Simanaitis Says

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“THE FABULOUS Ferrari,” R&T wrote in a September 1953 road test, “lives up to all the thousands of words which have been written about it.” This particular road test subject was the Vignale-bodied Ferrari 4.1 Coupe, “believed to be the actual car with which Simone led the 1952 race during the early hours….” and a favorite of mine for these last 60 years.

1953 Ferrari 4.1 Coupe, coachwork by Vignale. This and following images from R&T, September 1953.

The test car was owned by Masten Gregory, whose Jaguar C-Type had also been tested by R&T.

Masten Gregory, 1932–1985, American race driver, including Formula One between 1957 and 1965. Image from Motor Sport magazine.

R&T noted that the 4.1’s “successful racing heritage is very evident. The engine and transmission make a bit of noise—a racket which one unkind soul likened to a threshing machine.”

The car’s 4.1 name refers to the 4102-cc displacement of its V-12.

The 4.1’s five-speed gearbox is devoid of synchromesh. Noted R&T, “Down shifts take real skill and, during performance tests, it was a real thrill to watch Mr. Gregory practice ‘racing changes’ using the heel and toe technique to perfection….”

R&T had yet to perfect its lighting for cockpit photography.

“The seats and the driver’s position,” R&T reported, “were without fault and we liked the typical Italian wheel location, well forward so that one tends to steer more with the back and shoulder muscles.”

R&T Data Panels of the era were coded: F-11-53 was the eleventh foreign car tested that year; a Studebaker also tested in September was A-3-53, the third domestic car tested in 1953. By December, the score was 13 foreign cars, four domestics for the year.

The 4.1’s acceleration was formidable for the era. Its 0-60-mph time of 6.1 seconds beat the Jag C-Type’s time by a half-second, even though “… in deference to the cost of replacement, all of our checks on acceleration were made with considerable caution. This affects initial acceleration since full throttle was not applied until over 1000 rpm was attained.”

“This chart,” R&T noted, “shows graphically that the Ferrari reaches 110 mph in less time than the Studebaker Commander can attain 70 mph.”

“The ride is firm,” R&T observed, “as would be expected. A fair estimate would be to compare the ride with the TC MG—though actually it’s somewhat better because it is flatter with very little of the TC pitching tendency.”

I suspect this may be the first and only time R&T ever compared a Ferrari with an MG TC.

The portholes are functional, as are rear brake air scoops. Chrome trim was de rigueur in the 1950s. What a handsome profile.

It wasn’t that R&T found the Ferrari without fault. “The steering,” R&T wrote, “is not quite as ‘perfect.’ Though requiring only 2.3 turns lock to lock, there is a lack of feel during low speed driving, coupled with the need for considerable effort to turn sharply. Above 30 mph the steering becomes light and is very accurate. However, at around 60 mph on lightly rough surfaces the entire steering column sometimes vibrates viciously—a fault which all Ferrari owners seem to accept without complaint.”

“Despite some faults,” R&T concluded, “the 4.1 Ferrari is a type of car which has not been available since the death of Ettore Bugatti.”

High praise indeed. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

One comment on “FERRARI 4.1 VIGNALE COUPE

  1. Michael Rubin
    January 16, 2018

    A fellow member of group of local auto enthusiasts drives a Ferrari 330c and joined a recent Morgan run (the traditional Boxing Day event). Part of the drive was on slow, tight two lane roads and he admitted the Ferrari was less than pleasant to steer until the speeds picked up. So a decade later Maranelo apparently stuck to form making cars to be driven quickly on fast roads. (He also noted the engine bogged and he needed to keep the revs up to keep the plugs from fouling.) Ah, thoroughbreds.

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This entry was posted on January 15, 2018 by in Classic Bits and tagged , .
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