Its naturally-aspirated V12 engine, designed by Aurelio Lampredi, finally gave Ferrari the upper hand against the then all conquering, supercharged Alfa Romeo. And now one of the works cars from the landmark race, the 1951 British Grand Prix, has emerged into the limelight once again.
Incredibly, one of the other Ferrari 375 cars in that epic contest, chassis number 5, driven by the legendary Alberto Ascari, survived. Given the importance of that model and of that particular race to the competition history of Ferrari, it was only fitting that a complete restoration of the car should be entrusted to the Classiche Department at Maranello.
Although much of the original chassis had survived intact, a brand new body had to be created from archive drawings
Andrea Modena, the head of Classiche, is the leader of a passionate team that worked on both the detailed historical research and the 360° restoration. Thanks to its unequalled technical archives and the dedication of historians, the certification team, and the workshop professionals, Ferrari Classiche was able to retrace the steps of all the changes made to the car since its construction.
At the end of the 1951 season, the car was sold to privateer Chico Landi and repainted, yellow, to reflect his Brazilian heritage. During 1952 he raced it in Europe – including at Silverstone – and also in Montevideo, and in the Grand Prix d’Albi in France. Over the following two years he also drove it at Interlagos, Boavista, and Buenos Aires.
Watch as the Classiche Department breathe life back into the 375 F1
In 1955 Landi shipped the 375 back to Italy so that Scaglietti could rebody it as a sports-racer in the style of a 750 Monza – although it retained its central driving position. Two years later, it suffered the ignominy of having its V12 swapped for a Chevrolet V8, in which form it raced at Interlagos. The body was further modified in 1959-60, and its final race is believed to have also been at Interlagos, in 1964.
Colin Crabbe was a collector of historic racing cars, and had a unique talent for sniffing out rare and interesting survivors, and it was he who acquired the remains of chassis 5 in the 1970s, before entrusting them to fellow Briton and racing car restorer Tony Merrick, for a complete rebuild. That included a brand new body, something which did not quite satisfy Ferrari Classiche’s experts more than 40 years later.
The famous 1951 victory was so important to Ferrari that it was only fitting that a complete restoration should be entrusted to the Classiche Department at Maranello
Classiche began to dismantle the car in September 2019 and soon realised that the over-arching frame that supported the body was incorrect. “It had been rebuilt with rounded tubes, like a 375 Indianapolis, rather than square-section – and the shape wasn’t right, particularly in the area of the fuel tank. However, the chassis remained completely original from the firewall rearwards – its number ‘5’ is stamped in the cockpit area – although the front part had been changed when the Chevy V8 was installed.” Incredibly, the V12 engine installed in chassis number 5 during Tony Merrick’s 1970s restoration was original to the car and it wasn’t in bad condition.
Charles Leclerc takes the restored 375 out onto the Silverstone track
Aesthetically, the most challenging part of the restoration was the creation of a completely new body. Original drawings were consulted to remake its supporting structure. For the form of the bodyshell, a one-third scale model was built and tweaked until exactly right. Wooden bucks were then used to shape the panels, just as they would have been back in the day.
Seventy years almost to the day since González won the 1951 British Grand Prix in a 375, the restored chassis 5 was demonstrated at Silverstone by Ferrari racer, Charles Leclerc. Watch the superb video on the official Ferrari YouTube channel: once heard, the rasp and crackle of the V12 along Silverstone’s Hangar Straight is never to be forgotten.