My mystery car: Formula Junior

A while ago I stumbled upon a beautiful Formula Junior, which I do not have much experience with yet. Nevertheless, I followed my intuition and bought it somewhere in Belgium. Because a car is never just any car to me, I went in search of the story behind this unique vehicle. Looking for the history, I found on the website of the Formula Junior Historic Racing Association a section "Mystery Cars" with my Formula Junior on it. However, I wanted to find out more about the past of this beautiful car.

The story of my Formula Junior

So, I put the picture on Facebook, hoping to fill the gaps. Soon, an Italian friend - Cosmo De Candia - sent me a picture of the same car on the 2018 Modena circuit. But who is the mysterious driver, and the woman with camera?

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The mysterious lady turns out to be the official photographer of the circuit. When she sees the photo, she immediately recognises herself and contacts my friend. Of course, she remembers that car without a hump! In the list of participants, she finds the driver: Elis Garuti. His son Christian confirms that the car belonged to his father, and that he sold it in Belgium after his father died at the beginning of this year. His father worked as a talented coachbuilder at a renowned body shop that made bodies for various designers. And part of the mystery was revealed!

I then met with a well-known Italian historian, Patrizio Cantu. You would hardly believe it, but he too knew the story of the car. He even had pictures of it and moreover he knows the skilful place manager and technician... ELIS GARUTI!

He bought the car with a Peugeot engine, later converted to a Fiat 1100 engine as first foreseen, but the basis is a NARDI FORMULA JUNIOR.

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Why a NARDI?

The story starts in the sixties. Enrico Nardi was a designer who worked with the young bodywork company MOTTO. In November 1959 he was visited in his workshop by one of the biggest VW-Porsche dealers in the US, Hubert Brundage. He noticed a drawing of a tubular chassis for a "hypothetical" Formula Junior.

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Brundage ordered 2 of these cars with a VW engine and sent them to Italy as VW-KEVER 4. But due to lack of power, only the typical VW front suspension and gearbox were retained. The heavy hood that originally covered the engine was removed. The car won some races in Florida and Nassau, but VW management forbade the dealer to race "specials" built with VW parts.

Brundage sold the car for a symbolic dollar to Bill Duckworth and George Smith of Orlando who had the intention of building new Formula cars with VW engines in fibreglass: the Formula VEE was born! After approval, the car raced successfully for several years in the US and Europe.

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All's well that ends well

The conclusion? The basis of all these FORMULA-V cars is the tubular monoposto created in 1959 in the design studio of Enrico Nardi, probably in collaboration with Carrozzeria Motto. Our Formula Junior is a prototipo later converted by Garuti with a Fiat 1100 engine and VW gearbox.

And our story is complete!

With special thanks to:

  • Cosmo de Candia
  • Christian Garuti
  • Patrizio Cantu
  • The photographer of the Modena Circuit

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Footnote: In Brundage's notes I can find only 1 Nardi Formula V in the USA. This one has been sold later and searched for. Did only 1 Formula leave for the USA? Is ours the 2nd one which was used for testing and later stayed here? It remains a mystery. But that’s what makes the story as beautiful as it is.