The Coachbuilder's Art

Vignale displayed this intricately detailed 212 Inter at the 1953 Turin Auto Show.

June 11, 2015
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The coachbuilding era was in decline by the 1950s, yet the decade still produced some amazing machines. At the 1953 Salone Dell’ Automobile Di Torino, for example, this Ferrari 212 Inter (s/n 0267EU) demonstrated the best that Carrozzeria Alfredo Vignale had to offer.

The best was much more than the car’s striking two-tone paint scheme, a mix of black (Nero) and metallic green (Verde Imperial). In addition to going above and beyond the norms of the day in terms of fit and finish, the craftsmen in Turin lavished

s/n 0267, the second of what’s thought to be six (plus or minus one) “low-roof” 212s bodied by Vignale, with numerous, often-subtle details both inside and out.

Like many once-regal vintage automobiles, s/n 0267 hasn’t remained pristine over the last six decades. But today, after 61 years of indifferent repairs and neglect, tempered by well-intentioned resprays and attempted partial restorations, this Ferrari has been restored to its former glory.

THE 212 SERIES featured the latest, 2.6-liter version of Gioacchino Colombo’s famous two-valve single-cam V12. (Earlier editions included the 166’s 2.0-liter powerplant and the 195’s 2.3-liter mill.) This engine, which debuted in 1951, could be ordered in single-carburetor 140-hp specification or with triple carbs for 170 horses. The latter configuration, which was fitted to s/n 0267, gave the 212 a very impressive top speed of 140 mph. However, given the car’s rudimentary chassis with a live rear axle, heavy worm-and-roller steering, drum brakes with a single leading shoe and period tires, it required a brave person to push this Ferrari to its limits.

Such demands didn’t keep the 212 from being successful in competition right from the start. The model’s most memorable victory came at the ’51 Carrera Panamericana, where Luigi Chinetti, Sr. and Piero Taruffi finished first followed by Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi in a second 212. This motorsport success may have helped the car become an excellent seller: 80 Inters—along with 24 competition-oriented Export models, which feature a roughly 14-inch-shorter wheelbase—were built before production ended in 1953.

It is probably safe to assume that no two 212s are exactly alike. Typically, a Ferrari customer would pick a chassis, designate a coachbuilder and add numerous personal details. Ferrari would ship a rolling chassis to the chosen carrozzeria, where the workers—artisans armed mostly with relatively simple tools—would weld up a framework of steel tubes and angle iron that would eventually support a hand-hammered aluminum body.

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