Written and composed by Damien Duigan
As a car mad teenager growing up in suburban Melbourne in the 1980s, I was obsessed with all things Ferrari and would regularly haunt local events hosted by the local club. Among the Testarossas, 308s and Boxers that captured my attention, some real gems would occasionally appear, dinosaurs from a long forgotten era.
Growing up, I began devouring books and magazines like Cavallino and the importance of these cars eventually dawned. Too late as it happens – the booming world of classic car prices saw an exodus of most of Australia’s most famous (and consequently valuable) racing cars overseas, snapped up by greedy English and American dealers exploiting the favourable exchange rates of the day. Of all these cars, one in particular stands out – a 750 Monza that appeared at a number of shows in the early 1980s before disappearing from these shores. This then is the story of 0462MD – a well-travelled Ferrari with a fascinating history.
If you were a privateer racing driver in the mid Fifties wanting to compete in sports car racing at the top level and could afford the best machinery, there were few choices: the Brits were an obvious choice, with Jaguar releasing its groundbreaking D-type in 1954 and Aston Martin’s lovely DB3S another option, along with the offerings from a myriad of smaller firms using proprietary (either Bristol or Jaguar) engines, such as Cooper, Tojeiro and Lister.
In Germany, Porsche’s 550 Spyder offered plenty of performance from its complicated four-cam engine but with only 1.6-litres was rarely in the hunt for outright victory. The French had little on offer, with Talbot-Lago all but gone by this stage and Gordini rarely selling to foreigners, while Pegasos were hardly ever sighted outside their native Spain.
That left the Italians, who by now had become the dominant force in sports car racing, with the likes of Maserati and Ferrari offering customers a wealth of high performance machinery. In 1954 the choice was simple; Maserati’s pretty A6GCS was quick and reliable but only had 2-litres, whereas only Ferrari offered a car suitable for the 3-litre category, in the new 750 Monza.
Irish Racing Green…
One such wealthy amateur was Irishman Joe Kelly, who made his money in the car trade. Hailing from Dublin, Kelly raced a single-seater Alta for several seasons immediately after the war, before taking delivery of a new C-type Jaguar in time for the 1953 Tourist Trophy held on the treacherous Dundrod circuit. Kelly continued racing the car during 1954 but a year bought one of Ferrari’s earliest 3-litre sports racers.
Stamped with an ‘MD’ suffix indicating it may have started life with a 2-litre Mondial engine, 0462MD is recorded on the factory build sheets as a Tipo 750 Sport and used a four-speed transaxle instead of the Monza’s five-speed unit. Kelly debuted the green Ferrari at Dundrod in 1954, sharing with Desmond Titterington but the pair retired with gearbox trouble.
Kelly raced at Curragh later in September, breaking the lap record, before loaning the Ferrari to ace Mike Hawthorn for an Unlimited Sports Car event at Goodwood the following weekend, again without success.
At the close of the 1954 season, Kelly made the decision to sell the Ferrari and, in a rather strange twist, it was purchased by Jaguar, the Coventry company wanting to evaluate the Italian machine as part of the development for the radical new D-type. According to John Blanden’s research, Lofty England – in a taped conversation with future owner Barry Batagol – is understood to have commented that Jaguar found little value in the exercise and promptly sold the car.
It has been incorrectly reported the car was the Monza entered at Le Mans in 1955 for Hawthorn and “Mike Sparken”, when in fact this was the latter’s own Monza 0504M – close examination of the Scaglietti bodywork confirming the subtle variations typical of these hand-built racing cars.
Off to the Colonies…
From Jaguar 0462MD passed to John Cooper and future star driver Jack Brabham, who reportedly rebuilt the car before selling it to Stan Coffey, a mate of Black Jack’s. Coffey met the car at the docks in Adelaide in September 1956 and it was registered on South Australian plates as ‘495-192’ before returning to his home town of Sydney, where it was given a fresh coat of Italian racing red. Coffey raced the car without notable success during the latter stages of the 1956 season although he did manage to hit 145mph down the Conrod straight at Bathurst and generally provided an interesting competitor to the more successful D-type Jaguars and 300S Maseratis. The Ferrari made an appearance on the cover of Modern Motor magazine for December 1956 and was advertised by
Coffey in the same magazine the following July, described as “An opportunity for a wealthy grazier with a good highway near his property, or a racing driver to acquire the fastest sports car in Australia”.
