Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ferrari Sharknose: Most Beautiful Car Ever?

IN February of 1961 the automotive press came to Maranello, Italy to see the results of Carlo Chiti’s secret project: The Ferrari 156 was a stripped-down thin-skinned stunner with tapered torpedo lines. Beneath its gleaming red skin a 400-horsepower V6 engine nestled behind the driver. Chiti had sunk it near the middle of the chassis so that the entire car would have a lower center of gravity and handle more deftly than its predecessors. The result was a harmonic convergence of power and weight.

Chiti shaped the car with the help of a wind tunnel. It consequently had a swept-back jet age posture. The driver now leaned way back in a half-recline behind a low wrap of windscreen. It looked dazzlingly fast, and it was. In test runs von Trips touched 180 mph. It would take its nickname from the twin intake nostrils fitted on either side of its sinister snout: the Sharknose.

Much of the road testing was done by Phil Hill’s lifelong friend, Richie Ginther. Enzo Ferrari called him “an odd little man, his narrow face covered in freckles, his eyes lost in some melancholy daydream or suddenly sparking into life, his legs so skinny they seemed hardly to fill his trousers."

It looked as if the Sharknose would put Ferrari back on top. The race for horsepower had been won before the first starting flag dropped. The only question was which Ferrari driver would prevail.


  1. That Ferrari 156 certainly was a great-looking car. Of all the classic Ferrari designs, that one must be in the top five as it was something so revolutionary at the time.

    Unfortunately that season obviously isn't remembered for the car itself, so I guess it will always remain quite tainted because of what happened at Monza.

  2. Tainted, indeed Gregory. Interesting footnote on the Sharknose: I understand that Enzo Ferrari made it a habit it scrap all his cars as soon as he was through with them. So no original Sharknoses exist. The closest think may be the replica British musician Chris Rea made for himself some years ago.

  3. Actually, I think this is a much more accurate replica of a 1961 Sharknose Ferrari than Chris Rea's: