That is right, Ferrari’s at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb race. In 1952 Ferrari rebuilt four 1951 race cars to tackle the upcoming Indianapolis 500. They called them “Ferrari Type-375 Indy” . The cars came with a V-12, 2.5 liter engine, running three 2 barrel Weber 40IF4C carburetors, producing 400 horsepower. Speed Age magazine at the time quoted the price to be $40,000 each. One of the cars would be for the factory team at the Indy 500 and the other three would go to privateers for Indy.
Johnny Mauro of Denver.
A veteran of Pikes Peak since 1933 and the largest Ferrari dealer and importer, in the Denver area, Johnny Mauro wanted one of the new 375 race cars for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 52. The manufacturer said no, that breed of race car wasn’t to be entered in such a lowly event as the PPHC. Being an astute business man the answer of no, wasn’t something he was used too. Easy enough to fix, order the new race car and entry it at the Indy 500 and then afterwards take it to Pikes Peak . Problem solved !
The Indy 500 race was the trick, to get himself one of the four Ferrari 375s. He got chassis No. 3. , Johnny didn’t really put much effort into qualifying at Indy , he did get a sponsor at the last minute, “Kennedy Tanks”. Only one of the four Ferrari’s cars made the field at Indy in 1952. It was the factory car and was driven by Alberto Ascari. The car only lasted 40 of the 120 laps, due to a wheel failure, not what Ferrari expected ! (They wouldn’t go back to the Indianapolis 500 again, until the year 2000) The good news, Johnny Mauro had the car he wanted for the September 1st Pikes Pikes Hill Climb race.
The first year with the new race car at Pikes Peak, it was listed as the “Pylon X-Q Special” . Still wearing the white paint with the blue number 35, from the Indy 500.
The race car was a bear to handle on the dirt and maintaining any sense traction was difficult. Johnny held on to make it to the summit with a finishing time of 16:29.15 putting him in 10th place for 1952. Not bad for it’s first time at Pikes Peak, but not good enough for Johnny Mauro.
The CRASH !
September 28th 1952 “Centennial Park”, just south of Denver was the location. Just a few weeks after the PPHC and having made some changes to the car , Johnny was eager to test it out. A 100-mile race sponsored by the AAA at a dirt horse track was set for the 28th. During qualifying he lost control of the car, went off course, through a fence and rolled the race car twice, Johnny had two broken ribs, internal injuries and was in a coma for three days. After a week of recover at General Rose Memorial Hospital of Denver, he was released. The car was worse off then Johnny, oh well that is racing and the race car was sent back to Italy for the Ferrari factory to repair. There would be no racing for Mr. Mauro in 1953.
1954-1956 at Pikes Peak and Blue ?
Once the required repairs were made to chassis No.3, someone at the factory decided to paint the car Chinetti Blue, not the white Johnny had requested. (Maybe it was an inside joke from Luigi Chinetti, the first Ferrari dealer in the Untied States who also had his own race team wearing that same blue color ?) No matter the car was back, same chassis number, same engine number and ready for the 1954 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race. Entered as the “Mauro-Ferrari Special” and wearing the number 33, Johnny and the car were faster and the car handled better. But his time of 16:12 on race day was only good enough for 17th place. In 1955 it got worse, spinning out during qualifying and not even making the field. 1956 would be the last year for Johnny Mauro at Pikes Peak and his trusty 375 Ferrari ran it’s fastest time at Pikes Peak. The “Mauro Special” finished in 9th place with a time of 15:29.4. The fastest time every for Johnny Mauro too ! Nice way to go out !
Johnny Mauro continued in the car business for a few more years and started the “Untied States Truck Driving School” in 1958, which is still ran and owned by the Mauro family today. His Ferrari 375 Indy, still survives (donated by johnny) and has been with the Indianapolis 500 museum for many years. When the museum restored the car they repainted it in Ferrari red like the one Ascari drove in 1952 at Indy with Johnny’s number 35 on the car. Wish it would go back to the white with blue numbers some day. If you get a chance stop in and see it !
Wait there is more, but you will have to check out part two for more info on the OTHER Ferrari that raced at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb .