Separatist Struggle - 1963 ATS Tipo 100

1w ago


Due to his indelible influence on motorsport, technology and car culture in general, Enzo Ferrari has gone down in history as a legendary figure in the automotive world. However, as a man, the great Commendatore wasn't without his flaws. His strong character and iron-clad resolve made him a formidable businessman and competent leader, but these traits could just as easily create a horrible blind spot.

Enzo Ferrari always firmly kept his hands on the wheel of his company.

This came to a head in November of 1961. The Scuderia was fresh off another successful racing season, claiming both the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans and both titles in Formula One, but internally tensions were brewing. Enzo's wife Laura had taken a rather controlling interest in the daily goings on of the factory, much to the dismay of Ferrari's sales manager Girolamo Gardini.

After yet another heated argument, Gardini petitioned Enzo Ferrari to ban his wife from the factory grounds to stop her meddling. His initiative was backed by manager Romolo Tavoni, chief engineer Carlo Chiti, experimental development chief Giotto Bizzarrini and several other staff members. As they represented the core of Ferrari as a business, the group presumed Il Commendatore would be willing to discuss matters. They were sorely mistaken.

Enzo was Ferrari. There would be no negotiation.

Unwilling to upset Laura, whom he was already on thin ice with due to several affairs, Enzo wasn't in the mood to bargain. So instead, he handed everyone involved in the petition their last paycheck. And with that, Ferrari had in essence gutted his own company at a critical point in the development of a radical new sportscar and the new F1 machines.

However, he assumed Ferrari's strong brand name and vast financial resources would plug the holes he had just blown in his own ship in no time at all. The event would later become known as "The Great Walkout" or the "Palace Revolt. The net result of all this was a group of tightly knit, highly capable staff suddenly becoming available on the market. Naturally, this wasn't going unnoticed.

Count Giovanni Volpi's Scuderia Serenissima swooped in to pick up the pieces.

Shortly after being sacked, Gardini, Tavoni, Chiti and Bizzarrini were contacted by Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata. Volpi was a true racing fanatic, and was a loyal costumer of Ferrari's sportscar program.

The Count funded his hobby with a massive inheritance he received at age 24 from his late father, former colonial governor and Italian Finance Minister Count Guiseppe Volpi di Misurata. His ties to the men involved in the Palace Revolt drew ire from Enzo Ferrari, who cancelled his orders for the new 250 GTO, a car still in development when the walkout took place.

The ATS 2500 GT was based on a never realized mid-engine Ferrari concept conceived by Carlo Chiti.

In response, Volpi vowed to become a constructor in his own right. Backed by his Serenissima business partners Jaime Ortiz Patino, a Bolivian tin mogul, and Italian industrialist Giorgio Bili, he secured the services of all key Ferrari defectors. Together, they embarked on a two-pronged approach to spite Ferrari under the Scuderia Serenissima banner.

Carlo Chiti would be allowed to finalize his design brief for a mid-engine V8 sportscar, which was to have been the first Ferrari road car using that layout. Meanwhile, he and Bizzarrini would also start work on a Grand Prix racer intended to promote the road car and to take the fight directly to the Scuderia on the world's racetracks.

The Type 100 F1 racer.

While Ferrari was embarrassed on the Grand Prix circuit with his barely developed 156 during 1962, Scuderia Serenissima set up its base of operations in preparation for an entry in 1963. The location chosen was Sasso Marconi, an economically stagnant area south of Bologna, in hopes of securing a government grant in exchange for providing job opportunities for the locals.

Almost immediately, work started on the GT car, the single seater and the factory needed to actually produce them. With progress on the latter being slow, the prototype F1 chassis was built by Palermo-based Aeronautica Sicula to Chiti's specifications.

It was then shipped over to the Potecchio Marconi estate, where it was assembled inside an old farm house as the factory was still not ready. Upon completion, the team realized a wall needed to be knocked down to retrieve the car.

The chassis was a traditional chrome-molybdenum steel tubular spaceframe, but it stood out for being incredibly low and sporting a unusually long wheelbase. The low silhouette was a key feature in the battle to reduce drag, and was made possible by mounting the engine and transmission further down than normal.

