The mystery of barn finds: The Ferrari without a Prancing Horse

  • 21 October 2023
  • 2 min read
  • 3 images
The mystery of barn finds: The Ferrari without a Prancing Horse image

Photo credit: Wheelsage

The story of the very first car built by Enzo Ferrari, the Auto Avio Costruzioni 815, which came into existence after his contract with Alfa Romeo was terminated, is well-known. However, what may not be common knowledge is the incredible discovery of the only known example of the two originally produced.

Emilio Storchi Fermi, known as “Barighin,” was a former footballer who, after retiring, focused on his passion for vintage cars. He worked for Domenico Gentilini, a businessman from San Martino in Rio who specialized in soap production through his company Panigal. “Barighin’s” role was to scour Italy for car parts or interesting vehicles to add to Gentilini’s collection.

The mystery of barn finds: The Ferrari without a Prancing Horse - 1Alberto Ascari at the wheel of Enzo Ferrari's first car. Only one acronym, 815, which was derived from the Fiat 8-cylinder 1.5-displacement engine.

In 1958, “Barighin” received a phone call from Milan informing him that a demolition worker had discovered a car that might be a Ferrari, but it didn’t have the iconic Prancing Horse emblem, displaying only a race number on the hood and the model number 815. Without wasting time, “Barighin” rushed to Milan, dressed in his finest suit. When he met the owner of the scrapyard, he learned that this mysterious “Ferrari without the Prancing Horse” was not for sale. Instead, it had been set aside for the aluminium in its bodywork, which was more valuable by weight than the steel in regular cars destined for demolition.

The mystery of barn finds: The Ferrari without a Prancing Horse - 2The 815 at the 1940 Mille Miglia. Two examples were entered in the race, but today only one remains known to exist.

With the savvy of someone accustomed to hunting for rare automotive gems, “Barighin” made a daring proposition: “I’ll buy it and pay for it as if it were made entirely of aluminium!” The scrapyard owner was incredulous, but the offer was too tempting to refuse. “Barighin” returned to San Martino in Rio with his precious find. To this day, and with no evidence that another example exists – given that its engine was destined for another racing car – the 815 remains the first automobile created by Enzo Ferrari, the one that participated in the 1940 Mille Miglia.

The car remained in Gentilini’s collection until 1976, when it was sold to collector Mario Righini. It is now housed in the Castle of Panzano, a small village that straddles the provinces of Modena and Bologna, just a few kilometres from where Enzo was born.

The mystery of barn finds: The Ferrari without a Prancing Horse - 3The Auto Avio Costruzioni 815 in its current condition as part of Mario Righini's collection.

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