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Could Gigi Villoresi have beaten the BMWs with this fascinating V-8 Lancia Spider? jonathan Sharp provides the color photos and information from the Museo Nicolis.
The 1937 Astura Spider shown in the Nicolis museum was prepared in 1939 by Carrozzeria Colli, by order of the Milanese Scuderia Ambrosiana, for one of the Scuderia’s top drivers, Luigi ‘Gigi’ Villoresi.
The car, whose engine gave 110 bhp compared with 82 bhp of the series version thanks to an experimental hemispheric cylinder head similar to the one of the new Aprilia, was entered for the 1940 the Mille Miglia, but unfortunately Gigi Villoresi had a road accident during the running in of the car and so he could not participate in the race. (There was no Mille Miglia in 1939; the event was suspended in 1938 after an accident that took the lives of 10 spectators.)
In the post-war years, this car was raced by several Italian drivers, among whom Franco Cortese who gained the highest success, before being sold to the English drivers John Gordon and David Lewis who drove it at the 1949 Mille Miglia. Ending its race career, the car was used for much less noble actions: the smuggling of precious watches from Switzerland to Italy. Seized by the Swiss police, for many years the Astura remained forgotten in a warehouse, where it was rediscovered by Luciano Nicolis who brought it to Italy and had it restored in order to proudly use it at the most prestigious classic car events.
Read much more about the Nicolis Museo.