In 2019 Artcurial made big headlines at the Retromobile Paris. Three sports cars from a collection kept secret in Italy had actually been rolled onto the big auction stage. This collection belongs to the former builder of these sports cars and founder of the associated car brand Serenissima, Count Volpi di Misurata. Due to the relatively short period of success of this manufacturer, the low production number and the long period in which hardly any of the rare cars were seen worldwide, Serenissima was mostly forgotten even in Italy. According to Artcurial, apart from the three cars auctioned last year, only two more cars are still known today, the 358V Berlinetta and the open race car 3000 SP. At this point we would like to add the Formula 1 car M1AF and the concept car Jungla. In fact, the auction house has managed to get another Serenissima for auction during the Retromobile in Paris next weekend.
This is the 3000 SP, whose history is definitely worth reading. It all began with Bruce McLaren starting to build his own racing cars in 1965. He soon declared the Ford engines offered as too heavy and went in search of an adequate replacement, which he found at Serenissima. There they used a three-liter V8 developed by Alberto Massimino with four overhead camshafts and dual ignition in the street sports cars. Massimino had previously worked for Maserati, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. Two of the Serenissima V8 engines were sent to McLaren for testing purposes and were finally used in the M2B in Formula 1 in 1966. At the same time, a CanAm chassis from McLaren went to Serenissima, where another V8 engine was installed. In order to create optical differences to the McLaren base, a separate coupé bodywork was made of glass fibre reinforced plastic. Tests were carried out in Modena in this form, with both chief engineer Giuliano Giuliani and British racing driver Jonathan Williams behind the wheel. After some minor problems with the new design had been eliminated, the prototype made its first race at the Coppa Città di Enna in 1968 in Pergusa, Sicily, and ultimately only was beaten by Jo Siffert in his Porsche 910.
Shortly after that race, Count Volpi engaged Alf Francis, the former mechanic of Stirling Moss. Together they decided to modify the sports car extensively for the 1969 season. Francis developed a new cylinder head with three valves per cylinder and Volpi drew an open, wedge-shaped body, which was riveted together from aviation steel in cooperation with Drogo. Since little aerodynamic knowledge was available at the time, the team was unable to get to grips with the poor drivability at high speeds despite various tests. Jonathan Williams nevertheless used the car at the Tyrol Prize in Innsbruck in October, where he finished sixth. Afterwards he also started with the car at the Salzburgring, qualified for the front row and finished third. Despite this success, Count Volpi had lost his interest in motorsport and therefore stopped financing the Scuderia Serenissima racing team he had founded and the associated sports car brand. Interestingly enough, the 3000 SP was still sent to Argentina, where the car participated in two races in 1970, but retired due to technical defects.
After returning to Italy, Count Volpi stored the 3000 SP. Only a little more than two years ago he took the car out again and handed it over to Giuliano Giuliani, who now has his own restoration business. In the following time he made sure that the complex racing engine as well as the other mechanical parts were made workable again. Meanwhile, the steel bodywork was left untouched in its beautiful patina. The original fibreglass body in coupé form has also survived the times and is now part of the Artcurial auction. With an expected hammer price of between 1,000,000 and 1,400,000 € and a prior bidder registration process that must be completed 48 hours before the auction, this is likely to be a very interesting field of bidders who may or may not bring this Serenissima back onto the race track.
Images: Artcurial, Loïc Kernen, Giuliano Giuliani