Saturday, December 25, 2010

Felice Nazzaro


Early in 2010 Shelly and I visited the WA Motoring Museum out at Whiteman Park. You can see the photos we took here: http://heinkelscooter.blogspot.com/2010/04/whiteman-park-motor-museum.html About one third of the machines on display were part of my great uncle Percy Markham's collection. Much of the collection was sold off in rather dubious circumstances in the 1990's by the government of the day. This left me thinking about what happened to all of those cars. Where are they now? On this matter the WA government is less than forthright. Due to both the privacy protection and the lingering controversy over the sale, the government refuses to confirm or deny which vehicles it still holds and which were sold. But after a little digging through family connections I obtained a comprehensive list of the entire Markham Collection and then I began to search the Internet.

One vehicle particularly caught my eye - the 1913 Nazzaro. An article written in the 1970s reported the Nazzaro as being the sole survivor of that rare marque so I thought, perhaps a little naively, that is should be relatively easy to track down. I was helped on this journey by many dedicated motorsport fans and forum contributors who pointed me in the right direction and led me to the Nazzaro. All of the information in this post comes from these fans.

My initial search led me to suspect that this red Nazzaro, photos of which have been posted at several websites, was uncle Percy's car. I posed this question on the Autosport forum and was surprised to receive two separate responses within a day, both with very specific information about the car. It appears that there are in fact three Nazzaro cars still in existence. The red car belongs to David Biggins in the UK and came from a museum in Italy, Percy's car is still in Australia, and a third is in New Zealand.

David Biggins' 1913 Nazzaro

David Biggins' Nazzaro was bought from a recently closed Italian collection/museum in early 2005. It was originally a four seater with a 'toast rack' body but has been converted into a two seat racer as would have been used by Felice Nazzaro himself during his Grand Prix racing career.

The Nazzaro alongside a Fiat at the Targa centenary. Although Felice Nazzaro built and raced his own cars during the pre-WW1 period his racing career was mostly with Fiat.

Biggins' car is a regular attendee at veteran and concourse events in the UK and Europe which explains why it is commonly seen on the internet. It was even raced in a veteran event in Switzerland and at Brooklands recently.

The Nazzaro and Martin Shelley's 1911 SCAT 'Targa Florio' at the Targa centenary in 2006. Martin wrote "the remains of [the SCAT] were found in Australia by a NZ dealer called Hans Compter. The car as it now stands was created by VSCC stalwart Richard Black & Associates as an Edwardian competition car in which form it has enjoyed much success and given its various owners and drivers a lot of harmless fun. The residue of original SCAT parts not used by Richard to build this car are presently being assembled into a much better SCAT replica, with more or less original mechanicals and a nice 'Mont Ventoux' style body. Lacking the 9 litre engine of its sister, it won't go as well but it will be a more faithful car."
http://www.scat-automobiles.com/News4.htm

Here is a link to set of photos of the Nazzaro at Brooklands racetrack taken for a Italian motoring magazine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelwardphotos/tags/nazzaro/
I'm grateful to Noel for sending me this link.

Brian Newbury's 1913 Nazzaro

This car had been broken up in the 1960's and its parts scattered. It was the subject of a heroic restoration involving the recovery of many parts from various locations. Some parts may in fact have come from (or been copied from) the original Biggins' car.

The Markham 1913 Nazzaro

I was contacted by Noel Stokoe in the UK who advised he knew the new owner of Percy's Nazzaro and he would pass on my contact details. A couple of days later the owner contacted me and advised he was happy to meet and show me the car. Two weeks later we were standing in his warehouse and there was the Nazzaro, covered by a couple of sheets. It was a little strange to think that here was the actual car, worth an absolute packet, covered with an old bed sheet.

We pulled the sheets back and there she was, exactly as I remembered her from her days in the Perth museum. Back in those days I used to think it was a Stutz Bearcat, which is does resemble a little. It's a fairly plain machine really, but clean and very solid.

We later found out from Percy's son John how he came to purchase the car in the first place.
"My father saw the Nazzaro for sale in a vintage car magazine. I was running a newsagency post office and paper round in Subiaco at this time with my day starting at 2am. He saw I needed a break and sent me to Melbourne to buy it from a Mr Robert Davies. He had two children and needed a larger vintage car for family outings, hence the reason for selling. I think he originally found it at the back of an old rural farm shed. Apparently in it’s previous life, it served as an ambulance on one of the European battle fronts during World War 1."

Subsequently I have been contacted by Bruce Gardner, son of Keith Gardner, who rescued the Nazzaro from the scrapyard in the 1950s. He provided some additional history of the car and provided some photos.

A photo of the Nazzaro at the time it was purchased by Keith Gardner from John Greenwood. Note the bodywork which is very 1920s Italian styling.

Bruce adds: "Keith was a veteran and vintage enthusiast and owned and collected many rares. He seems to have had some parallels with Percy; Keith was a founding member of the Rolls-Royce club here in Victoria in 1958 (Percy Markham was a founding member of the Rolls-Royce club here in Western Australia). Keith never told me much about the Nazzaro. The person whom he bought the car from was John Francis Greenwood, who ran a motor repair shop in Bay St, Brighton. We don't know the exact date but Keith knew John's son, Joffre, who like Keith was a dispatch rider in the Army, so that contact could have occurred any time from 1937 onwards, but I suspect the actual purchase was post-war. He knew the Nazzaro was rare.

Keith kept many cars in a garage behind his de-licensed hotel in Sydney Road, Kilmore. He had EMFs, and early Wolsely, parts of a Fraser-Nash, Hispanios and many others. Many of these cars were in only average condition - Keith tended to rescue them from being scapped but couldn't afford to restore of run many of them. In 1957 he sold the Nazzaro to Robert Davies who restored the car back to its 1913 condition."

A photo of the Nazzaro post restoration when it was owned by Robert Davies.

I've attached a performance review of the car from the 1965 Veteran & Vintage Magazine below.

Veteran Car Road Tests…..1913 20/30hp Nazzaro

From Veteran & Vintage magazine… November 1965
As a first step toward the manufacture of cars in 1900 Fiat bought out the works of Signor Giovanni Ceirano lock stock and barrel. In addition to all the plant, stock and patents, this deal also involved the staff which included the 19-year-old apprentice called Felice Nazzaro. He was tall, dark and handsome. He was also an exceptionally good and meticulous mechanic with an easy-going nature but subject to fits of ill-temper. As a racing driver he must be classed as one of the all-time greats. He possessed the ability to coax the utmost from the engine but at the same time he nursed it so well that he was rarely forced to retire by mechanical failure.

He so impressed Fiat that they almost immediately gave him the job of attending, as master mechanic, the cars of difficult customers and important clients. In 1912 he began making Nazzaro cars which, perhaps not unnaturally, resembled contemporary Fiats fairly closely. In addition to the type 20/30 of the type being tested here, some contemporary sources state that he also produced a 10/12 model. However, opinion was by no means unanimous on this point and there are no surviving examples to provide proof. He undoubtedly made more than one design of racing car but his production range was limited to the one (or perhaps two) design from 1912 until the war forced him to cease production in 1917. Production rate was not high and this enabled him to personally road test every car before delivery.

Driving production models he won the 1913 Targa Florio and the 1914 Coppa Florio. After the war he returned to Fiat and drove with success in many races until 1924. He died in 1940 at the age of 59. Nazzaro cars with a 3½ litre were made in 1922 only, but it is believed that Nazzaro himself was not associated with this short-lived venture. This car stood for many years in a shed in Kilmore alongside a Wolseley now owned by AE Alsop, until they were both discovered in 1957. It was in comparatively good condition except for the rear end, but, as is so often the case, the body was beyond restoration and had to be completely rebuilt.

Specification
The engine is a four-cylinder monobloc unit with a fixed head. The beautifully cast aluminium crankcase has four lugs enabling it to bolt direct to the chassis rails. The fully-machined crankshaft is carried in three plain bearings of generous size and drives the camshaft from the front end. Skew gears first drive a cross shaft then through an idler gear to the camshaft. The cross shaft has a centrifugal water pump on the near-side end and a Bosch ZU4 magneto on the offside end. The valve chests, which are on the near side, are enclosed behind cast aluminium plates bearing the words “Nazzaro Torino”. The crankshaft carries a pulley at the front to drive the four-bladed cast-aluminium fan by means of a flat belt. To make this car even more tractable and docile a non-original decompression plate half an inch thick has been fitted between the cylinder block and the crankcase.

Both the induction and exhaust manifolds are cast within the cylinder block giving a particularly clean appearance. The horizontal Zenith carburettor bolts on the offside and the exhaust pipe on the near side. Lubrication is by means of an exposed gear pump driven from the end of the camshaft. Oil is forced to the main bearings, then through the drilled crankshaft to the big ends, then through copper tubes in the web of the connecting rods to the gudgeon pins. The dry multiplate clutch has seven alternately plain and lined plates. The clutch and flywheel are exposed but the cast aluminium gearbox has two long arms running forward around them to the crankcase casting to form unit construction. The gearbox has normal type sliding gears except that the reverse gear lifts into mesh instead of sliding. These gears are controlled by a lever on the offside which works in a gate where top gear is forward instead of the more usual backward position.

The drive is then taken through a generous sized universal joint and down a torque tube to a straight cut bevel crown and pinion. Provision is made on the underside of the back axle housing whereby the crown wheel by be removed sideways to or from the pinion enabling the mesh to be adjusted without opening the housing. At the rear wheels are two wide, large diameter, finned brake drums containing two sets of shoes alongside each other. The inner pairs are operated by the foot pedal and the outer pairs by a hand lever. The shoes are actuated by a pair of rods on each side of the torque tube, then by shafts contained in a tube connecting both drum backplates.

Steering is by worm and gear with the gear shaft carried through the chassis side rail. The tie rod is behind the H-beam front axle. Fuel is forced from the copper rear tank by air pressure supplied by a plunger pump on the camshaft. The tapering channel-section is of generous size and is upswept over the rear axle. The four semi-elliptic springs are mounted under the chassis rails at the front and outboard at the rear. The car originally wore 880 X 120 beaded-edge tyres on Sankey wheels but have been changed to straight-sided 500 X 23 tyres, but still on Sankey wheels.

The enormous Sankey wheels are cast iron.

Performance
This is indeed a man’s car. The engine is in beautiful tune and starts very easily when it is swung, but the engine is also large and takes a very considerable effort to swing it. Immediately it starts the subdued but very powerful throb of the exhaust foretells a performance well above the average. Instruments consist of a hand throttle and ignition gauge, an ignition switch and a hand pressure pump to the fuel tank on the beautiful cast aluminium firewall.

Spartan controls are mounted in the polished aluminium dashboard.

Clutch pedal pressure is extremely heavy and the action tends to drag, making silent engagement of the gears difficult when the car is at rest. However, the drive is taken up quite smoothly and gear changes when in motion a real pleasure. The response to the throttle in any gear is tremendous and very smooth.

A view under the machine. The great heavy flywheel sits behind the smooth aluminium engine. In the background the owner, John Markham speaks with my brother, Craig.

Torque and top gear performance is very much superior to a great many 1964 models, though it must be admitted that the engine is rather larger than those usually used today. Steering is rather lighter than one would expect and is delightfully positive and well-mannered. Springing is quite hard but the whole car is so mechanically taut that there is hardly a rattle and the only noise comes from the exhaust. The brakes are powerful enough to lock the back wheels on a dry bitumen road if sufficient pedal pressure is applied.

Since its first appearance in the Rally to Queenscliff in November 1961, it has rarely missed a meeting and, as one would expect, has never experienced any mechanical trouble of any kind. Even the 1 in 7 hill on the road between Foxes Hangout and Rosebud no sign for a change down from top gear became apparent. This car was the runner-up for the best restoration for 1963. It actually gained more points than the winner but missed out when the “as found” condition of the cars was compared.

