29 Sep

60th Anniversary of N.A.R.T Celebrated by New England Auto Museum September 28th

Emcee Jerry Cotrone introduces N.A.R.T veterans Luigi Chinetti Jr., Francois Sicard, Roger Colson, Jean-Louis Lebreton and Bob Craige at 60thAnniversary Celebration  Photo: Judy Stropus

Emcee Jerry Cotrone introduces N.A.R.T veterans Luigi Chinetti Jr., Francois Sicard, Roger Colson, Jean-Louis Lebreton and Bob Craige at 60thAnniversary Celebration – Photo: Judy Stropus

Norwalk, Conn. – On September 28th, over 100 guests joined the New England Auto Museum to pay tribute to the Connecticut-based North American Racing Team on the eve of the team’s 60th anniversary at Stepping Stones Museum in Norwalk, Conn. The goal was to raise funds for the nonprofit New England Auto Museum, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a permanent facility for display and education in automotive arts and technology to be built in Connecticut. Thanks to participation by many former team members including team owner Luigi Chinetti’s son Luigi Chinetti Jr. who travelled to the event from his home in Ottawa, Canada, the evening created many happy memories of the team’s performances over two decades from 1957 to 1983..

A highlight of the evening was a telephone link conversation with well-known former N.A.R.T. driver Sam Posey from his home in Northeastern Connecticut with Luigi Chinetti Jr. and former Paul Newman racing partner Bob Sharp. Sam shared reminiscences of his racing career on the N.A.R.T. team including his best 3rd place overall finish at LeMans in 1971 with co-driver Tony Adamowicz, who also sent along his congratulations on the team’s milestone. The Ferrari 512M that Posey and Adamowicz drove in the 1971 race went on to break multiple speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1974 with drivers Paul Newman, then an amateur driver, 2-time Formula 1 champion Graham Hill, team driver Milt Mitner, and Luigi Chinetti Jr. The actual 512M chassis no. 1020 that Posey drove at LeMans and set records at Bonneville was on display at the event courtesy of the Lawrence Auriana Collection. A CBS-TV film was shown documenting the Bonneville runs which included two Ferraris, the 512M which ultimately self-destructed with Graham Hill at the wheel, and a well-used 365GTB4 Daytona Competition coupe which went on to break five international speed records for 3 to 5 liter cars on the salt flats.

Ferrari 512M driven to 3rd place at LeMans in 1971 and multiple speed records at Bonneville in 1974 courtesy the Lawrence Auriana Collection Photo Alex Von Kleydorff

Ferrari 512M driven to 3rd place at LeMans in 1971 and multiple speed records at Bonneville in 1974 courtesy the Lawrence Auriana Collection – Photo Alex Von Kleydorff

In addition to the Bonneville film, the program included documentary footage by Peter Leahey about the development of the legendary N.A.R.T. Spyder. Luigi Chinetti’s influence with Enzo Ferrari was such that he convinced the factory to build a series of 10 275 GTB4/Spyders with bodies by Scaglietti which became known as the N.A.R.T. Spyders. The first N.A.R.T. Spyder was shipped to America in February 1967, just in time for the Sebring 12-hour race where it was driven by Denise McCluggage and Pinkie Rollo. They finished in a respectable 17th place and second in class behind a Shelby GT350, a good result considering that, mechanically, it was a standard production specification car. Of the ten N.A.R.T. Spyders built, the McCluggage car was the only one raced before being sold to a customer. Initially painted in pale yellow, it became even more well-known later on as the car Faye Dunaway drove in the “Thomas Crowne Affair” with Steve McQueen in the lead role. The car was resprayed maroon for the movie, with McQueen famously calling it “one of those red Italian things”.

Steve McQueen with the N.A.R.T .Spyder in “The Thomas Crowne Affair” Archived Photo

Steve McQueen with the N.A.R.T .Spyder in “The Thomas Crowne Affair”
Archived Photo

Complementing the Bonneville and N.A.R.T. Spyder film presentations, the event included a panel of former N.A.R.T. team members who shared reminiscences on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the team’s formation in 1957. In addition to Luigi Chinetti Jr., the group included former mechanics for N.A.R.T. Roger Colson, Francois Sicard, Jean-Louis Lebreton and Bob Craige. The event was emceed by Jerry Cotrone, ex-Chinetti Motors employee and curator of the Malcolm Pray Achievement Center in Bedford, N.Y. Sponsors of the event included Hagerty Insurance, Dragone Auctions, Pray Auto Body, Pray Achievement Center, Spacefitters Logistics & Technology Group, Rive Bistro Restaurant and Ferrari North America. It was a memorable evening for all the racing fans who attended.

