By Jim Jenné
This article focuses on four Stanguellini sport race cars imported to the United States in the 1950s. Three of the cars were entered at Sebring in 1957, ’58 and ’59, and the fourth won its class at Watkins Glen when owned by Briggs Cunningham. It later held the land speed record for a 750cc car.
The cars featured here are tube frame aluminum bodied race cars that have a CS011xx prefix serial number for the 1100cc car, and CS040xx prefixes for the three 750cc cars.
In the early 50’s E.C. (Carl) Kiekhaefer owned and ran the Mercury Outboard Motor Company, located in the Appleton, Wisconsin area. Kiekhaefer was a research driven person, and a fan of auto racing. He heard that Briggs Cunningham had won at Watkins Glen using a Fiat-based 750cc with a Stanguellini twin cam head that developed 60 h.p. Kiekhaefer needed to know more, and bought the car from Cunningham.
At Mercury they removed the engine and placed it on a dynamometer to check it out. After several tests the engine threw a rod which damaged the head and block; the tests were over.
Sandy MacArthur, a young engineer and motorhead in the Chicago area, heard about the blown motor and attempted to purchase the remains of the Stanguellini. Kiekhaefer wasn’t interested in selling it at that time. MacArthur then asked Kiekhaefer if he would sell him a 40 cubic inch outboard to place in MacArthur’s Bandini. This got Kiekhaefer’s attention. During the winter of 1954, Mercury engineers rebuilt the Bandini with their 650cc outboard engine at no charge to MacArthur, who did very well with it the following year with full technical support from Mercury engineers.
Because of MacArthur’s success, Kiekhaefer installed a Mercury outboard in the Stanguellini and won the land speed record for a 750cc car at Daytona Beach. The car was then sold or traded to Herm Behm, a local VW dealer.
CS04080 is now owned by a private collector in south Florida, equipped with an original Stanguellini 750cc twin cam (Bialbero) engine, once used in one of the four cars to run Le Mans. (Howard Banaszak)
Herm Behm, having the only Stanguellini in the U.S., contacted Vittorio Stanguellini in Italy and became the “official importer of Stanguellini cars in the U.S.” The deal also gave Stanguellini a chance to have a car in the Sebring race for 1957. In that year, only factory entries were allowed, and with no advertising on the car.
The second car to arrive at Behm Imports in late 1956 was a “pretty” Reggiano designed body with the Stanguellini designed 750cc twin cam engine. Herm Behm entered it in the 1957 Sebring 12 hr.
Shortly afterward, Behm was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and contacted Sandy MacArthur and asked him if he could drive in his place at Sebring, with Carl Haas.
CS04088 with engine # CS04090, won its class, H modified. Behm’s imported car business was off and running. He placed ads in Road & Track in July 1957 for Stanguellini “class winning 750cc and 1100cc cars.” But Behm died by mid-1958. His widow Jane sold the Sebring winning car to a John A. Wetherbee of Milwaukee Wisconsin, to settle the estate. Wetherbee entered it in many events throughout the upper mid-west. The car was eventually parted out.
Today many of the parts, including the original engine and drive train, brakes, wheels, seats and other parts are being fitted to a remanufactured frame and body in Wisconsin. (Current status unknown)
Before Behm died, Kiekhaefer wanted to do a bit more research on these high-horse power Stanguellini engines. Due to the impressive 1957 750cc win, Kiekhaefer ordered an 1100cc Stanguellini Bialbero Sports Racer to enter in the 1958 Sebring enduro. It was CS01120, the car currently owned by author Jim Jenné.
Because of the “Factory Entrants Only” rule, the car was entered for Stanguellini under the name of Behm Motors. Kiekhaefer owned it and Carl Haas (Newman-Haas Racing today) and Alan Ross were hired as the drivers. Behm was very sick at this time, and Mercury Outboard engineer, Aldo Celli, of Italian decent, was sent by Kiekhaefer to the race to aid in the preparation and management of the race effort. The car finished in 21st place and 4th in class behind 3 Lotus 11 cars.
After the 1958 race the 1100 Stanguellini was shipped back to Wisconsin where Kiekhaefer and his staff of engineers toyed with the car. One of the engineers, Clem Johnson, liked the car very much and bought it from Kiekhaefer in January of 1959.
Johnson found it had a broken brake drum and that 2nd gear was gone. There was an extra brake drum that came with the car, but he had to order the gear from Italy and it did not come in time for the 1959 event at Elkhart Lake. So, he drove the race without 2nd gear. The full story of this car will be told in a future edition of VeloceToday.
This was the fourth and last Stanguellini to come to the U.S. and last to race the Sebring. In late 1958, after Herm Behm died, Sandy MacArthur met with Stanguellini in Italy and was named the new dealer in the United States. He then ordered a 750cc to race at the 1959 Sebring 12 hour. His friend Bob Roloson would co-drive. About half way through the race, and in 2nd place in class, a severe rainstorm began. Roloson lost control, hit a bridge and landed up-side down. He was not hurt, but the car was badly damaged and sold in pieces after the race. The body and chassis (with the serial number) went to Louisiana and the drive train went to Lou Laflin in the Chicago area. Laflin installed the engine and drivetrain into a homemade chassis with a Devin body, and raced it as a Stanguellini #97.
The story of CS04084 gets even more complex. In September 1958, a C. Richard Hatch of Rome America Motors wrote a letter to the R&T editor. “This car (the 59 Sebring entry CS04084) was built for a Ferrari engineer, the late Fraschetti” , and “it was designed by Scaglietti, Ferrari’s chief designer, hence the one off body”, and that “all other Stanguellini bodies are by Reggiano.”
If so, CS04084 was built for Fraschetti in 1954. Per comments from Sandy MacArthur, Fraschetti was killed in it during a hill climb, and the rebuilt car was sold to a Francesco Siracusa. Siracusa’s name is also on the owner list for CS01121 (the sister to my car) and on the entry list for LeMans 1957 with a 1100cc Stanguellini.
I suspect that Francesco Siracusa may have traded the Scaglietti bodied Stanguellini (CS04084) for the 1100cc model (CS01121)to enter Le Mans in 1957. Stanguellini then photographed CS04084, distributed press releases, and then sold it to Sandy MacArthur in August of 1958. The press assumed it was a new offering from Stanguellini, when actually, it was a five year old car!
CS04084 is still in two parts. A man in Louisiana owns the body/frame (with serial number) while another man in Wisconsin has all the running gear along with the remains of the Devin, as well as the running gear of CS04088. Because of conversations about this article, the two have reached an agreement. Louisiana man is building two replacement frames, one for his serial number CS04084, and one for Wisconsin man to be used to rebuild the 1957 Sebring winning car, CS04088, which he has the parts for. Wisconsin man will give up the original engine CS04084 for the replacement frame
(Scagliettii bodied CS04080… The owner in Louisiana died and his wife sold it to a car dealer “friend”, who thought it was too much work and then sold it to a fellow in the north east… …The last I heard it was in Italy being restored)