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Goodwood Revival / The ex-1930 Mille Miglia Class winner and 5th Overall (Bassi/Gazzabini), 1930 Targa Florio (Cau.Minoia), 1930 Irish Grand Prix (G.Ramponi) and 1930 Tourist Trophy, ex-Heiko Seekamp, regular Mille Miglia retrospective entrant and finisher,1930 OM 665 SS MM Superba 2.3 Litre Supercharged Sports Tourer Chassis no. 6651095 Engine no. 6651095
Sold for £1,255,900 inc. premium
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This is a truly historic pre-war Sports Racing Car, and the most successful survivor of the noted OM marque, one of the very special definitive supercharged versions which among many events campaigned the Mille Miglia in 1930.
The Mille Miglia and the Brescia based OM Company are inextricably intertwined. It is said that one of the inspirations for the founders of the Automobile Club of Brescia, Aymo Maggi and Franco Mazzotti and their thousand mile race was the moving of the Italian Grand Prix away from their home town to Monza. Together with their mentor Renzo Castagneto, and journalist Giovanni Canestrini in little more than three months from its conception in December 1926, they had organised the first Mille Miglia, staging a new event that began and finished in Brescia charting a 'figure of eight' course down to Rome and back. To add a 'fairytale' ending to the equation, it was won with a 1-2-3 finish by Brescia based car manufacturer, OM.
The OM (Officine Meccaniche - Mechanical Workshops) company came into being in 1899 as a result of the merger of Miani, Silvestri & Co with Grondona, Comi & Co, both firms being active in the production of railway locomotives and rolling stock. OM's involvement with car manufacturing began in 1917 when it bought the Roberto Züst factory in Brescia and the first OM car, closely resembling a Züst, appeared in 1918.
While the first cars to wear the OM badge had much in common with Züst production, it was not long before wholly new automobiles would appear.
As with so many Italian manufacturers, the punitive taxation system based on engine capacity dictated the need to get the most power out of what may have been considered almost nominal engine sizes in other countries. Designed by the Austrian-born engineer Lucien Barratouch and introduced in 1920 - the Type 465 - was powered by a four-cylinder 1,325cc sidevalve engine. This was followed by two more four-cylinder models, the Types 467 and 469 (OM type nomenclature being the number of cylinders followed by the bore dimension in millimetres).
When a six cylinder OM was added to the range, debuting at the Milan Auto Salon in 1923, contemporary reports would wax lyrical - "If the crowd flock at the O.M. stand drawn by the beautiful cars and the refinement of the furniture, the expert motorist and the technician especially are enticed by the interest of admiring the brand new chassis, model 6-65 with a 6 cylinder engine, not without reason christened 'Superba' 'this mechanical jewel in which is fulfilled the ideal type of today's production'.
Between its introduction in 1923 and 1932, the 665 (its hyphen was quickly dropped from the title), would be successively refined and improved. The gearboxes were reworked, engine sizes grew, short and lowered chassis variants were offered and so on, with each revision an extra suffix joined the model name. The format of cars entered on the 1928 Mille Miglia could be acquired by the public a month or so later when they were presented at the Salone in May as the Type S 'Mille Miglia'. The MM models now had an increased compression ratio, shorter wheelbases and lighter overall weight. In turn for 1929, the engine capacity went up to 2.2 litres and now a Roots Type Supercharger was offered, adding another 'S' to its title.
By 1930, there were no fewer than 25 models in OM's range, but at the top of the tree was the 665 Superba SS MM, and beyond even their specification were the works versions of these cars. Those 'rara avis', were of 2.3 litre supercharged specification, with Memini carburettors, finned cylinder heads, dual water manifold pipes and presumably for easier access or repair their shocks were fitted outside the chassis.
Chassis 665-1095 is one such car and it made its racing debut at the 4th Mille Miglia in 1930. Sporting lightweight two seater bodywork, it was piloted by Aldo Bassi and Carlo Gazzabini, who continuing the string of successes for the marque, brought the car safely home in 5th place overall and first in class. Less than a month later, the car was fielded in the Targa Florio by Nando Minoia, coming home in 6th place.
OM's successes had long been noted by British Agent L. C. Rawlence & Co. of London's Sackville Street, who became their importer. Rawlence's development engineer and driver R.E. Oats, saw the potential for OM in British competition and ordered a series of cars. For the events which they were intended the cars needed four seater sports touring bodies, so it is surmised that over the course of the next few months this and other cars would have been sent to Milan where local coachbuilders Carrozzeria Sport modified its existing coachwork or else replaced it with the four seater lightweight touring bodywork that it needed in order to be eligible for the Irish Grand Prix in July. On their arrival in the UK, Rawlence & Co. had been supplied with new crankshafts, flywheels and connecting rods by the Italians and they had them re-machined and balanced by Laystall in preparation for the upcoming Irish events.
