1947 Bandini 1100 Siluro Racer

This 1947 Bandini was one of the most challenging and satisfying restorations ever performed at Treasured Motorcars. Essentially a hand-built racer when new, there was no stockpile of spare parts to pull from when it came time for a restoration nearly 50 years later.

Ilario Bandini was born in 1911 in Forli, Italy.  The son of a farmer, Ilario showed an aptitude for all things mechanical, and after working as a mechanic and Lancia dealer in his hometown, he formed his own company in 1938.  Bandini specialized in small, lightweight cars for sports driving and racing, and was one of the first manufacturers to build cars with a mid-engine placement.  In all, he built 75 cars bearing his name.  The Bandini shield is derived from the symbol of his hometown and features a crowing bantam rooster.  Ilario Bandini died in 1992 at the age of 81, and just 46 of his cars are still known to exist.

FO 18210 is the registration number assigned to this car when it was registered to Ilario Bandini on 23 April 1949.  It is one of two cars he built with the Siluro, or torpedo, style body before that time.  The chassis is made of aviation-grade tubular steel, fitted with a hand-hammered aluminum body.  When Bandini competed in this car at Ferrara in 1949, it was fitted with a modified DOHC Fiat 1100 cc engine bearing a cut-down Alfa Romeo cylinder head and twin Weber carbs, and a live axle rear suspension with longitudinally-mounted semi-elliptic leaf springs.

Circa 1950, the Bandini was brought to the US by Tony Pompeo and Perry Fina, well known importers of post-war Italian sports cars like Siata, Lancia, Ferrari and Cisitalia.  The care was sold to Dick Gent of Cincinnati, who raced it at Elkhart Lake, Watkins Glen and Convair Trophy Races in 1951 as well as other east coast venues through 1954.  Both Gent and Dick Irish, who drove it occasionally, complained about the car’s poor handling characteristics. The car appeared on the cover of Motorsport Magazine in January 1952.

The car was sold to Sheldon Morrill of Baltimore in 1954.  In collaboration with Duncan Black, he put considerable effort into improving the handling.  They raced the car for two seasons with only some mid-field finishes to show for it.  Ed White of Baltimore then took ownership of the car in 1956, adding it to his collection of unusual cars and motorcycles.  The Bandini reportedly languished in White’s barn until 1959, when it was rescued by Bill King, Jr.  King purchased the car intending to upgrade it for use in SCCA competition.  This plan was made after his previous mount, a Devin-bodied, Corvette powered Triumph TR3 had been destroyed in a fiery crash.

At this point, Mrs. King apparently frowned upon the Bandini project and racing in general, and encouraged Bill to pursue an interest in flying instead.  The Bandini project was eventually abandoned, but not before significant modifications had begun.  An English Ford 1500cc engine and suitable gearbox was substituted for the tuned Fiat 1100.  The dubious swing arm axle/torsion bar suspension was removed and an equally dubious coil-spring suspension was installed, with a square tube space frame grafted to the existing chassis.  Fortunately, minimal modifications were made to the exterior body shell, and over 90% of the original panels survived in good condition.  The toe board and floors were scrapped, however.

In 1990, while having his Ferrari serviced at Treasured Motorcar Services, an offhand mention of the car’s existence by Bill King, Jr. led to plans for a full restoration, and now involved Bill’s son, who by that time had custody of the car.  Many expressed surprise that the car still existed, and many thanks are owed to those who contributed their recollections, research and documentation to the project.

Very little was known about the original engine/gearbox/final drive arrangement, as the surplus parts removed by King during the Ford engine swap had been discarded.  Eventually it was agreed that a Fiat 1100 “B” engine was the correct fitment, and a suitable unit was obtained and refurbished.

A new rear suspension was fabricated in period style using the sawn-off stubs and weld marks on the chassis as reference points and Bill King’s recollection of the cross tube and channel section bulkhead at eth back of the chassis.  In early 1995, the chassis was assembled, without body panels, so that mechanical aspects could be assessed.  Other than typical swing-arm handling problems, the car performed beyond expectations.  Further modifications to the rear suspension were made before final assembly of the freshly painted body and rolling chassis began on 9 April 1996.

After liberal amounts of midnight oil, the car was completed and on 28 April 1996 at a VSCCA event at Pocono Raceway, Bill King III piloted the Bandini into competition for the first time in over 40 years.  Mr. King’s father and no-longer-frowning mother were on hand to enjoy the event.