During its first three years, this 212 Export wore five different bodies. In the 2000s, it received a sixth.

Photo: Metamorphosis 1
March 2, 2023

Many years ago at a Ferrari Club of America Annual Meet, I ran into my friend Peter Markowski, a respected Ferrari historian and restorer. At the time, Markowski had just finished working his magic on what looked like a three-quarter-size vintage racing car and wanted to tell me about it. So we sat down over lunch and he related the fascinating tale of this 212 Export (s/n 0086E).

In early 1951, s/n 0086’s bare chassis—the seventh of 28 such 212s built, Exports being intended for racing—left the factory after being sold to Scuderia Marzotto. By March of that year, the chassis had received the first of its many bodies, this one crafted by Carrozzeria Antonio Fontana. According to Markowski, the unfortunate-looking result was quickly dubbed the Carretto Siciliano, or Sicilian Chariot; other, less complimentary onlookers called it the Sicilian Donkey Cart.

To be fair, the rough presentation was never intended to be permanent. Paolo and Pietro Fontana had rushed their work in order to ready the Ferrari for its first competitive event, held in April: the 11th Giro di Sicilia. There, Count Vittorio Marzotto and co-driver Paolo Fontana piloted s/n 0086 to the overall victory.

Photo: Metamorphosis 2

S/n 0086’s original Fontana coachwork was dubbed the Sicilian Chariot (or, less charitably, the Sicilian Donkey Cart).

Enzo himself apparently boasted of the winning machine, “Of course it was fast, it’s a Ferrari.” However, Il Commendatore didn’t think much of the bodywork, which was quickly removed after the race.

Later that year, s/n 0086 received a trio of carburetors in place of the original single-carb setup, along with Vignale’s Export Spyder bodywork. The new body lasted three races, after which Fontana modified it into a sort of station wagon by grafting a curved top onto the Vignale body. This configuration, designed by Giannino Marzotto and Franco Reggiani, was reportedly crafted so the Ferrari could serve as a parts hauler at the Carrera Panamericana that November. It was never used for that purpose, so in late 1951 or early ’52 the enclosed body was removed and Fontana crafted a brand-new Spyder body.

In March 1952, s/n 0086 returned to the Giro di Sicilia with Giannino Marzotto, but, for reasons unknown, did not start the race. Ten days later, Sergio Sighinolfi drove the Ferrari in the Gold Cup sports car race that was held as part of the Grand Prix of Siracusa, where he DNF’d.

Photo: Metamorphosis 3

Fontana added this distinctive roof to later Vignale Spyder body.

Later that spring, the Marzottos loaned s/n 0086 to Fabrizio Serena di Lapigio and co-driver Walter Piccolo for the 19th running of the Mille Miglia. Their race came to an unhappy end when a loose gas cap led to a fire. In the official records, the Ferrari was ingloriously classified as “burnt.”

The car then returned to Fontana, where the “waste not, want not” rule must have been in effect. Rather than building yet another new body for the 212, the carrozzeria plucked its own Barchetta coachwork from a Marzotto-owned 340 America (s/n 0030MT) and fitted it to s/n 0086. The result, once again, was less than pleasing, as the body was too large for the 212 chassis.

S/n 0086 was raced three more times in 1952. In July, Guido Mancini brought it home 12th overall, eighth in class at the Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti. In August, the Ferrari, driven by Giannino Marzotto and Marco Corsara, retired from the Giro delle Calabrie. Finally, also in August, Carlo Gazzabini and Sergio Ferraguti finished the Messina 10 Hours in second place behind a 212 MM.

Photo: Metamorphosis 4

The Ferrari’s current coachwork is a re-creation of this early 1952 Fontana body, seen here in bare metal with experimental oil cooler scoop on rear deck.

The Ferrari competed a couple of times in 1953, at the Terni-Marmore hillclimb and the Pescara 12 Hours, but history does not record the results. That October, the Marzottos sold s/n 0086 to Guido Mancini, who had raced it the previous year. A few days after the sale, Mancini entered his new Ferrari in the Coppa Gallenga near Rome. Once again, no result can be found.

IN THE LATE 1950s, s/n 0086 crossed the pond to the United States. Its new owner, James Flynn of Syracuse, New York, was no newcomer to the Ferrari marque; he already had an ex-factory, Scaglietti-bodied 290 MM Spyder (s/n 0626) in his stable.

