In the earliest days of Formula One, a man named Clemente Biondetti did something that has almost definitely never been done before or since. He built a Formula One car on his own, by combining elements of the top race cars from Jaguar and Ferrari...and by some accounts, from Maserati, too. He brought it to the first F1 Italian Grand Prix in 1950, and managed to qualify for the race, though he was unable to go the distance.
The Biondetti Ferrari Jaguar Special, as it's called, remains shrouded in mystery and has for decades been the subject of quiet debate by the most dedicated Ferrari and Jaguar lovers. This is its story.
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Clemente was one of the best drivers in the world in the 1930s and '40s. He racked up a pair of wins in the famed Targa Florio and won the legendary Mille Miglia more times than anyone in history. After WWII, he gave Ferrari its first wins in both races.
When Jaguar went racing with its XK 120, Biondetti was the only non-Brit given a factory car. He fell in love with the engine instantly. But when he was running second in the Targa Florio behind Ferrari's favorite driver, Alberto Ascari, an internal piece of the engine broke and he was finished.
After the race he asked Jaguar to convert the car to compete in the then-new F1 series. It declined. He asked for a new engine so he could build a car. Denied again. But the company let him have the blown motor from the Targa. Considerate of them, right?
This is where the story gets murky. One of the few undisputed facts of what happened next is that Biondetti took the running gear (engine, transmission, etc...) from the Jag, fitted it inside a Ferrari body, and took it to Italy's Monza circuit for his first and only F1 race.
According to some, he simply mated the Jag bits to a Ferrari 166, while others say it was a Maserati frame, Ferrari body, and Jag running gear. Confused yet?
By far the most credible and logic-based answer is that he built his own chassis to use Ferrari and Jaguar parts. This holds true on the assumption that the car from which the body originally came was actually Ferrari 166 Chassis 02C—which some say was the very first Ferrari ever sold outside of the company.
Just a few months before Biondetti's special debuted, chassis 02C went under the knife to be converted to a street car, and the body was replaced.
Everything after that, including the authenticity of this car that participated in the Mille Miglia 15 years ago, is a mystery. Still, there's no denying that in 1950 a man with a home-built, Jaguar-powered Ferrari Formula One car qualified for the very first Formula One race held in Italy.