As per the regulations introduced in 1961 to reduce speeds, the all aluminium, 90-degree, 16-valve, twin overhead cam V8 displaced just 1494 cc (91.2 ci). Fed by four Weber 40 IDM carburetors, it was claimed to produce 190 horsepower at 10.000 rpm. Chiti's insistence on using the V8 as a compromise between size and power caused a rift within the team, as Giotto Bizzarrini left due to his suggestions for a higher-revving V12 being ignored.

The complicated gearbox/brake assembly would cause problems later on.

A Coloni T34 six-speed manual transmission was mated to the V8, and placed in a very curious position. In order to keep the package as compact and low as possible, the unit was mounted inside the frame rails, complete with an inboard brake assembly.

Brakes out front were still outboard however, and suspension was by dual wishbones and coil springs on all four corners. The front uprights and the knock-on wheels were fashioned from cast magnesium, further bringing weight down. The sleek body was styled by ex-Stanguellini designer Alfonso Galvani, and formed from aluminium. Completed, the car weighed just 460 kg (1014 lbs).

Romolo Tavoni (right) shaking Giancarlo Baghetti's hand, Giorgio Bili looks on with pride (left), Hotel Baglioni, Bologna 1962.

As the car was reaching completion, Scuderia Serenissima's big three fell out over the direction of the company. After Count Volpi lost his good friend Ricardo Rodriguez in a brutal crash during the Mexican Grand Prix, he publicly voiced doubts over continuing in motorsport.

Giorgio Bili disagreed with these statements, adamant that canning Grand Prix car would be a big waste of effort, and that it was badly needed to promote the road car. Several heated arguments followed, resulting in Bili buying out Volpi's share. At the same time, he battled Jaime Ortiz Patino for the position of the team's president, eventually buying out the Bolivian as well.

1961 World Champion Phil Hill joined the team.

Bili sold the rights to the Scuderia Serenissima name back to Count Volpi, and unveiled the new Grand Prix car at Bologna's Hotel Baglioni in December of 1962. At this event, he announced the organization's new name: Automobili Turismo e Sport.

Despite losing two major financial backers, Bili still had reason to be positive. The Tipo 100 had been tested on the roads along Pontecchio Marconi by Serenissima drivers Teodore Zeccoli, Roberto Bussinello and Mario Cabral, all of which had left along with Volpi.

However, Romolo Tavoni had been able to sign another two former Ferrari employees to replace them. In a real coup, ATS secured the services of 1961 World Champion and Le Mans winner Phil Hill, along with super rookie Giancarlo Baghetti, the only man to win on his Grand Prix debut.

The Tipo 100 in the paddock, Spa Francorchamps 1963.

However, ATS remained horribly unfocused, as resources were diverted from the F1 project to complete the factory and speed up development on the 2500 GT road car. At the same time, Giorgio Bili suffered another series of financial hits.

He lost his business partner in his manufacturing venture, the main source of his income, and failed to secure the expected government grants to help set up the Pontecchio Marconi facility. Nevertheless, he announced his intention to debut the Tipo 100 at the non-championship Syracuse Grand Prix in April.

The top of the chassis had to be hastily modified to improve the car's rigidity.

With further production delays, the Syracuse outing was replaced by testing conducted at Autodromo di Modena and Monza, conducted by Baghetti and experienced British racer Jack Fairman, who had been recommended to ATS by Dunlop official Dick Jeffrey for his remarkable understanding of car setup.

During the tests the team experienced issues with the twin distributor ignition system, the Colotti gearbox and the rear suspension assembly. A bigger problem was extreme chassis flex, necessitating extra tubes to strengthen the spaceframe.

Unwilling to redesign the thing from scratch though, ATS engineers simply welded some more on. As a result, the engine became trapped in a tubular cage, requiring the chassis to be cut apart to swap or even service the V8. Additional tests with Phil Hill failed to resolve all the faults, leading to the car missing the opening round in Monaco.