In 1959, Flynn raced the 212 in Canada at a track called Harewood Acres, finishing seventh, and in a USAC race at Watkins Glen, where he DNF’d. He then campaigned the Ferrari in several New York events in 1960 and ’61 before selling it to Stan Hallinan of New Hampshire in 1965.

Photo: Metamorphosis 5

At the 1952 Mille Miglia, where it caught fire.

That’s when a 17-year-old Markowski first heard of s/n 0086, located only one state away from his home in Vermont. Just one year earlier, the teenager had purchased the very same 340 America that had donated its bodywork to the 212, so of course Markowski drove to see it. He and Hallinan soon became fast friends, and later agreed to give first right of refusal on each others’ Ferraris if they were ever sold. The deal was sealed with a simple handshake.

Hallinan intended to restore s/n 0086, and started the process by scraping off most of the car’s paint; only a Scuderia shield on the fender remained. That’s as far as he got, however, and the Ferrari instead wound up spending roughly 40 years in his barn, slowly collecting dirt and rodent droppings. But the car wasn’t forgotten.

In the mid-2000s, Markowski (and sons) visited his old friend. He suspected Hallinan’s barn was full of unfinished projects, what Markowski described as “really neat gems,” and he was right. S/n 0086 was one of them, and since the long-ago handshake deal was still in effect, Markowski set out to find a serious collector with the financial means to rescue the car.

Photo: Metamorphosis 6

When pulled out of a barn in 2005, s/n 0086 wore Fontana bodywork originally built for a larger 340 America.

He soon learned through a friend that just such a collector in Pennsylvania was looking for an early race car with history. That’s how Markowski connected with Peter Carlino, who, when he heard s/n 0086’s story, agreed to purchase it and have Markowski’s shop, Restoration & Performance Motorcars (a.k.a. RPM), restore it.

Once the purchase was complete, Markowski contacted John Barnes, founder of the legendary Cavallino Classic concours d’elegance, and asked if he could show the literal barn find at the 2006 event. Barnes was excited at the opportunity, so Markowski lightly prepped s/n 0086, still wearing its s/n 0030 body, for its concours debut.

“We cleaned out the mouse droppings,” he said, “then washed it down completely with Marvel Mystery Oil, filling every opening with it, as well.”

Photo: Metamorphosis 7

The unrestored Ferrari was a hit at Cavallino, so much so that Markowski reports the grass around the car was completely worn down by onlookers’ feet. “John wished he could give us an award for originality,” he recalled, but in this case what was “original” was a bit of a tricky subject.

Although s/n 0086’s mechanicals remained untouched, with the original engine, transmission, and differential still in place on the chassis, the only things that remained of the 1950s’ interior were the gauges. More important, the 212 had worn five different bodies during its first few years of life, so Carlino had to decide which one was “correct” for the restored car. It was a tough choice, but eventually he decided on the Fontana coachwork the car had worn for the 1952 Mille Miglia—yes, the race that ended with a fire. Carlino’s reasoning was that, through the lessons absorbed in competition, Fontana had by that time learned how to make a better race car, with valuable items like brake vents and modifications to the wheel arches to improve cooling.

Since neither existing bodywork nor plans were available to start from, Markowski’s son Eben, a sculptor, was recruited to create a new aluminum body from scratch. Although his studio is located next door to his father’s shop, Eben had never worked on a restoration project before, admitting that he doesn’t even like cars! But he appreciated the Ferrari as a “rolling piece of artwork” and was excited to help out.

Photo: Metamorphosis 8

New aluminum body had to be created from scratch, an 18-month process.

Re-creating a non-existent one-off body wouldn’t be easy, so Markowski and Carlino also enlisted the help of famed Ferrari historian Marcel Massini. In addition to fully documenting the car’s early history, Massini located many period photos, which, grainy and often poorly focused though they were, became the starting point.

Eben set about shaping the sheet metal in what he called a “completely old-school fashion,” using only basic wooden forms, a leather bag, and a set of metal-working hammers. He then gas-welded the finished panels together. Over the course of 18 months, Eben regularly shared photos of his progress with Massini, who in turn advised on accuracy and methods. When Massini finally came to the shop to see the work in person, he painstakingly examined every detail. Recalled Eben, “I felt like I was defending a thesis!”

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Massini gave the shape, dimensions, and overall quality of the metalwork his seal of approval. He also remarked that Eben had successfully duplicated the techniques and character employed by the old-world craftspeople in Italy—a compliment of the highest order. As Massini described it, Eben had brought the bodywork “to life.”

Photo: Metamorphosis 9

Historian Marcel Massini (on left) and restorer Peter Markowski.

