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Restoring a masterpiece

19 settembre 2019

When the genius of a manufacturer meets the skill of a great coachbuilder and the inspiration of a visionary designer, masterpieces are created that can open up new avenues in the automotive universe. If the manufacturer is Enzo Ferrari, the coachbuilder is Alfredo Vignale and the designer is Giovanni Michelotti, masterpieces such as the 250 Europa Vignale are built.

Kevin Cogan, a US real estate businessman, was struck by the style and uniqueness of the car, so much so that he bought it and began its meticulous and lengthy restoration. He was assisted by Ferrari Classiche, who later certified it.

"My family has been collecting cars, especially Ferraris, for over 25 years but I've never seen a car like the Vignale. It's a model that can excite like few others. When, about six years ago, I became aware that it was on the market, I had no doubts about buying it and embarking upon the restoration process that lasted about two and a half years. The end result is extraordinary, and I am very proud of it. I still remember how emotionally charged the day was for my family and I when the restoration was completed”. It was the long, meticulous, all-round job that thrilled Cogan.

The collector explained: "More than a restoration, it was a journey back in time to discover how the car was designed and built in 1951. When you embark on such a process, you feel that you have a special responsibility, that of contributing to the preservation of history, and this demands meticulousness and total precision." Against this background, the history of the Ferrari 250 Europa Vignale is special. The car was introduced at the 1953 Paris Motor Show and is one of the last Prancing Horse coupés with Vignale bodywork. After that, Ferrari chose to use just a single coachbuilder.

It was also the first road car to sport the 12-cylinder engine developed by a single coachbuilder, and the first to have the 12-cylinder engine based on the one designed by Gioachino Colombo, one of the first and most important Italian and Ferrari car engineers. “I would have liked to have seen Enzo Ferrari’s expression when he first saw the car with all that chrome-plating!” Cogan joked, “even though I imagine he was satisfied with the result. After all, it's a genuine GT with its low roof, small air intakes and convex wheel arches, even though it's different from every other Ferrari produced.”

The Ferrari Classiche department was involved in the car’s restoration process from the earliest stages. “For me, the support of Ferrari Classiche means having the backing of a group of exceptional professionals. I have had more than 20 of the Prancing Horse's jewels certified. The entire process carried out by the Ferrari men is meticulous because sometimes just one small detail is enough to prevent certification. Once I receive the Red Book, I can't hide the fact that I feel a sense of relief.”

Cogan owns many Ferraris, almost all of them special. “My collection includes a first series 400 Superamerica, whose beauty is incomparable, and a third series 410 Superamerica, only 12 copies of which were produced.” He did not run out of passion for conserving and restoring these mechanical masterpieces after the 250 Europa Vignale, instead he has continued with a new project, once again linked to Maranello’s cars.

“We have been restoring a 340 America from 1951 for two years now, making use of a rich photographic archive with more than 100 highly detailed period images. It's a good thing because it means we are able to capture the essential elements for a proper restoration. The car raced at Le Mans in 1951 and 1952, so we have been able to draw on a large amount of paperwork, including letters and documents written by Enzo Ferrari himself and by Luigi Chinetti to the customer who had ordered the car: Louis-Dreyfus, a Ferrari driver and great collector".

"Thanks to these documents, we have been able to work with the Ferrari Classiche team to reveal some of the car's features that we had believed wrong but were actually correct because they were the changes that Enzo Ferrari himself wanted to bring to the car between 1951 and 1952. This goes to show how important the original documentation is that Ferrari keeps, also because every car, especially in those years, has its own story to tell”.

Cogan loves to share his collection with car enthusiasts and the community at large. “I think these are more than just 'simple' cars. They are a snapshot of an era and of all the creative, industrial and technological processes of years gone by. And more than that: they are artworks and, as such, bring joy and excitement to people who have the chance to admire them up close. Two factors give me great satisfaction. The first is the 'wow’ uttered by anyone seeing the car because it means that I have successfully conveyed to others how excited I am to bring a masterpiece back to life. The second is related to the concept of family. Seeing a child say to his or her father, 'Dad, it's a Ferrari!’ while running towards the car, is an incredible source of joy. I like to say yes to children or youngsters who ask to take a picture with the car, because that moment will remain indelibly etched in their memories for many years to come.”

When the Concours d'Elegance judges recognised the beauty of the 250 Europa Vignale and the quality of the restoration, the satisfaction was all the more. Cogan is proud of the awards received by his car at Palm Beach in 2016, where it won the Elegance Cup, and the recent Concourse d'Elégance Suisse, held at Coppet Castle near Geneva, in which the 250 Europa Vignale starred.

“There were so many people I know and admire for the work they do with their vintage cars, extraordinary collectors with true masterpieces. I didn't expect to win, so I was already happy just to be at this Concours d'Elegance. When my 250 Europa Vignale was awarded the Prix d'Exception, I was moved and surprised. The excitement went up a notch when the car was named 'Best of Show' by the independent judges because it meant that this Ferrari had touched people's hearts.”



19 settembre, 2019