It's in the little details. The Nazzaro name embossed on the oil plug on the steering gearbox

Statistics
Number of Cylinders - 4
Number of Speeds - 4
Bore 100mm Stroke 140mm Capacity 4,400cc
Weight 28cwt
Wheelbase 8 feet 10½ inches
Track Front 4 feet 8¾ inches, Rear 4 feet 6½ inches
Turning Circle 37 feet 9 inches
Petrol Consumption 18mpg, Oil Consumption 1,000mpg
Compression Pressure (Best Cylinder) 80psi
Brake Horsepower 55 approx
Tyre Size 500 X 23 (should be 880 X 120)
Maximum RPM 2,577
Top Speed 75mph
Normal top Speed 3rd Gear 35mph, 2nd 20mph Low 10mph
Standing Quarter Mile 27.5 seconds
Brake Lining Area Foot Brake 90sq in, Hand Brake 90sq in.

The career of Felice Nazzaro

Felice Nazzaro was born in Turin, Italy in 1881. He started work in the workshop of the Ceriano brothers (Fiat founders) and he was soon competing for the new Fiat racing team. He won the Padua 200 km race in 1900 at the wheel of a red Fiat and the 1901 Giro d'Italia in a Fiat 6 HP. The popular star of numerous Italian races early in the century, he even became an idol abroad, with a brilliant second place for Fiat in the Gordon Bennett Cup of 1905. Slight of build, gentlemanly of nature and immaculate in dress, his skill as a driver, mechanic and diplomat earned him the position of 'works' Fiat driver alongside Vincenzo Lancia in 1905.

1907 was Nazzaro's greatest year. He won the three most important races in the world; the Targa Florio in a Fiat 28-40hp, the Kaiserpreis Kaiser's Cup in Germany in a Fiat Taunis and THE most important race on the calendar, the French Grand Prix in the Fiat 130hp F2 Racer.

On the 8 June 1908, Nazzaro set the auto speed record at 193kph for 2.75 miles and briefly exceeded 200kph, the first driver in the world to do so.

Felice Nazzaro, like Lancia and many other successful drivers of the period, also wanted to try his hand at producing cars. The First World War was looming and Fiat had begun to withdraw from racing, so in 1911, together with some colleagues, he founded Nazzaro & C.Fabbrica di Automobili in Turin. Initially his name was enough to ensure sales of the first model, the Tipo 2 powered by a 4.4 liter four cylinder side valve engine, which emerged in 1912. His race team, although generally beset with mechanical failures, had some notable success in motor sport. In 1913 he won the Targa Florio for the second time, driving a Nazzaro Tipo 2, putting no less than 3 hours between himself and the runner-up! A couple of years later an improved model, the Nazzaro Tipo 3 was released. The company went into liquidation in 1916, after having produced around 230 cars plus some 50 trucks. At the end of the war Nazzaro tried again, this time at Firenze. 210 examples the Tipo 5, a 3.5-liter overhead cam four-cylinder powered car were built and a Nazzaro GP car, driven by Meregalli, won the 1920 Targa Florio before Nazzaro finally gave up Nazzaro Automobili for good in 1923.

In 1923 Nazzaro rejoined the Fiat racing team. His team mate was Pietro Bordino, who had been a riding mechanic for Fiat and who was now regarded as the world's fastest driver. But it was Nazzaro, now 42 years old and 9 years from the last time that he had raced in an important long-distance event, who won the 500 mile 60 lap 1922 French Grand Prix at the fast 8.3 mile Strasbourg circuit, driving the Fiat 804/404 2 liter six-cylinder racer. He had been at the wheel for 6 hrs 17 mins 17 secs and had averaged 79.2 mph for the 500 miles. He had also taken the fastest lap at 87.75mph. Only 3 of the 18 starters made it to the finish. After the win, it was remarkable how fresh Nazzaro seemed, but he was, as always, tireless. Sadly the race was not without tragedy for Nazzaro, when another Fiat, driven by his nephew, Biagio Nazzaro, broke a back axle shaft, lost a wheel and overturned with fatal results. Nazzaro had narrowly escaped death earlier in the year in an identical accident in the Targa Florio and after so many years at the pointy end of a very dangerous era in motor racing, he must have been seriously considering a quieter lifestyle. Later in the year he finished second to the young Bordino in the Italian Grand Prix and finished second again in the 1923 European GP in Italy, his last significant race result. Nazzaro would step aside for the younger Bordino at the end of 1923.