“Massini was involved in the entire process, right down to the nose and fitting the grille,” noted Markowski. It took many attempts to get what he describes as the “bucktooth” grille right, and a number of prototypes still reside in RPM’s attic.

With the new body complete, it was time for paint. Luckily, there was just enough of the 1950s’ burgundy color left around s/n 0030’s lone fender shield to make an accurate match, and Markowski painted s/n 0086 in-house. (In case you’re wondering what happened to the old bodywork, it now lives on a pedestal in Carlino’s garage!)

S/n 0086’s restoration took nearly five years. In addition to crafting the new body, explained Carlino, “Every component was taken off the frame and cleaned, refurbished, or rebuilt as needed. That included the engine and all of its components, the brakes, transmission, wheels, and axles. We touched everything and made sure the pieces and parts were perfect.”

Photo: Metamorphosis 10

PERFECTION IS IN THE EYE of the beholder, but Carlino and Markowski aren’t the only ones convinced of s/n 0086’s correctness. According to Ferrari itself, the car is the real deal, and as such has received what’s informally known as “White Book” certification.

Most readers will be familiar with Ferrari Classiche and its Certificate of Authenticity. Most of these are “Red Book” certifications, given to road cars, while the less-common White Book signifies a car of historic interest that doesn’t necessarily look like what it did when it left the factory. While such certification is often applied to cars that were modified in period (the most famous example is the 250 GT SWB-based Breadvan), it also applies to cars that were sold without bodywork.

To get what Markowski describes as s/n 0086’s official, Ferrari-approved birth certificate, he and Carlino invited Emiliano Torkar, a representative of Ferrari Classiche, to visit the car at RPM. Prior to that invitation, of course, they had to provide plenty of evidence about the car’s history.

Photo: Metamorphosis 11

“It was a process, one that took about a year of time, to get [Torkar] here,” explained Markowski.

With such a complex history, documenting everything was a challenge. Much of the evidence supporting the certification effort came from Massini’s magnum opus, and the fact that the car’s history from the moment Hallinan bought it was well-documented sealed the theoretical deal. But the decision ultimately came down to Torkar’s inspection.

“He came to Vermont with a dossier on the car, so he knew what serial numbers he was looking for—the engine, transmission, and steering box,” said Markowski. “Plus, of course, the frame and matching it up to the car.”

Photo: Metamorphosis 12

Then, in a move straight out of CSI, Torkar even took small shavings of the steel frame and tested them to verify they matched the metallurgy of the period. There were actually two tests: an on-site one using a solution and a more thorough one with the sample sent off to a lab for testing.

This wasn’t Markowski’s first time in the White Book process, but it might have been the easiest. “You occasionally have to fix things that should have been on a particular Ferrari,” he explained, “but on s/n 0086 there was little to nothing to fix. And it passed because it was correct; it is what we said it is.”

In 2010, to celebrate the completion of the restoration and the re-creation of the car’s ’52 Mille Miglia body, Carlino took the Ferrari back to Italy to compete in the modern-day historic rally. And there, once again, s/n 0086 caught on fire! This time, the flames under the hood were extinguished with minor damage, although the Ferrari was unable to continue.

Undaunted, Carlino and s/n 0086 returned the following year and completed the event without fiery drama. Unfortunately, running over rough roads did cause some significant—read, costly—damage to what was essentially a concours car.

“I don’t abuse my cars, but I do drive them!” Carlino said with a laugh. “What am I going to do, lick it? Hug it? These cars were meant to be driven; that’s what they’re all about.”

Despite that sentiment, Carlino’s not a huge fan of the way his seven-decade-old Ferrari actually drives.

“It’s like driving a truck, it’s gotta be one of the worst driving cars,” he told me, laughing again. “I can tell you this; I’m pretty fit and strong, but after three days in the Mille Miglia, my shoulders were tired! It’s really hard to steer.”

Still, Carlino loves the 212, which is his first and only Ferrari. “Every time I start it, it’s thrilling,” he concluded. “And that engine has the best sound on the planet, because Enzo only cared about his engines. Besides, I create a sensation with it wherever I go.”

You can’t ask much more from a car than that—especially one that started life dubbed the Sicilian Donkey Cart.

Also from Issue 205

  • 296 GTB in the wet
  • Dino 246 GT
  • 348 Buyer's Guide
  • Market Update: Online auctions
  • 296 GT3 debuts at Daytona
  • Antonello Colletta on 499P
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