By Jim Jenné
Part II of the Stanguellini Search (read Part I) deals with Jim Jenné’s own Stanguellini, CS01120, and traces its history in detail. We pick up the story as Clem Johnson, an employee of Mercury Outboard, bought the car from the company and raced it at Road America.
The transmission was fixed in the winter of 1959/60 and Clem raced it in the June Sprints at Milwaukee and the 500 at Elkhart Lake. 200 miles into the 500 mile race it lost oil pressure and “rods started pounding.”
Johnson rebuilt the engine in the winter of 1960/61 and took it to Elkhart Lake in the spring to sell (see photos). Donald L. Rudquist bought it for $2900.00, and hauled it back to Minneapolis where he entered it in the North American Grand Prix. in the parking lot of the Metropolitan Stadium (now the Mall Of America) , the Land O’ Lakes Sports car classic, and other events in the Twin Cities area.
The car was then sold to many different people in the area; Jerry Nelson, Dick Giese, Art Abrahams, Tom Kennedy and others, each new owner adding a little something to keep it competitive (or just running!). It was raced with a Coventry-Climax engine for a time. Tom Kennedy bought a Studebaker engine to put in it but sold the car as a roller to a Minneapolis resident who also had a 1300 Alfa that had been rolled over. This owner cut out the original Topolino suspension with custom ventilated brakes, Fiat 1100 rear end and welded in a home made suspension and put in the Alfa 1300 running gear. He also cut open the wheel wells to make everything work for 8″ wide Blue Streak tires, painted it lime green and went SCCA racing.
The suspension worked just fine, the large 1300 Alfa drum brakes brought the 1000 lbs car to a stop real quick. The twin Webers fed 1300 pulled well and made the car competitive for a while. It was sold again, and sat in a few backyards and a few garages for some time until a Guy Blechinger acquired it. He wanted to make it into a street car — just to play with on the weekends.
He stripped off the lime green paint down to bare aluminum, put plastic turn signals in it, spent many hours on it and gave up — so in the early 1980s he put it up for sale in Hemmings.
At that time (1983) I was the president of Vintage Sports Car Racing (VSCR) in Minnesota, and I put out the word that I wanted a Sports Racer. At a VSCR party, a friend, Rich Stadther, walked up to me and handed me a Xerox photocopy of a Stanguellini with an address on it and said “Here is one for you, It is too much work for me!”
The next day, long time Alfa enthusiast Darrel Newell and I drove out to see it. Darrel took one look and said if you don’t buy it I will. I asked Guy’s wife how much they wanted for it, she said $1500.00 was offered, so I gave her $1800.00 and picked the car up the next day.
I had no idea what I had just done. I could not pronounce Stanguellini much less spell it. “Now what do I do?”
Once at home, I began removing the SCCA equipment — roll bar, fender flares, electric shut off switch, and those damn hockey puck hard Blue Streaks. I did my best to reshape the fender wells so a standard width Alfa1300 wheel would fit. I used aluminum expanded metal to form the shape of the fender and small diameter tubing to outline the wheel well. I primed it with white primer, used 3M red sticky back stuff to make a number circle with white shelf paper numbers and went “racing”.
Twenty years ago, Vintage racing was much different, as it wasn’t important if the car was “correct” or not — the cars were not worth anything but memories. As long as you did not use fat tires and had a somewhat stock size motor, no fender flares or any advertising — no one really gave a damn because it didn’t matter if we won or not, we just needed enough cars to make a grid.
I took the Stanguellini out for the first race session and on the second lap I noticed a loss of power. Now this thing never had much power, so any loss was significant. Well I pit, got out and opened the hood. A little smoke puffed out , but hey, it’s Italian! I didn’t see anything on the one side so I went over to the other side. This is when I noticed that my shoes were sticking to the ground. The Alfa 1300 had a hole the size of a baseball in the side of the block!
At about the same time, my son Keith owned a Fiat 124 sports coupe that lost a battle with a guard rail post. I hauled the wreck home, yanked the engine/transmission and threw the rest away. Frankenstein-like, the Stanguellini suddenly had a new heart! I rebuilt the motor and installed 11:1 pistons, yahoo cams, and the twin Webers from the Alfa.
It was now time for the body to be redone in a respectable manner. I tapped a business associate for help (Tom Nordenstorm, Fibraform Products Inc. who now builds Porsche race body parts). He did a bang up job making the thing look like it should.
At a VSCR “car show” where I entered the newly rebuilt Stanguellini, a fellow came up to me and said, “Oh the Stanguellini, I have the five wheels from that car in my cellar, do you want them”?, They had been there for 15 years. They were the original 4″ wide Borrani wire wheels , three-60 and two 72 spoke with the same Pirelli 5.20 x14 tires that were used at the Sebring race. I bought them even though I did not have the splines or knockoffs to put them on the car.
The wheels went from his cellar to mine.
In fall of 1985, VSCR (Minnesota) and VSCDA (Illinois) held a joint event at Elkhart Lake Wisconsin. The first Fall Festival. What a wonderful time it was. We had Rene Dreyfus as a guest. The fall colors were beautiful and the air was crisp.. The Stanguellini was entered in group II, 1946 to 1959. I finished 3rd in class behind a XK140 and a 300SL who would out run me on the long straight and block me in the corners. This was now a very fun car to drive.
At the race a white bearded gentleman walked up to me and said “Hi I’m Sandy MacArthur, I haven’t seen this car for many years, and I think this is the car that I won Sebring in.” I did not realize that Sandy MacArthur was the man who imported and raced Stanguellinis in the mid 1950s. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Part III will bring the story of CS01120 to the present time..