By Jim Jenné
Photos courtesy of Jim Jenné
Part II of the Stanguellini Search (read Part II) deals with Jim Jenné’s own Stanguellini, CS01120, and how he came to own and race the Sebring Stanguellini. In this last installment, Jim describes the constant round of restoration and the frustrations of trying to find a Stanguellini Bialbero engine.
After meeting Sandy McArthur, I became a Stanguellini historian, of sorts. Sandy was very helpful, most of the information came from him. As it turned out, Sandy was wrong about the car, as it was not the one he thought. But over the years, Sandy and I wrote many letters and he provided much detail about his years driving a variety of Stanguellinis. Perhaps most helpful of all were Jarl and John de Boer. John and I also exchanged many thoughts on who did what, where and when.
In the winter of 1985 I started writing letters to anyone I thought might know anything about the car. If they replied, I would ask them if they knew what happened to the motor, but none of the other previous owners remembered what had happened to the engine. I wrote to Francesco Stanguellini. He said they still had the drawings and would be happy to build me a new motor. No price!! I wrote back, how much? The answer was in Italian, Lire 40.000.000 (about $40,000 fob Modena). This was out of my reach.
In 1986 I and my family moved to California, where I joined VARA, CSRG and did several races with the two groups. Then I joined HMSA and did so I could participate in The Monterey Historic Races in 1987. There I parked the Stanguellini next to the same Aston Martin that passed it at Sebring in 1958. What a great place to take a car for exposure! It was pictured in at least three different car magazines after the race. During the race I was approached by David Gooley who did a photo shoot and article for Sports Car Illustrated (now Sports Cars International) which appeared in the November 1988 issue. The most memorable moment at Monterey, however, was when I was approached by the Father of Italian Oddities, Jarl de Boer, who took one look and said “Pop rivets? They didn’t have pop rivets in 1957”, and walked away. This really got me thinking.
I continued to race for the next few years. Then in 1990 I entered an event at the Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, and was doing well keeping away from the hot shoes, when boom, the clutch went away. took it home and pulled the engine and transmission to change the clutch. I looked at all those pop rivets and said “Time for a real restoration, Jim”. It would not be easy.
My goal for 13 years was to get the thing back to as close to its original configuration as I can, and preserve as much of the original car as possible.
With the frame sand blasted and homemade suspension removed I started looking at all the old welds, and comparing them to photos I had collected from several previous owners. Until this time I did not know what the configuration of the suspension was. It could be like the Formula Jr. cars, as the rest of the frame seemed to be. Or it could have used the Topolino transverse spring design as on the 1954 car. Once the car was apart, I could see very clear that it had to be the Topolino setup
The floor pan looked like a pasta strainer for all the holes drilled in it over 30 some years of racing. I cut it out and replaced it. The rear main frame cross tube had been cut to make way for the Alfa rear end. I replaced that tube also. The rear suspension tower had had several different roll bars welded to it as SCCA rules changed over the years. I copied the original parts and replaced the entire tower. I removed the modified Panhard rod and replaced it with cross cables to match the original design.
Through years of owning a Stanguellini, one gets a nose for finding stuff. On a junk yard stroll I found a 1959 Fiat 1100 4 door. I took the complete running gear engine transmission and rear end, wonderful large brakes, dash switches, horns, wiring, headlights, everything I thought I might be able to use. It turned out I only used the transmission and rear end and some switched and other electrical components.
The Stanguellini steering wheel was originally a wooden rim flat center, three spoke design. One Sunday I was headed home through Palos Verdes. There was a sign “garage sale” and I looked in the yard as I was driving by at 35 or so MPH. There, in a chair, was a period correct wood rim steering wheel. I slammed on the brakes, pulled over, and offered the guy $10.00 for it. Sold!!!
I set up a meeting with a fellow who has all the running gear parts from the 1959 Scaglietti bodied car. He allowed me to photograph everything. I then met another guy in Louisiana who had the body and frame – and photographed all the parts he had.
The brakes now on the Stanguellini car are copies of the originals from photographs of the original parts taken off #CSO4084. The splines were machined to match the brakes and new knockoffs were purchased. The wheels were cleaned up and silver powder coated, as the original wheels were painted.
Pirelli no longer makes the 5.20×14 tires so I replaced them with Dunlop Racing 5.50x14s. I used lead wire in the spokes to balance them just like the original. The seats are again copies of the original parts out of the CS04080 photo collection. The dash board (padded no less) was be made from photos, as will the windshield. I would like to find a correct tachometer. It would be a Smith 10,000 rpm white face with black letters, mechanical unit. I’ve been looking for one for years.
After moving back to Minnesota, it was time to find a motor to use in the Stanguellini. The cost of having an engine built is still not an option. I have looked for the original motor for twenty years and have about given up. I once got on an airplane and flew half way across the country because of a rumor that it existed, but it did not. By serial numbers taken from Stanguellini’s own files there were only eight 1100 Bialbero motors built. I know that Stanguellini has the engine built right after mine in a Lotus 11. I know that he also has one on a stand in his Museum. And there is a third in CS01111 (a 1952), which I saw for the first time on the Internet.
In the meantime, something had to provide power to the rear wheels.
Although back in Minnesota, my son Keith, still on the West Coast, called me to tell me there was a Fiat 1500 OSCA in the San Francisco newspaper. I bought it over the phone, loaded up my trailer and made the 5000 mile round trip and brought it back. Fortunately the car itself was beyond reasonable salvation, so I didn’t mind borrowing the wonderful OSCA DOHC designed engine.
I made a twin Weber intake manifold to fit it, and polished as many of the parts as I could. I had new pistons made. I found a gasket kit in Switzerland, and other parts in California. I shortened the tail shaft of the transmission 6″ in order to get it to fit, and the rear axles 1.5″ each.
The body is being reworked this winter and I will most likely paint it by summer. The motor is back together, and the seats and upholstery are in progress. I still need to come up with all the necessary wiring components, rebuild the starter and generator, make the dashboard and finish the windshield and tail light molds. Being one of 20 cars built over 25 years, parts are hard to find. Like Sandy MacArthur once said “Stanguellini didn’t pop them out like Chevrolet”.
Whenever I am asked when it will be done I answer “next spring”, as it will never be “done”. Thanks to Jarl de Boer for the pop rivet comment, it has made all this a fun ride.