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  Serenissima M1AF
 

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Country of origin:Italy
Produced in:1967
Numbers built:1
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:February 18, 2013
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Click here to download printer friendly versionDuring the Summer of 1966, Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata and Bruce McLaren joined forces. The wealthy Italian nobleman would supply his Serenissima V8 to the fledgling McLaren Formula 1 effort, while both a single seater and sports car chassis would move in the opposite direction. The partnership was short-lived as, despite scoring a World Championship point, the compact Italian V8 ultimately did not prove up to the task, and was replaced by a BRM V12 for 1967.

Volpi was nevertheless still determined to break into Formula 1. He tasked his chief engineer, Alf Francis, to create a Serenissima F1 racer. It was a long-held belief that this new machine was based on or inspired by the McLaren M2B but in fact Francis used an earlier BRP F1 as the basis. As discovered by Ian Wagstaff while writing his book on BRP designer Tony Robertson, former BRP mechanics Bruce McIntosh and and Stan Collier eventually brought the first BRP chassis to Francis' Italian shop. Here McIntosh helped Francis create the Serenissima M1AF.

What was carried over virtually unchanged from the McLaren M2B was Serenissima's own engine. This V8 had been designed a few years earlier by the highly experienced Alberto Massimino for the mid-engined '308' sports car. The all-aluminium unit featured twin overhead camshafts and two valves per cylinder. Fitted with twin-spark ignition and four Weber carburettors, it produced just over 300 bhp. Sassamotors of Modena, Italy was tasked with the construction of the engine for Serenissima.

One of the revisions made by Francis to the chassis design was to cut off the rear section, to which the suspension was originally bolted. Instead he used 'his' Colotti-Francis gearbox as a full stressed member of the chassis. The rest of the running gear was wholly conventional. Count Volpi commissioned Medardo Fantuzzi to create the aluminium body for the new F1 racer. Reportedly Carlo Chiti helped Fantuzzi with the aerodynamics, which included front winglets and a rear wing integrated in the engine cover.

Completed in the second half of 1967, the new Serenissima was dubbed the M1AF, after its creator Alf Francis. Upon completion, the car was tested at Monza as a bare chassis. Despite being ready, the M1AF did not make any competitive appearances in 1967. Apparently under pressure from his mother, who believed more than enough of his inheritance had been wasted, Count Volpi decided to wind down his team soon after and the M1AF remained un-raced.

The stillborn F1 machine made its first public appearance at a racing car show at Monza in 1969. It caught the eye of Austrian Egon Hofer, who subsequently bought it to go hill-climb racing. He called in the services of Alf Francis to prepare the car but Hofer still struggled to get to grips with the car during his hill-climb outings throughout 1970. No notable results were scored and the Serenissima was retired from contemporary racing soon after. Hofer parted with the car a few years later.

In rather derelict condition, the unique Serenissima F1 car was eventually acquired by the current owner's father in 1982. It would take another decade before work started to restore the car. With so many unique parts, this proved a complicated project but it was nevertheless completed in time to entertain the crowd at the owner's wedding in July of 1994. Following brief test sessions the M1AF was proudly displayed in the owner's living room until 2004.

The Serenissima was then brought out of hiding and prepared for historic racing. Nearly 40 years after it had been constructed, it finally made its racing debut on a closed circuit in 2005. In the following years, the one-off machine was given a handful of outings. Among them was the 2007 Goodwood Festival of Speed where it is seen here.

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  Article Image gallery (19) Specifications