Ferrari, the most famous car brand in the world, has always stirred passions in Argentina. Much of this local public idyll dates back to the middle of the last century, when it illustrious pilots such as Juan Manuel Fangio and José Froilán González registered their surname in the rich history of the factory.
From those times of thoughtful hobby and scarcity of input comes a testament to that national fever for the Maranello house: the Lazzarino Sport, later known as the Argenta Ferrari.
Bautista Lazzarino, an Italian immigrant, built the vehicle in 1952. commissioned by an American businessman who served as the leader of Ford Argentina. Those were years of motor fervour. It had only been a few months since the team’s first Formula 1 victory, the work of Froilán González.
And, even if he still had to race for Don Enzo’s marque, Fangio had just obtained his first crown in the top category aboard an Alfa Romeo. On the other hand, road tourism – after all, the oldest competition on the planet – has aroused fanaticism throughout the country.
They were also times of restrictions. The famines caused by the Second World War were followed by serious obstacles to the importation of materials. But the entrepreneur wanted Ferrari and entrusted the mission to Lazzarino, who with his hands transformed the number plates and a Turismo Carretera engine into his object of desire.
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The American knew who he had delivered the order to. Bautista (Battista, in Italy), together with his father Juan (Giovanni) and his brother Miguel (Michele), had earned a reputation as great bodybuilders.
After their arrival in Argentina in 1927 -although some documents place him in 1923, on board the ship Duca di Aosta and already under the declared profession of mechanic-, the Piedmontese family opened a workshop in via San Blas, in the Buenos Aires from La Paterna. They specialized in the handcrafted production of bodies for racing and road cars.with requests from high society figures who wanted to leave their trail in the city.
With one of these qualifications they ended up earning a reputation as exceptional builders. In 1934, a Packard Standard Eight driven by María Delia Harilaoz de Olmos arrived in his workshop. The woman was an aristocrat who had inherited a fortune, she had dedicated herself to charity and would be named papal marquise.
Harilaoz de Olmos’ order was to adapt his vehicle to be used by the Church in the visit of Cardinal Pacelli – the future Pope Pius XII – to Buenos Aires. The result satisfied the lady and she gave a signal to the family so much so that, almost a decade later, the Ford manager entrusted her request to Bautista.
Faced with the impossibility of wearing one of the Italian jewels, Bautista (then 44) it was inspired by the mechanics of a Ford and tried to reproduce the lines of the Ferrari 212 Export in the bodywork, a model of which fewer than 30 specimens were produced between 1951 and 1952.
Photos from the time and even pictures of today’s car demonstrate Lazzarino’s ingenuity and skill. The Lazzarino Sport came out of his shed, a two-seater roadster, just over 4 meters long and 1.6 meters wide.
It had a tubular steel frame (identified as “Lazzarino 004” in the documents), the same material for the bodywork, while the transmission tunnel, the pedals and the boot lid were in aluminium. All handcrafted.
It was powered by a V8 engine from a 1947 Ford., such as those that served as the basis for the Ovalo brand in road tourism, a category that dominated uninterruptedly between 1947 and 1965 under the star of Juan and Oscar Gálvez and Dante Emiliozzi. Also, it had a four-speed system.
The Lazzarino was designed for racing, not the street. There was no handbrake and the windshield did not cover the entire head of the occupants, who were forced to wear glasses. No problem for the Ford Argentina manager, who took away the desire to compete at high speed: he participated in the Grand Automobile Day of President Perón, which took place in the circuit of the City of Buenos Aires in August 1954 and included an official test of the CT.
The journey of Sport Lazzarino, from Argentina to the United States
The initial splendor was followed by decades of dust and rust. In the 1970s it went on sale and it was advertised as a true Prancing Horse. Upon viewing it, those interested were amazed by the work, but ended up rejecting it due to its unofficial nature.
Eventually it was bought by Jorge Luis Penedo, who dedicated his life to the preservation of the classics. He did some modifications, like installing an engine and gearbox from a Chrysler Valiant. He later bequeathed the vehicle to his son Luis, faithful to the mad blood of the family.
The years felt in the mechanics, covered in rust. In 2003 they exported it to Belgium. Eight years later Jonathan Auerbach, an American stockbroker, bought the Sport Lazzarino and the car crossed the Atlantic again.
In California, where it now rests, the sports car received various attentions so that its new owner could participate in the collectors’ tests: he changed the engine and brakes again, added the handbrake, modified the gas tank and rebuilt the carburetors.
The mechanical upgrade made it more traffic friendly. And the restoration raised its listing to $135,000. Neither all the money in the world nor the distance from his homeland can change history. The design and the red color don’t lie: the 1952 Lazzarino Sport is still the silver Ferrari.