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Wellington Shows Off Rare Italian Trio

Just over 50 years ago, in a support race for the 1957 New Zealand Grand Prix, British driver Ken Wharton was killed when his Ferrari 750 Monza crashed at the Ardmore airfield circuit.

Although the car was very badly damaged, Ken Harris took it over and had a new body built by Jack Morral. The ex-works car (C0514M, a 3-liter, 4-cylinder car, with which Castellotti had had some good race results) continued racing in New Zealand for a few more seasons. It had some successes including, rather fittingly, the Ken Wharton Memorial Trophy in 1959. Bill Thomasen bought the car later that year and, in 1961, it passed to Johnny Riley. The Ferrari motor had been damaged by then, and Riley installed a Corvette V-8 in it. Good results were proving harder to come by, resulting in it even competing in beach races!

This famous car was subsequently acquired by the Southward Museum Trust in 1967. The museum had it on display for many years in its rather-tired, “as raced” condition, but recently the car has been the subject of a superb restoration and has gone back on display, with the original motor rebuilt and reinstalled. It is rightly in pride of place at the museum entrance. And, to ensure the Monza doesn’t get lonely so far from its homeland, the Southward Museum—about 40 miles north of New Zealand’s capital Wellington—has two other, top, Italian racers to provide company.

One is the green Maserati 250F, which has a typically complicated history! It’s the ex-Bira/Owen Racing Organisation/ Brabham/Amon car, which has certainly had some top drivers at the helm—including Flockhart, Collins, and Hawthorn. It’s been in New Zealand for 50 years and was bought by the museum in 1963. It still looks magnificent, with its Dunlop disc brakes and alloy wheels, and has stretched its legs occasionally.

But 250Fs are common next to the other Maserati at the museum, one of only two 8CLT/50s built for Indianapolis but never raced there. Amazingly, both these straight-8, twin-supercharged, 3-liter thoroughbreds were brought to New Zealand in 1955, by Freddy Zambucka. Potentially very fast, but never really successful, one of the pair left those shores many years ago. But the other (C 3037) was bought by the Southward Museum from its last racing owner, Geoff Easterbrook-Smith, who used it for sprint meetings (15.07 seconds for the standing quarter-mile) and sold it for £750! Probably not a lot of money even then, but if it looks like a real bargain now, remember this was in the mid-’60s, and it was an elderly racing car that would have been very high maintenance. The car has not run for some time but looks smart and is in top company—an amazing Italian trio “down under.”

By Mark Holman