1967 Other OtherSerenissima 3000SP Prototipo
Year of manufacture1967
Car typeSingle seater
Chassis n° MK 168-001
- Competed in major international events
- Fitted with the V8 Serenissima
- Incredibly original
- Restored by Giuliano Giuliani
- Sold with its superb first body
- The ultimate Serenissima
Last year, Serenissima and Count Volpi di Misurata made a remarkable reappearance, when Artcurial sold three cars built by the famous Italian aristocrat, team manager and constructor. In addition to these three automobiles that included the 1966 Le Mans spider, there are only two others known to have survived: the 1965 358V berlinetta and the prototype we are presenting today.
We must go back to 1965 to understand the history of this car, when Bruce McLaren decided to produce his own single seater Formula 1 car. He built the chassis with Robin Herd, but the Ford engine he'd selected turned out to be too big and heavy. Serenissima had a four-cam, dual ignition 3-litre V8 engine designed by Alberto Massimino (the former engineer for Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati). Although not designed specifically for competition, it was light and compact. Serenissima gave two such engines to McLaren who used them during the 1966 season in his first M2B F1 car, finishing 6th at Brands Hatch. The relationship between the New Zealander and the Italian team didn't end there as Count Volpi took delivery of a McLaren chassis from a CanAm prototype. Initially, he fitted this with his V8 Massimino engine. To differentiate it from the McLaren car, it was given a special fibreglass body. With a closed cockpit and doors hinged on the roof, the car had a fluid, elegant design, not unlike the Ferrari P2/P3 prototypes. In this form, the prototype was tested on the circuit at Modena by Giuliano Giuliani, chief mechanic for the Serenissima team, and British driver Jonathan Williams, who had been signed up by Nello Ugolini, former Ferrari team manager at Serenissima since the start of the 1960s. Williams remembered a car that was " very easy to drive ", and said that the testing had served to " sort out reliability problems with the engine ". He also mentioned " the happy atmosphere in this little team ".
Dressed in the Serenissima white livery, the car entered its first race on 15 August 1968, the Coppa Città di Enna, in Pergusa, Sicily. Along with the Porsche 910 of Jo Siffert, it proved to be quickest, and having qualified on the front row, the car finished in second place. However, having engaged Alf Francis, the former mechanic for Stirling Moss who had worked for Lotus, Count Volpi decided to modify the car for the 1969 season. To make the V8 Serenissima more competitive, Francis designed a cylinder head with three valves per cylinder. This was the engine used for the second version of the McLaren-Serenissima which was given a new body at the same time. Built in collaboration with Drogo using riveted " Avional " steel, it had a similar shape to the McLaren M8A CanAm. According to Count Volpi, Avional " was a very light but rigid steel. Hence the bodywork was very angular. "
As with all Serenissima cars, the aesthetics were appealing, but this wasn't enough to ensure success. According to Jonathan Williams, " the car was very pretty, but as soon as I sat behind the wheel I discovered a problem. It was extremely unstable at high speeds. " Various solutions were tested in an effort to rectify the problem. None were completely successful however, as at this time the principals of aerodynamics were not fully understood. There were also problems of reliability. This was not enough, however, to prevent the car from competing in several international events during 1969 where it came up against the most successful endurance machines of the day: Ferrari P3/4, Lola T70, Alfa 33, Porsche 908 and Ford GT40. In the Preis von Tyrol race at Innsbruck in October, Williams finished in sixth place, and in his last race of the season on 12 October at the Salzburgring, he qualified on the front row of the grid alongside two factory Porsche 908s. Entered as number 24, he finished an impressive third overall on this very quick circuit. These results demonstrated the potential of a car that required further development despite the best efforts of a team headed by Giuliano Giuliani. At this point Count Volpi was starting to lose interest in motor racing and decided to stop funding Serenissima. The business quickly shut up shop, to everyone's surprise.
Before that happened, however, the car was sent to Argentina at the start of 1970 for the Temporada series, taking part in two events including the Buenos Aires 1000km, where the car was forced to retire.
This highly original machine then spent many years in storage, before Count Volpi entrusted its destiny to Giuliano Giuliani, the former chief mechanic for the Serenissima team. Two years ago, Giuliani launched into a mechanical overhaul involving a painstakingly thorough rebuild of the " Alf Francis " engine with its three valves per cylinder. The chassis and running gear were also carefully overhauled and according to Giuliano Giuliani, the stability issues have been resolved. The coachwork has been incredibly well preserved and the car is presented in amazingly original condition today, with its " Avional " riveted steel body, Scuderia Serenissima stickers and, at the back, three coloured stripes suggesting the Italian flag. The car was started up and carried out a few demonstration laps on the circuit, demonstrating that it is still capable of a brilliant performance, driven by Matteo Panini and Giuliano Giuliani, who has lost none his accomplished driving skills. The car comes today with tools used to build it and its first fibreglass body, created by the constructor and meriting restoration.
The original design and history of this car is extraordinary, and it is nothing short of miraculous that it has survived in this condition. Technically, this Serenissima is on a level with the best 1960s prototypes that it competed against : Matra, Porsche, Lola, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari. In addition, it has been refurbished by Giuliano Giuliani, the same man who looked after the car in period.
All these factors make this a unique piece, without equivalent. And in this condition, it can be used for historic demonstrations to relive the passionate attempts of Count Volpi, at a time when it was possible for a small-scale operation to square up to those with the biggest budgets.
Participating in the auction on this lot is subject to a special registration process. If you would like to bid on this lot, please get in touch with the bidding office or the motorcars department at least 48 hours before the sale
For more information and photos: https://www.artcurial.com/fr/lot-1967-serenissima-3000sp-prototipo-3980-105
Photos © Loïc Kernen