As a young boy growing up in Italy’s Emelia-Romagna region, Ilario Bandini was a tinkerer who seemed predestined to life in motorsports. After finishing primary school, Bandini served as an apprentice mechanic, learning the art and science of chassis and engine tuning. In his twenties, he operated a successful transport business in the Italian colony of Eritrea before returning to Italy in 1939 to follow his passion and open a garage.
Concurrently, Bandini began his racing career on motorbikes before switching to cars. He raced in the 1940 Mille Miglia in a tuned Fiat 1100 Balilla, which eventually served as the basis for the first proper Bandini automobile in 1946. Ilario disassembled his Fiat 1100 before the war to hide it from the Germans, later reassembling it with a modified tubular chassis, revised suspension, a tuned 1100 cc engine, and rakish lightweight coachwork by Carrozzeria Rocco Motto. He resumed his racing career with the newly christened Bandini 1100, which proved to be a quick and attractive racing car. Following the adage of “race on Sunday, sell on Monday,” Bandini soon received orders from privateers, and his business took off.
In the early ‘50s, an Italian-American car importer/dealer named Tony Pompeo sent some American Crosley 750cc racing engines to Italy for these small constructors to use in their new cars. The Italians loved the Crosley engine (originally used in PT boats) for its reliability and overbuilt, Bentley-like design with 5 main bearings, compared to Fiat’s 3. At this time, Bandini focused primarily on the Mille Miglia, in hopes of winning the prized 750-cc class that was so hotly contested by the likes of Siata, Giaur, Stanguellini, Moretti, Nardi and others.
Bandini’s new sports racing car was the Siluro (“Torpedeo”), built on a tubular spaceframe chassis (made using wing struts from a nearby airplane manufacturer), modified Crosley 750-cc engines, and hand-hammered aluminum bodies by the legendary Rocco Motto. The initial four cars featured delicate cycle fenders all around. As Crosley outclassed Fiat, Bandini and others fully embraced the tiny American engine. Ilario even developed a gear-driven DOHC head for the Crosley aluminum block, first used in 1954. The combination was a hit, and the jewel-like Bandini racers were often found at the sharp end of the field in SCCA sub-two-liter classes, including F-Modified and the perennially popular H-Modified where a Bandini Crosley won the National Championship in 1955 and 1957. It was only when the invasion of rear-engine British cars arrived did Bandini struggle, and after about 80 cars, the marque gradually declined through the 1960s, although Ilario continued to build racing cars off and on, well into the 1980s.
Offered here is a beautiful and evocative 1951 Bandini 750, wearing a version of the iconic sports racer body created by Bill Devin. This particular Bandini began life as a 750 Siluro Crosley bodied with alloy torpedo coachwork by Carrozzeria Motto. It is a marvelous example of Italian Etceterini with rich racing history in the Midwest and beyond. According to information compiled from previous owners, this car was delivered to Chuck Hassan in early 1952, fitted with a 750 Crosley fed by twin Dell’Orto carburetors. Its maiden outing was the 1952 Vero Beach races, where it took 1st in class in the 6-hour enduro, winning the Index of Performance. The race was a warmup for the 12 hours of Sebring the following week, where Hassan teamed up with his mate Beau Clark. The diminutive Bandini led its class until a mechanical failure ended their run in a DNF. Hassan and his Bandini ran the remainder of the ’52 season, managing another class win at Turner AFB.
After the 1952 season, Hassan sold the Bandini Siluro to James Riley of Indianapolis, who raced it a handful of times, winning the H-Mod race at MacDill AFB in Florida. The featherweight Bandini continued its successful run through 1953. Riley then sold the car to his racing buddy Sandy MacArthur in 1954, winning class honors and proving consistent enough to tie for 6th place in the SCCA H-Mod National Championship MacArthur racked up even more success, which he recalled in an entertaining letter included in the history file. Ahead of the 1955 Sebring 12 Hours, the Crosley was yanked in favor of a Kiekhaefer Mercury outboard engine. The nimble Bandini/Mercury was fast, but the Fiat-based gearbox erupted in protest, knocking it out of the lead in the Index of Performance. After the race, MacArthur sold the Bandini to his longtime friend and mechanic, Mr. Clair “Sonny” Reuter of Wheaton, Illinois.
Mr. Reuter replaced the marine engine with a proper Crosley 750, but the original light-alloy body was battle-scarred and tired by that time. Clair purchased a slick new lightweight fiberglass Barchetta body from Devin and adapted it to the Bandini chassis. He raced a handful of times in the 1958 season before tucking it away in the basement garage as family life took precedent over racing. There it sat in Reuter’s garage for the next 50 years. Shortly before his passing in 2006, his daughter reached out to experts for help with the Bandini. They eventually connected her to a lifelong car collector, Bandini enthusiast, and connoisseur of all things Etceterini, who agreed to rescue the car and preserve its rich history.
In its current ownership, the Bandini-Devin received a sympathetic refurbishment, returning it to a period-correct condition as possible. Marque expert Jerry Greaves rebuilt the Crosley engine, and the owners restored the chassis and lightweight fiberglass body. It rides on proper 15 x 2.75 64 spoke Borrani wheels with period Pirelli Stelvio tires and includes the original steering wheel etc. The current owner was even able to save portions of the original Motto body, which Reuter stashed behind his garage in the late 50s. It is well presented and suitable for racing with groups like the VSCCA or for pre-57 rallies.
The current owner painstakingly researched the provenance of this remarkable and unique Bandini-Devin, and the accompanying history file includes the following:
- Extensive period photographs (including a shot of it towed by the Bosley Mk1 GT!)
- A letter from Sandy MacArthur
- Detailed Race history
- An extraordinary collection of original race programs and dash plaques from many of the events in which the Bandini competed.
- A preview of photos and files are available here: https://hymanltd.com/1952-bandini-750-siluro-devin-monza-history/
The Bandini-Devin is a truly delightful and historically significant racer, with a rich, fascinating story forged in the golden era of American sports car racing.
Please note that this vehicle is titled as a 1949
Offers welcome and trades considered