On their British debut, one of the best known Italian racers, Giulio Ramponi took the drive, finishing in 9th position overall and second in class. At the Tourist Trophy on 23rd August, Ramponi again was in charge as the car, however he would crash in practice, rolling the car into a ditch. Although contemporary photos do not appear to show much external damage to the OM, it curtailed this race for Ramponi. As far as we can tell this would be final major outing for '1095', and it vanished from the scene until in early 1950s when the car surfaced again.
Recognition of 1095's importance today can be attributed to the exhaustive research made by Anthony Hopton, its owner of more than 30 years from 1966. He systematically pursued any leads to its history in an age when a number of those associated with the car in the 1930s were still alive. All of this is supplied with the car today.
Among this correspondence, is a letter from Eric Lister who owned the car in 1950. In it he writes: 'I bought it from a dealer in London called Brian Finglass who specialised in exotic motor cars. I wandered into Finglass' garage, looked at his stock, couldn't find anything. Just before I left I saw something in a corner under a white sheet. I lifted it up then discovered it was an OM, a car which I had heard of but knew very little about. Finglass told me it was an ex O.M. Team car which was never raced as it had turned over in practice during the 1930 Phoenix Park Races. The car was never sent back to Italy but repaired and stored for several years by Rawlence, the concessionaire, and really only used for about 30,000 kilometres after the war"
Lister kept the car for little more than a year before it passed to Leslie Byrom and then to Hopton. In Hopton's fascinating series of correspondence with many of the luminaries of the day, he sought to find anyone that might have been associated with Rawlence and OM in period, ranging from TASO Mathieson to R.F. Oats himself, including Angelo Tito Anselmi and others. Through this he was able to retrace the car's steps and to establish affirmatively that GN 8762/6651095 was indeed the Ramponi car.
In one eye opening letter, Mathieson recounts that the OM's 'road holding steering etc. were superb and in my opinion were superior to the type 43 and 55 Bugattis and the 1750 and 1500 Alfa Romeos. I speak from personal experience' 'I consider the OM to have been one of the best cars I ever owned.' - high praise from such an experienced racer.
During Hopton's long term ownership of three decades the car was sympathetically and comprehensively restored. Hopton kept the SSMM until 1999, when it passed to another luminary of the collector car world Heiko Seekamp. In his ownership the car received a thorough cosmetic and technical restoration at the hands of Bernhard Huke. From then onwards the OM was a regular sight on the Mille Miglia Retrospective, on numerous occasions wearing the coveted number '1' and being first out of Brescia.
Seekamp retained the car for more than a decade before it was passed to the current owner, a passionate Mille Miglia entrant of many years who desired the ultimate early starting guaranteed entry to the race.
In this present ownership the car has continued to be actively campaigned on the Mille Miglia and also in a multitude of events across the globe, from exhibition at the St. James Palace Concours d'Elegance, and prize winning at the 2013 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance it has also just been displayed a few weeks ago at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, where it was awarded with the Mille Miglia Trophy. In addition to static events, it has been used at the Nassau Speed weeks and the subject of numerous articles in prominent publications such as Vintage Racecar in the U.S. All the while it has been fastidiously maintained, latterly by Simon Bish's SPB Historics regardless of cost purely with the concern that it be reliable and ready to be used.
Testament to its importance in the history of the marque the car is featured on the cover of Alessandro Silva's "OM - The men, the cars, the races", and prominently within the story of this interesting Brescia marque. Its extensive documented file, is not only fastidiously compiled but makes fascinating reading, particularly various 'as found' photos and the aforementioned correspondence. It also includes the car's British old buff log book detailing its post war history and an original program for the 1931 edition of the Mille Miglia, which charts this car's progress in that event.
Immaculately presented, with a pedigree rivalled by few cars of its era, it is ultimately its class win in the Mille Miglia in 1930 that will command the most focus as it enables its future owners to start right at the forefront of the pack for what is among the top, if not the most prized of all historic motoring events, and to relive successes of the likes of Bassi and Gazzabini on the arduous 1000 mile course.
Footnote - the car is currently domiciled in the UK and USA and is not subject to import duty.