britain had exacted so much that technology and resources would be playing catch-up. Germany was in a shambles and almost didn't exist for nearly a decade. Italy would have a number of its manufacturers survive relatively intact and would become the dominant force in grand prix and sportscar racing. And then there would be Gordini in France.
Gordini had been successful immediately before the outbreak of the war, but to be successful in the coming years he would have to build new cars infusing new technology, constantly progressing. This would be hard for Gordini in war-torn France. But not one to shrink away from a challenge, Gordini would face the unbelievable odds and would set about building a competitive grand prix car.
Building a competitive car with limited resources and materials forces a builder's hand somewhat. While Alfa Romeo would pull their 158 Alfettas out from storage, Gordini would have to build from scratch. This would force him to look to other ways to be competitive without having the mighty engines and tools. The only way to really do it, in those circumstances, would be to build small, light and nimble chassis that would be able to challenge in economy and handling. This would be the Gordini T11.
Gordini would actually begin the design of the car in late 1944. He would build a car based around a 1.1-liter inline four cylinder engine. With the help of two double body carburetors, the engine was capable of producing 75 hp at just under 6000 rpm. This engine, over the years, would have its power boosted so that by 1948 it would offer 110 hp. But, the original T11 would have this small four cylinder engine as its core.
Having a small engine, Gordini would then set about building a small and tight chassis to surround it. The design of the chassis would be very uncomplicated. Very much cigar-shaped, the semi-tall rounded nose would wrap backwards and would rise gently on its upward lines in order to cover the inline engine. The nose itself would feature a small egg-shaped radiator inlet that also fed cooler air to the oil cooler. To the right of the top of the engine cowling would be an air scoop feeding air to the carburetors boosting the power to that paltry 75 hp.
The frame of the chassis was also quite simple given the small size of the car. Literally, the engine, the suspension, the driver and just about everything else rode on two rounded beams traveling the length of the car and had cross-members applying rigidity and additional strength to the chassis.
The front suspension featured a semi-independent system that utilized a crossbow arrangement passing through the car to both sides. Still, this would be better than the rear which would have a rigid arrangement. Braking power came through the use of drum brakes applied to all four tires. Each would boast of machined fins to aid with cooling.
To say the car was small would be an understatement once the driver sat inside the cockpit. Made just big enough to get a driver into the car, the cockpit would feature two large cutouts to the chassis and bodywork on either side of the driver's elbows just to enable the driver to be able to manage the steering of the car. The driver protruded out of the top of the car looking like a kid sitting down on one of those old runner sleds. There, in the small of the driver's back, hidden underneath the rounded rear end of the car would be the car's fuel tank.
Utilizing just one spark plug per cylinder, one magneto and a 4 speed manual gearbox the performance of the T11 wasn't anything near astonishing. But the car was light and maneuverable. And in the right hands the car could be successful. And the car would find its way in to the hands of a number of racing legends including Juan Manuel Fangio. In the hands of the right driver the T11 could be a nasty little terrier despite looking all cordial and nice in its powder-blue livery. The car would give many their introduction to single-seater grand prix racing. And while it would be grossly over-matched by the likes of the 158, on a good day, the T11 could still manage to pull off the upset, its size and agility making up the difference.
'People: Amedee Gordini', (http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/cref-gorame.html). GrandPrix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/cref-gorame.html. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
'Simca-Gordini T11', (http://www.jmfangio.org/simcagordinit11.htm). JMFangio.org. http://www.jmfangio.org/simcagordinit11.htm. Retrieved 28 June 2012.By Jeremy McMullen