The “Egg” that challenged the Scuderia

1950 Ferrari 166 MM / 212 Export “Uovo” by Fontana

With a family fortune from the textile industry at his disposal, Giannino Marzotto wasn’t afraid to confront Enzo Ferrari about the quality of his racing cars. Describing Ferraris of the day as heavy and aerodynamically inefficient, Marzotto, a young but accomplished racer who’d won four major events in 1950, enlisted the help of designer Sergio Reggiani and Carrozzeria Fontana to create a unique coupe, nicknamed l’Uovo (the Egg), meant to best the finest cars that Maranello could produce.  In August, the 1950 Ferrari 166 MM/212 Export “Uovo” by Fontana heads to auction as a featured lot in RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale. MO17 r101 009 970x716

Chassis 024MB didn’t begin life as a custom-bodied Ferrari. Instead, the chassis destined to become l’Uovo originally wore a Barchetta body from Touring, and was first powered by a 2.0-liter V-12 rated at 140 horsepower. In this stock configuration, it was raced by Giannino’s brother Umberto, who suffered a failed clutch in the car’s debut outing at the 1950 Giro di Sicilia. Later that same month, Umberto entered the Mille Miglia with co-driver Franco Cristaldi, but their day ended in a crash that severely damaged 024MB.

Misfortune often delivers opportunity, and such was the case with 024MB. Looking to prove that he could design a car faster than a Ferrari, Giannino enlisted the help of designer Reggiani, specifying a coupe with an egg-like shape for optimal aerodynamics. The body, crafted of an aluminum alloy similar to Duralumin, was suspended on a skeleton of lightweight tubing, a construction method that shaved nearly 200 pounds off the weight of a comparable Ferrari. To reduce aerodynamic drag to a minimum, the fastback body used a low and steeply raked windshield.

Under the hood, Giannino opted to install the larger 2.6-liter V-12 from a Ferrari 212 Export, and equipped with triple Weber carburetors this setup was said to produce in the neighborhood of 185 horsepower. Original plans called for the radiator from a Ferrari single-seat racing car, which would have produced the lower frontal area that Giannino envisioned, but Maranello was slow to deliver the part (intentionally, perhaps) and the car was constructed with a radiator on hand instead. This design change raised the front of the car by nearly six inches, creating l’Uovo’s distinctive nose.

MO17 r101 004 970x647Compared to a Ferrari 166, the l’Uovo driver sat farther back in the chassis, to better sense oversteer (then considered a desirable handling trait in a racing car) in corners. With its light weight, stiff suspension and short wheelbase, the car was reportedly twitchy at anywhere near its handling limit, and as Grand Prix History relates, Giannino himself described the driving experience as “frisky.”

MO17 r101 010 970x734Once the build was completed and tested, the Marzotto brothers drove l’Uovo to Maranello, hopeful, perhaps, that Enzo Ferrari would see the beauty of their creation. Ferrari was neither impressed nor amused, writing the car off as amateurish and promising to defend his factory’s honor in the upcoming Giro di Sicilia.

MO17 r101 025 970x647Early in the race, Giannino and l’Uovo built a 12-mile lead over the second-place car, but a loose differential ended his quest with a did-not-finish (DNF) instead of a victory (earned by brother Vittorio Marzotto, driving a Ferrari spider). The next outing, the Mille Miglia, also ended in a DNF for chassis 024MB, this time tire-related. By the car’s third race, the 1951 Coppa della Toscana, fortune smiled upon Giannino, who achieved a win with co-driver Marco Crosara. Vittorio would drive the car to a second-place finish at car’s next event, and there the Marzotto brothers’ time behind its wheel came to an end.

MO17 r101 029 970x647Chassis 024MB was raced by Guido Mancini in 1952, but two race entries yielded a pair of DNFs. In 1953, or perhaps early 1954, the car was sold to an American buyer, Ignacio Lozano, who campaigned the Ferrari at events in Texas and California throughout the 1954 season. The next owner was Harvey Schaub of Los Angeles, who purchased l’Uovo in 1964 and kept it for the next six years. From 1970 through the mid-1980s, the car passed through a string of owners in the United States, but in 1986 was acquired by the consignor, an anonymous collector in Milan, Italy, who regularly entered the coupe in the vintage Mille Miglia.

MO17 r101 019 970x647Though initially shunned by Enzo Ferrari, l’Uovo was invited to participate in Ferrari’s 50thanniversary celebration, held in 1997, and was briefly displayed at the Enzo Ferrari Museum. The August Monterey auction represents the first time in over 30 years that this historically significant Ferrari has been offered to the public, and RM Sotheby’s predicts a selling price in excess of $5.5 million

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