In years in which the Ford and Chevrolet giants competed face to face in Road Tourism – with a clear prevalence of the Oval brand -, a mini car made a brilliant appearance and pointed the way for modernization in Argentina’s top class. The intruder was a renault gordini which, prepared by a rookie Oreste Berta, led three laps at the Buenos Aires racetrack and heralded the fun on the track. However, the scandalous rat’s adventure was short-lived, as a regulatory change forbade him to continue racing and made him a legend.
The official tests in the 1966 season at the TC were only two, but they were enough for this Gordini to earn a place in the sentiment of the fans. Two conditions caused the uproar caused by the new creation: the process that the category was going through, with an imminent replacement of vehicles and a confrontation between traditionalists and modernists; and the nickname with which a specialized magazine has baptized the car. With historical opportunism and a share of artisanal marketing, the myth of the outrageous rat continues today..
The Scandalous Mouse, a “war” car in road tourism
Nineteen consecutive titles have come from winning Ford in the TC, with illustrious names such as Juan Gálvez and Oscar Gálvez, Dante Emiliozzi and Rodolfo De Álzaga. On the other side, the Chevrolet podium, which was trying to face its adversary and hold the most important races of a calendar that distributed the appointments in all the cardinal points of the national territory.
The usual rivals were united by a silhouette: that of large-engined cars. Ford’s “Galeras” and Chevrolet racing coupes kept the design with which Turismo Carretera had debuted in 1937. Things were about to change: compact cars were already starting to score triumphs, with Jorge Cupeiro’s famous Chevitú leading the way, and it was like this. t too long for the almost total freedom granted to the trainers to bring the extravagant Sport Prototypes as novelties.
In the mid-1960s, between the fact that the old hadn’t died yet and the new hadn’t been born, there was ample room to reframe history. The vehicles were to be envisioned to “wage war with traditional TCs”. This was the commandment with which Oreste Berta, then just 27 years old, got his hands on Eduardo Copello’s Renault Gordini 1.093.
The tuner worked in the experimental department of IKA-Renault. He started experimenting to improve driver performance in the Turismo Mejorado, now known as Turismo Nacional. The good results and audacity prompted him to transfer those improvements to the TC.
The white car with the number 25 caused a sensation on its debut on March 13, 1966, in the municipal hippodrome of the city of Buenos Aires. For the fourth round on the calendar, Copello’s Renault 1093 led the classification finishing third. In the Final he surprised by taking the lead for three laps, but radiator problems forced him to abandon a test in which Rubén Luis Di Palma ended up winning for Dodge. His second race took place on May 8, also in Buenos Aires. Once again, mechanical problems ruled him out of the final which was won by Carlos Loeffel for Chevrolet.
The secrets of Oreste Berta and the measure that put an end to his Gordini in the TC
Even if he left empty handed, the Gordini generated repercussions in the stands, which were divided between sighs and murmurs. The controversy reached the specialized press. In a laudatory review, Automundo magazine called it Scandalous Mouse. The nickname was due to the white color of the bodywork, to a certain smiling tradition of Turismo su Strada and to “Scandal”, the name of the disco that Copello was about to inaugurate in Mendoza. In short, they portrayed him as a “dangerous” and “explosive” player on the pitch.
In her mission to battle the usual protagonists, Berta had increased the displacement of the Ventoux engine to 1,000 cc (it was originally 845 cc.) and had also begun to reduce its weight. After the first two races, there was a lot of work to do. The manufacturer changed the face of Gordini to “put more than 90 horsepower into the 1,000 cubic centimeters of Renault”, as he recalled in his memoirs. Little did I know that I could never prove it in competition.
Power reached 98.8 bhp thanks, in part, to the presence of two twin-barrel Weber carburettors – then used by Ferrari – on the rear engine. Berta and her team also lowered the height of the roof, keeping – for regulatory reasons – the height of the doors, which gave the front view a slight U-shaped design. in plastic. and fiberglass and modified the bonnet, with an air intake to optimize aerodynamics and reduce resistance.
The new creation, already known by its glittering name, it excelled in acceleration, braking and cornering behavior. Although he has not reached the heights of his rivals, he has achieved a higher average speed than the others. The lack of mechanical reliability loomed as one of the points to be solved to support the project: to prevail over the coupé in non-traditional scenarios. Forecasts put it at the forefront of the modern era of road touring. However, the outrageous mouse would no longer be able to show what he was capable of.
It happens that, amidst the resentments of Ford and Chevrolet, the ACTC has ordered a modification that has relieved the classic brands and which has complicated Gordini: the vehicles that wanted to compete in the TC would have to weigh at least 1,000 kilos. Within parameters characterized by flexibility, the restriction went against Berta’s equations. All his efforts had been made to reduce the mileage to less than a ton, thus optimizing the power-to-weight ratio. With the tweaking of the regulation, his project was destroyed.
Oreste Berta was able to recover quickly and migrated his acquaintances to Turin. In 1967 he upgraded the engine of the car with which Copello won the Touring car title and, two years later, the brand, driver and trainer wrote another legend at the Nürburgring 84 Hours in a team that included Juan Manuel Fangio and Luis Rubén Di Palma, among others. By now, the Scandalous Mouse was already a memory.
Like other jewels, it began a journey into oblivion until 2012 when Berta’s children found it in a laboratory of General Pacheco. It was deteriorated, without yesterday’s brightness. But its creator plunges back into the old Gordini. restored, the myth is now a reason for nostalgia and joy in exhibitions.