6 February 2015

Movers and Racers

Race Car transporters were like working folk in coveralls: seen but rarely noticed. Then suddenly, like the secretary in old movies who removes her glasses and wows her boss, old transporters started turning collectors’ heads.

Transporters didn’t begin to appear in numbers until the mid-1950s, when race cars became too specialized to drive to tracks. In the 1930s, Enzo Ferrari used ordinary trucks to move the Alfa Romeo team’s race cars, so it was no surprise that for his own team he used Fiat transporters.

Like old race cars, transporters were discarded. Mercedes-Benz was probably the first to cherish its racing history, but that did not extend to The Blue Wonder, a carrier powered by a 300SL engine and designed to speed a race car to its destination at up to 100 mph.

The Ferrari transporters, in relatively good condition, were the first to attract collectors. Then, collector Dick Skipworth bought and restored the Ecurie Ecosse Commer to complement his stunning blue team Jaguars.

At Goodwood, Skipworth said he was going to the States to buy the most storied transporter of all “before the Yanks find out what they have.” But vintage racer, collector and hot rod savior Don Orosco overheard the remark and beat him to it. In 2008, some two years and $600,000 later, Orosco appeared in Monterey, California, with his two Scarab Formula cars and Scarab sports car on the restored eight-wheel Fiat transporter, resplendent in Scarab livery.

The Fiat truck platform began service as the Maserati F1 team transporter in the mid-1950s. It later contested the 1960 Formula 1 season in the blue livery of American Lance Reventlow’s Scarab team. When he took his outdated cars home, Carroll Shelby bought the truck to support his Cobras in their successful European episode.

Others whose colors had decorated the Fiat included Lotus, Alan Mann (Ford GT40s), JCB Equipment and David Piper. Piper put it to use with Steve McQueen while filming LeMans in 1970. During restoration, Orosco’s paint team counted seven liveries.

Transporters took another move into the spotlight when Lawrence Auriana celebrated Maserati’s 100th year by bringing his Fiat-based Maserati transporter to the 2014 Monterey Historics. Suddenly, it was 1957 and Fangio was winning the World Championship in the legendary 250F.

Yes, the race transporter has arrived. And don't be surprised if you begin to see them displayed at concours around the country.

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