At the end of 1924 Fiat closed down their race team and Nazzaro was appointed head of the Fiat competitions department for existing cars in 1925 and continued until Fiat, after Bordino's spectacular one race comeback and GP win at Monza in 1927, finally withdrew from racing in 1929. Nazzaro continued to work at Fiat until 1940 he suddenly died. He was 59 years old. Statements that he died in a car accident are incorrect. He died of natural causes. His wife however died in a car accident in the 1940s.

This bio is taken from:
http://www.wheelsofitaly.com/wiki/index.php/Felice_Nazzaro



1910 Savannah Race “The Grand Prize”
Nazzaro Praises American Drivers…Famous Italian Pilot, However, does not expect to see his record broken…The New York Times 9th October 1910.

Felice Nazzaro, the famous Italian driver who came to this country to compete in the Grand Prize race in a Fiat car, is one of the most interesting figures in the motor-racing world. His most brilliant showings in America were in Fiats in the Savannah Grand Prize in 1908 and some of the previous Vanderbilt Cup Races. In the Grand Prize he was the lion of the race, when a stop to change tyres forced him to relinquish the victory to his team mate, Wagner, in another Fiat – one of the most brilliant finishes in motoring history.

In 1907 Nazzaro captured in succession every big road race in Europe, including The Targa Florio, Kaiser’s Cup – the great German Race and the Grand Prix of France establishing a new world’s best average of seventy-one miles an hour. In 1908 on the Brooklands cement track in England he made the wonderful average of 121.58 miles per hour, and later, by winning the Florio Cup race, he scored the world’s record road race average of 74½ miles per hour.
Speaking in Italian of Grant’s recent victory in the Vanderbilt Cup race, Nazzaro said; “It was a splendid victory, Grant averaged at about 65.15 miles an hour, as did Dawson, Aitken and Disbrow, who drove well. Wagner, De Palma, and I consider this fast indeed. However the other two members of our team and myself will endeavour to break this record in the Grand Prize, and I think it will be possible, barring much tyre trouble. My own world’s roads race record of 74½ miles an hour, of course, not be equalled. I do not wish to appear conceited in saying this, but I expect racing experts will agree with me when I say this average speed cannot be equalled on any road course in this country. It is a physical impossibility. In fact, I doubt if it will ever be broken on any road. The Florio Cup circuit was like a billiard table, and it was then that I took more chances than in any other race.

I expect to be in the Grand Prize in this country whenever it is held. It has been my lot to drive in fast company before, but I fully expect to face every bit as formidable field of cars and drivers in this year’s Grand Prize as I have ever driven against. As regards your American drivers, I must say I take my hat off to the way some of them drove in the Vanderbilt. It strikes me that racing has decidedly modernised since I was here two years ago. Certainly American cars are now being made much faster and better. Naturally you American pilots are going to try and out drive us foreigners, and if you succeed all honour for you. If one of us wins, we will be the ones most pleased. It is true that you Americans are now better fitted to combat the foreign drivers than ever before in an International race, and if the foreigners show best, I believe the victory will be less one-sided than in previous years. Your people and newspapers have always been most kind to me, and I am glad indeed to be able to drive against such sportsmanlike entrants as are on the list for the Grand Prize. I feel it is safe to predict that from a driving standpoint the racing will be every bit as brilliant as the last Vanderbilt, if not more so.”
http://forums.atlasf1.com/lofiversion/index.php/t98660-50.html

Thanks to Noel, Martin, John and all of the other many contributors to this piece.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Enjoying the sunshine


I was riding around Fremantle last week when the Leewin sail training ship pulled into port. God I love summer!

Swans in the Swan River

View of Perth from Majestic point
Maintenance day
The Troll back on the road. I hate to admit it, she's not as good a ride as the Ariel.