Denise McCluggage driving the N.A.R.T. Spyder at Sebring 12-Hour in 1967 Archived Photo

Denise McCluggage driving the N.A.R.T. Spyder at Sebring 12-Hour in 1967
Archived Photo

17 Aug

N.A.R.T.’s 60th Anniversary Celebration; Special Movie Screening in Norwalk September 28th

Paul Newman with Luigi Chinetti Jr. at Bonneville Salt Flats in 1974 Archived Photo

Paul Newman with N.A.R.T Team Manager Dick Fritz at Bonneville Salt Flats in 1974 Archived Photo

Norwalk, Conn. – On Wednesday, September 28th at 6:30 PM, the New England Auto Museum will host a special one-night celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the North American Racing Team (N.A.R.T.) featuring film presentations on the Ferrari team’s Bonneville speed record attempts in 1974 and the development of the Ferrari N.A.R.T. Spyder at the Stepping Stones Multimedia Gallery in Norwalk. The goal is to raise funds for the nonprofit New England Auto Museum, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a permanent facility for display and education in automotive arts and technology.

In September 1974, with N.A.R.T.’s short racing season over, Luigi Chinetti Jr., son of Ferrari legend Luigi Chinetti, decided it would be fun to go to Bonneville in an attempt to break some old speed records; some by Ab Jenkins had stood for over 35 years. To do this would entail taking three cars, and a pit crew. Having raised about $40,000 in sponsorship deals, it was a viable proposition. Two Ferrari 365 GTB4 Daytona’s, one as a spare car, and a Le Mans prototype 512M, were dispatched together with an eclectic mix of drivers, 2-time Formula One world champion Graham Hill, actor Paul Newman and then current N.A.R.T. driver Milt Minter joined Chinetti Jr., to discover what could be achieved under the direction of team manager Dick Fritz.

Speed record breaking Ferrari 512M Le Mans Prototype on the Salt Flats Archived Photo

Speed record breaking Ferrari 512M Le Mans Prototype on the Salt Flats
Archived Photo

There were two courses at Bonneville: the straight-line course and also a 10-mile oval. It was the latter that was being used, with its straights of just over two miles in length, and the curves at each end that, through necessity were very long and gradual. The shorter distance records were attempted first in the 512M, and then progressively longer ones in the 365 GTB4, each record falling as the string of drivers took his turn at the wheel. It all seemed surreal, having two cars circulating in the middle of nowhere, coming in for rapid refueling, and driver change-over, and at the same time being filmed by CBS-TV. The only unfortunate thing was that the 24-hour record remained unbroken, as the 365 GTB4’s front right tire burst, affecting the suspension. A half-hour’s work to rectify the problem took the car out of the equation for breaking the record, so the team gave up the unequal struggle. After the event, Chinetti Jr. said, “It was easy to see how the old record had stood for so long.”

Denise McCluggage driving the N.A.R.T. Spyder at Sebring 12-Hour in 1967 Archived Photo

Denise McCluggage driving the N.A.R.T. Spyder at Sebring 12-Hour in 1967
Archived Photo

In addition to the Bonneville film, the program will include documentary footage by Peter Leahey about the development of the legendary N.A.R.T. Spyder. Luigi Chinetti’s influence with Enzo Ferrari was such that he convinced the factory to build a series of 10 275 GTB4/Spyders with bodies by Scaglietti which became known as the N.A.R.T. Spyders. The first N.A.R.T. Spyder was shipped to America in February 1967, just in time for the Sebring 12-hour race where it was driven by Denise McCluggage and Pinkie Rollo. They finished in a respectable 17th place and second in class behind a Shelby GT350, a good result considering that, mechanically, it was a standard production specification car. Of the ten N.A.R.T. Spyders built, the McCluggage car was the only one raced before being sold to a customer. Initially painted in pale yellow, it became even more well-known later on as the car Faye Dunaway drove in the “Thomas Crowne Affair” with Steve McQueen in the lead role. The car was resprayed maroon for the movie, with McQueen famously calling it “one of those red Italian things”.

Steve McQueen with the N.A.R.T .Spyder in “The Thomas Crowne Affair” Archived Photo

Steve McQueen with the N.A.R.T .Spyder in “The Thomas Crowne Affair”
Archived Photo

Complementing the Bonneville and N.A.R.T. Spyder film presentations, the event will include a panel of former N.A.R.T. team members who will share reminiscences on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the team’s formation in 1957. At this writing, this group includes former mechanics for N.A.R.T. Roger Colson and Francois Sicard, and it will be emceed by Jerry Cotrone, ex-Chinetti Motors employee and curator of the Malcolm Pray Achievement Center in Bedford, N.Y.

This special one-night commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the N.A.R.T. Racing Team will take place Wednesday, September 28th from 6:30 to 9:30 PM. Beverages and hors d’oeuvres, provided by Rive Bistro Restaurant of Westport, will be served in the hour before the show. Weather permitting, the actual Ferrari 512M that went to Bonneville will be on display in the museum’s courtyard. Location will be the Stepping Stones Museum Multi-Media Gallery at 303 West Avenue in Norwalk (Mathews Park). Sponsors of the event include Dragone Auctions, Hagerty Insurance, Pray Auto Body, Pray Achievement Center, Spacefitters Logistics & Technology Group and Rive Bistro Restaurant. Tickets will be $20 per person and space is limited to 150 attendees. Tickets can be purchased at www.neautomuseum.org

Article includes excerpts from “N.A.R.T. A Concise History of the North American Racing Team 1957 to 1983” by Terry O’Neil

N.A.R.T. Bonneville Record Runs
September 23 – 24, 1974

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