Few models epitomise the green shoots of Ferrari’s early rise to greatness more than the 212, and at this month’s Salon Privé Concours presented by Aviva two beautifully presented examples, each with coachwork by Vignale, will be making star turns.
Far from being identical twins, Salon Privé’s 212s each cleverly targeted a different market sector for Ferrari in the early Fifties: the 212 Export, with its shorter wheelbase and more highly tuned Columbo V12 engine was designed for competition, or for fast-road use; whereas the 212 Inter, with its more capacious cabin and ‘softer’ performance was aimed at the burgeoning GT sector, especially in overseas markets.
Both of Salon Privé’s 212s tell this story perfectly, and promise to be highlights at the Blenheim event, which opens on August 30.
1951 Ferrari 212 Export by Vignale
Ferrari’s response to privateer-racers keen to enter now legendary events, like the Mille Miglia and Carrera Panamericana, was the 212 Export. An evolution of Ferrari’s earlier 166, the 212 Export also took a highly modified version of that model’s legendary Colombo V12 engine, this time with a total displacement of 2652cc and cylinder capacity of just over 212cc, earning the car its moniker. Producing 165bhp at a heady 7000rpm, thanks to a triple-Weber carburettor set-up and higher compression ratio compared with its Inter sibling, the Export could achieve a top speed of 137mph, making it a popular weapon of choice for long-distance road races.
But despite its extraordinary performance, the Export’s aesthetic spoke of tasteful understatement. Produced in Berlinetta, Barchetta and Spider guises with most cars’ coachwork from Carrozzeria Touring, the bodies were formed over a steel twin-oval tubular frame underpinned by independent front suspension with unequal length wishbones and a transverse leaf spring, and a live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear. As befitting its more sporting remit, the Export had a shorter 2250mm wheelbase than the Inter for more agile handling.
Salon Privé’s 212 Export, chassis 0080E, is a real rarity, since its body was produced by Vignale, who only made 10 out of the 27 Exports – seven of which were closed Berlinettas, like this one. Designed by Giovanni Michelotti, each one of Vignale’s 212 Exports would have been unique, specifications varying so much at the time.
Rome’s Prince Vittorio Massimo ordered 0080E in February 1951, but even before he took delivery, the car was pressed into service on Vignale’s stand at the Turin Salon that year, sporting a black body with a grey roof. The car changed hands twice more within the next year and was then entered in the 1952 Xll Giro di Sicilia, driven by Francesco and Anna Vasaturo, before changing hands thrice more and then being exported to the USA in November 1953. Before the end of the decade, 0080E was repainted in black and red and bought by Layne Little in 1958. Little owned the car until his death in 1992, after which it was sold and fully restored by Southern California-based Steve Tillack in 1993.
Since then, 0080E has been prolific on the show circuit, as well as a regular entrant in the modern-day Mille Miglia. After collecting numerous awards at events like the Pebble Beach Concours, Cavallino Classic and Rodeo Drive Concours, the car was sold to Brian Ross of Cortland, Ohio. It was restored once again, this time taking it back to its original grey over black colour and earning a coveted Ferrari Classiche certification in 2009. Since then, 0080E has taken successive awards at the Cavallino Classic, including a Class 1 Platinum in 2009, class win at Pebble Beach in 2010, and more recently an appearance at Villa d’Este in May this year.
1951 Ferrari 212 Inter Cabriolet by Vignale
Salon Privé’s second 212, another Vignale production, this time to Inter specification with a Cabriolet body, is not only a rarity, but also a relatively low-ownership car with Ferrari Classiche’s Red Book certification.
While the 212 Inter was no stranger to the racetrack in certain guises – two coupé-bodied cars scored a one-two victory in 1951’s Carrera Panamericana – it was conceived as a road car, with the Export its more highly-strung sibling. This was evident in the Inter’s mechanical make-up: retaining the Export’s 2652cc displacement, its Columbo V12 had a lower, 7.5:1 compression ratio, with fuel delivered through a single Weber 36 DCF carburettor, instead of the Export’s three. Though the 150bhp Inter’s top speed took a small hit (down to 124mph) overall performance remained prodigious for the day.
But the 212 Inter was a significant model for Ferrari in another respect. Although bodies for the model were made by Touring, Ghia and, in our subject car’s case, Vignale, the 212 was the very first with coachwork by Pinin Farina (now Pininfarina), forging a relationship between the two companies which remains to this day.
Delivered to a dealer in Rome in October 1951, 0159E was one of 16 212 Inters with coachwork by Vignale, and one of only four Cabriolets built by the famed carrozzeria. Sitting on a longer, 2600mm wheelbase compared with the Export model, the Inter was altogether a more extravagant-looking car with its large, open grille and chromed strakes adorning its flanks. Appropriately enough, the car’s first owner was Peter Staehelin, a co-founder of Ecurie Espadon, which ran two Ferrari Formula 2 monopostos. Staehelin returned the car to the factory two years later for a triple carburettor conversion, aligning its performance more closely with the 212 Export. Staehelin sold the car in 1960, and after passing through two more Swiss owners, it was bought by noted Dutch dealer and car writer Rob de la Rive Box. The car then spent a brief spell in the UK, before returning to Switzerland in 1973 after it was purchased by privateer Bugatti racer Charles Gaston Renaud. Renaud kept the car until his death in 2006, before which he had started to disassemble the car in readiness for a complete restoration. After being domiciled until 2012, 0159E – still showing only 71,628km on its odometer – was bought by Heinrich Kämpter, who commissioned a re-paint to its original Rosso Bordeaux, as well as a full mechanical and interior restoration at Sahli Karrosserie in Zurich. The work’s painstaking attention to detail was rewarded with a Ferrari Classiche Red Book Certification in 2014, followed by a second in class at Pebble Beach the same year.
Since 2015, 0159E has been part of a prominent collection in North America, and was shown at 2017’s prestigious Cavallino Classic in Palm Beach, Florida. It’s inaugural appearance at Salon Privé Concours, along with its 212 Export sister model, promises to be a real crowd-pleaser.