Sydney dealer Arnold Glass added 0462MD to his stable in August 1958 but never started a race, despite entering and turning up for practice at several events, but the Ferrari returned to the track after being sold to Jack Neal, who repainted the car light blue and campaigned it for Norm Crowfoot during the 1959 season.
The Monza then passed to Ollie Steel, who had Hamilton & Mitchell rebuild the car with help from John McMillan, using parts obtained through Bill Lowe’s Ferrari concession in Melbourne. Once back in action, Steel raced the car at the 1960 Bathurst Easter meet but engine trouble ended his race, resulting in further repairs, including a replacement gearbox sent out from Maranello.
During this period the Monza’s bodywork was copied for a series of fiberglass shells built by local firm JWF, dubbed the Milano, some of which survive as tangible links with the Ferrari that inspired them.
By now the old Monza was getting a little long in the tooth and was pensioned off to a doctor with fine taste in motor cars, Geoff Davis, who owned, amongst other things, a magnificent supercharged Mercedes-Benz. Davis obtained a spare motor for the car from the USA – I believe this was 0588M, a 3.5-litre motor sourced from Gerald Roush, who ran the Ferrari Market Letter for many years and originally from an ex-works/John Edgar 857 Sport, necessitating a large hump in the bonnet.
Noel Tuckey wrote an evocative feature on the car in the defunct Aussie mag Sports Car World around this time, describing the Monza as “… an incredibly exciting, fire-breathing animal, the aluminium body crafted into a shape that is still sensuous enough to draw crowds wherever it goes.” Davis, who co-owned the car with Ian Halliday, road registered the shark-like Monza and regularly exercised the car on the road on trips from his New England home in Glen Innes to Sydney.
In the late 1970s Melbourne Ferrari enthusiast Barry Batagol acquired and extensively restored the Monza using the original 3-litre motor between 1980 and 1983: this was the period when the car became a regular fixture at local club events and snapped by yours truly!
The later history of 0462MD is no less intriguing. The car finally left Australia for sunny California in 1986 when Ferrari broker Mike Sheehan sold the car through his dealership European Auto Sales Inc. in Newport Beach, passing to collector and vintage racer Don Young in beautiful Santa Barbara. The Monza was then sold to an Italian jeweler from Vicenza, Pietro Brigato, who ran the old girl in the revived Mille Miglia in 1987 – the first of many appearances in that event.
Shortly afterwards the car passed to Bert Stieger’s famous “Turning Wheels” collection housed in Switzerland – anyone who owns a copy of Rainer Schlegelmilch’s huge coffee table book simply titled “Ferrari” can find a series of lovely photos of 0462MD, suitably posed in a Swiss meadow. The Ferrari later returned to Santa Barbara, passing to collector Pat Smiekel in the 1990s, who took the car to the Cavallino Classic in Florida in January 1997.
Italian enthusiast Roberto Crippa then had 0462MD restored by Diena & Siligardi of Modena in preparation for the 1999 Mille re-run, later selling it to another Italian, Andrea Burani from Modena. More recently auctioneer Dana Mecum added the Monza to his personal collection and it crossed the block at Mecum’s Monterey auctions in both 2012 and 2013 before finding a new home with David Lockwood in the Bay Area, who ran the car in the Monterey Reunion held at Laguna Seca in 2014.
Incredibly the car recently crossed the Atlantic for a fifth time, passing to Dutch enthusiast Robert Defares and appeared in the Mille Miglia in both 2016 and earlier this year. So the old Ferrari is still racing hard 63 years on, admired everywhere it goes.