Stanguellini’s success in Libya

26 March 2024 marks 85 years since the second running of the Libyan Coast Race which took place in 1939. Representing the Stanguellini Team on this 1500 km race between Tobruk and Tripoli were Giulio Baravelli in a 500 Topolino and Franco Bertani in a 1100.

Stanguellini made two cars for the race based on the mechanics of the Fiat Topolino, making them more aerodynamic and working on the carburettor filter to overcome its nemesis: sand.

The result was surprising: Giulio Baravelli won his class with the small 500 travelling at an average of 102.825 km/h and staying behind the wheel for over 14 hours non-stop (14 36’ 40’’ to be exact).

The Libyan Coast Race was Stanguellini’s most sensational feat throughout the entire pre-war period, as well as one of the many displays of Vittorio’s intuition and his mechanics’ skill.

Stanguellini’s ingenuity

The Topolino had already been turned into a real race car in 1937.

For the engine, Stanguellini used parts from SIATA, a specialist company from Turin, enhancing its efficiency. While the body was made by Torricelli, a company from Modena, based on Stanguellini’s design, making the Topolino a roadster with a light, aerodynamic fairing. Other improvements could be seen in the lighter Fergat-brand wheel rims and in the aerodynamic panels on the rear mudguards.

But the real brainwave involved making a special filter for the carburettor using women’s silk stockings (which Vittorio stole from his wife’s wardrobe) to overcome the pitfalls of the very fine desert sand, avoiding the risk of badly damaging the engine’s inner mechanism.

Why actual stockings? Because fitting another type of filter in front of the carburettor would have required more space and alterations to the body line, affecting the car’s lightness and aerodynamics. However, light, practical stockings did not require any additional brackets: all you had to do was roll them up to adapt them to the space available.

While this idea surprised participants at first, their reaction was different when they saw Giulio Baravelli’s car get to Tripoli so early that organisers had not yet even set up the finishing line.

The race

Bertani took control on race day, as expected, but had to stop due to a mechanical fault. Not wanting to spend the night in the desert, he paid a huge sum to find a ride in Derna, since the race was taking place on open public roads.

Having spent the night safe and sound, he called for help the next day to rescue his car but it had disappeared: it was feared that people who lived in the desert had preferred it to their camels. He trudged downhearted to the police station in Derna to report the disappearance, but the car had already been found and was waiting for someone to go and pick it up.

On the other hand, everything went smoothly for Baravelli. Having left first from Tobruk, he arrived first in Tripoli, with a lead over second place of almost two hours.

This feat is permanently etched in the history of Stanguellini, the motor racing scene and human ingenuity when faced with the toughest challenges.