Giancarlo Baghetti negotiating the fearsome 14 kilometer track at Spa.

Feeling the heat, Giorgio Bili overruled the engineering team's concerns and entered two cars for the following round, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps. The 14 kilometer road course was among the most demanding on the calendar, second only to the brutal Nurburgring Nordschleife. If the Tipo 100 worked there, it would work almost everywhere.

However, the car which arrived late into the second Friday practice session was very different from the attractive prototype presented six months earlier. Ill-fitting, badly painted and finished body panels covered a hunchbacked chassis, clearly telegraphing the myriad management issues present within ATS.

With time for only two exploratory laps, Giancarlo Baghetti and Phil Hill essentially went into qualifying flying blind. The results spoke for themselves. An 11.6 second gap to the pole-sitting Lotus of Jim Clark made Hill the fastest ATS driver, way down in 17th place. Baghetti fared even worse, clocking a time only good enough for 20th.

Race day wasn't much better, with Phil Hill noticing a fatal flaw early on. As the cockpit was uncharacteristically cold, he correctly diagnosed a lack of coolant circulations to the forward mounted radiator, caused by a vapor lock.

After having the problem rectified in the pits, he went on to fight a bad throttle return spring, which caused the throttle pedal to remain depressed for too long. Baghetti meanwhile coasted to a halt with transmission failure on lap 7, followed ten laps later by Hill with a similar issue.

Phil Hill, Zandvoort 1963.

The long, scary full throttle expanses of Spa were traded for the more compact and twistier circuit set between the dunes of Zandvoort for the Dutch Grand Prix. In the two weeks since Spa, ATS had done work to make refine the car's bodywork, improving its fit and finish remarkably.

Another key modification was the addition of muff joints to the chassis tubes above the engine and the transmission, making it possible to disassemble it to get to these vital components without resorting to an angle grinder or a blowtorch.

Aside from general engine maintenance and tuning, this was especially useful in the transmission department, as it made swapping ratios for different tracks and conditions that much easier. Baghetti's car also sported experimental individual exhausts, while Hill's car featured a traditional four into one arrangement.

In practice the cars were again temperamental, with Giancarlo Baghetti encountering distributor failure and a broken brake master cylinder. On the other hand Phil Hill's car didn't run at all.

Qualifying didn't provide an upset either, with Hill 13th and Baghetti 15th. Baghetti's car once again lost ignition on lap 17, while Hill slid off into the sand trap after a left rear axle stub failure caused him to lose a wheel. Jim Clark's revolutionary monocoque chassis Lotus 25 would go on to win the race unchallenged, showing the way of the future.

Phil Hill collecting his lost wheel, Zandvoort 1963.

Two disappointing performances plagued with reliability troubles finally convinced ATS to take some time off to refine the cars. In the process the team missed the French and British Grands Prix, but planned on returning at the Nurburgring. Sadly, this was not to be. En route to the legendary track, the truck carrying the cars crashed, preventing them from taking part in the weekend.

The moon disk car at Monza.

However, the team truck driver kept his cool on the way to Monza, where the revised Tipo 100's made their first appearance. The bodywork had returned to the sleek shapes of the prototype, and in a bid to further reduce drag "moon disk" wheel covers had been fitted.

Phil Hill once again lead the charge from 14th on the grid, with Giancarlo Baghetti 20th. For the first time, both cars made it to the finish. Hill placed 11th, with Baghetti 15th, both out of the points.

The experimental fuel injected V8, Watkins Glen 1963.

With the European leg of the championship completed, ATS prepared for the flyway races, the first of which was the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. There, Hill's car was modified to further ease gearbox ratio changes, with the entire transmission flipped around, moved behind the axle and connected to the engine with a spacer to maintain the wheelbase.

Unfortunately, both cars were repeatedly sidelined in practice with catastrophic oil losses. The oil plugs on the car's scavenge pumps had a habit of escaping their fixtures, causing the V8 to blow all its oil all over the track.

Undeterred, ATS moved to mount an experimental Lucas fuel-injected version of the engine into Phil Hill's car, a move the American wasn't impressed with as he complained of a lack of top end power. Starting from 15th (Hill) and 20th (Baghetti), both cars were out after only four laps with another set of oil pump failures.

Phil Hill inspecting his undressed ATS in the pits, Mexico 1963.

From The Glen the team moved to Ciudad Deportiva Magdalena Mixhuca circuit near Mexico City for the first ever World Championship-sanctioned Mexican Grand Prix. The engines had been sent back to Italy for repairs and servicing, arriving the night before practice.

The team worked hard to fit the units during the night, faced with a power cut during a large thunderstorm. As a result, they worked under the headlights of their cars, and whatever torches and flashlights they had available. Even with the engines in the ATS mechanics weren't done just yet.

The incredibly high altitude location of the circuit required alterations to the fueling system, as the air was very thin. Predictably, Phil Hill's car refused to rev. A change to the air/fuel mixture resolved the issue, but revealed another one. Once again, the little V8 was spurting out oil, this time through the sump ventilation and directly onto Hill.

Phil Hill wasn't too pleased with the ATS V8.

The lubrication woes were traced back to a modification made at Monza, where it had been found the engines were losing power due to excess oil in the sump. Carlo Chiti had added two scavenge pumps and dropped the sump in response to this, but his solution was a little too effective. Now the bottom end was getting starved of oil due to the overzealous scavenge pumps, causing excess bearing wear.

The pumps were promptly removed, but other problems soon popped up. The weak Colotti gearbox acted up in Hill's car, making shifts between second and third very difficult. In spite of all the misfortune, both cars were still able to take the start in 17th (Hill) and 21st (Baghetti). Giancarlo's car was misfiring once more, and after a pit stop and a trip to the paddock he retired on lap 11. Phill Hill had a similar experience, as his car sputtered and popped before giving up on lap 46.

The ATS adventure left Hill decidedly unimpressed.

Officially, there was still on more race left on the 1963 calendar, but the South African round was contested under special circumstances. Governing body RAC preferred to reserve grid slots for its local drivers, and only invited two cars from each of the main teams and one private entry. As it happened, ATS was not among them.

Regardless, the snub was a blessing in disguise. Giorgio Bili had reached the end of his rope after trying to manage his trouble manufacturing business, the sportscar project and the F1 program, sending ATS into dire financial circumstances. As the business closed down in late 1963, none other than Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata was ready and waiting to pick up some of the assets.

The Derrington-Francis ATS.

The road car project had come to a head after 12 examples had been built, and the Tipo 100 Grand Prix cars were sold off to American racing mechanic Alf Francis, who had previously worked with Stirling Moss and British racer turned engine tuner Vic Derrington. Together, they formed Derrington-Francis, embarking on a new adventure with the Tipo 100 chassis 100-02 for 1964.

Today, chassis 100-01 survives in prefect condition, being campaigned in historic Grand Prix events. Its existence is a stark reminder of a hopeless effort to beat one of the giants of motorsport.

Girolamo Gardini, Romolo Tavoni, Carlo Chiti and Giotto Bizzarrini hoped to spite their stubborn boss by beating him at his own game, and their former prominence within Ferrari encouraged Phil Hill and Giancarlo Baghetti to join up. Sadly, the apparent dream team took up too much projects all at once, ruining their focus, while infighting muddied the waters even further.

As a result, the entire effort was an unmitigated disaster, and Enzo Ferrari had his last laugh. With new hire Mauro Forghieri's 158 and 1512, the Scuderia once again took top honors with John Surtees in 1964. Il Commendator was proven to be right, Ferrari would survive regardless.

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Comments (6)
  • Another awesome article!

    Just when the rebels thought they have defeated Enzo Ferrari, Il Commendator got the last laugh!

    8 days ago
    2 Bumps
  • Not going to lie, a few months ago, I would look forward to these. Glad to see moređź‘Ť

    9 days ago
    2 Bumps
    • Thanks Andrew! I have been neglecting my tribes a bit lately. But I'm turning that around. Glad you're still on board!

      9 days ago
      2 Bumps


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