At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

18 April 2017

Ilario Bandini - racing car maker

Farmer's son who created beautiful and successful cars

Ilario Bandini, the car maker, pictured in 1988
Ilario Bandini, the car maker, pictured in 1988
Ilario Bandini, a businessman and racing driver who went on construct some of Italy’s most beautiful racing cars, was born on this day in 1911 in Villa Rovere in Emilia-Romagna.

His cars won races in Europe and America and his designs earned the respect of the great Italian performance car maker Enzo Ferrari.

Bandini was from a farming family but was fascinated with cars and motorcycles and began to work part-time as a mechanic while he was still at school, eventually becoming an apprentice in a workshop in nearly Forlì.

At the age of 25 he took the bold decision to move to Eritrea, then an Italian colony, in northern Africa, where he repaired trucks and in time set up a transport business, which was very successful.

The venture made him enough money to open a garage in Forlì. when he returned to Italy in 1939, running a repair workshop alongside a car rental and chauffeured limousine business.

Bandini at the wheel of his first car, the Bandini 1100
Bandini at the wheel of his first car, the Bandini 1100
At around the same time, he began to compete in motorcycle races, soon graduating from two wheels to four. In 1940, he took part in the Mille Miglia, the 1,000-mile road race from Brescia, near Lake Garda, to Rome and back, driving a Fiat Balilla.

Bandini built his first car almost by accident.  In his possession during the Second World War was a Fiat 1100, which he cut apart and hid to avoid it being requisitioned by the German army.  He began to reassemble it after the war but made adaptations as he did so and equipped the chassis with an entirely different body, made in aluminium by the Turin coach builder Rocco Motto.

He felt entitled to call the car the Bandini 1100, which thus became the first car – “La Prima” – to carry the Bandini name. The small, two-seat car was notable for its elegant, curved lines.  Driving it himself, he finished second in the Predappio to Rocca delle Camminate, a road race held just outside Forlì.

The Bandini badge Ilario placed on the car featured a bantam rooster crowing, the symbol of the town of Forlì.

The 1100 Siluro, which brought Bandini his first race victory
The 1100 Siluro, which brought Bandini his first race victory
More cars followed. His 1100 Siluro, so-called because of its torpedo-like bodywork, gave him his first win in the Giro dell’Umbria, encouraging him to produce purpose-built racing cars to compete in races such as the Mille Miglia in Italy and the SCCA series in America. They were soon a force to be reckoned in Europe and the United States.

The model that established his reputation was the Bandini 750 Sport Siluro, a tiny sports car that he produced between 1950 and 1956. The car used a modified inline four cylinder Crosley engine, produced by Powel Crosley Jnr, an industrialist from Cincinnati, Ohio, who owned the Cincinnati Reds baseball team.

The 750 Siluro was versatile enough to contest all kinds of events, from hill climbs to road races, airbase circuits and endurance events.

In America, the Siluro won the SCCA class championships in 1955 and 1957 and claimed many other victories in different categories on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Bandini badge, featuring the crowing bantam, symbol of Forlì
The Bandini badge, featuring the
crowing bantam, symbol of Forlì
Known to his friends as Lili and sometimes referred to as the “great Drake of Forlì”, Bandini never moved into mass production cars.  There were 17 different models but all of his vehicles were one-offs, in effect, which is why only 73 Bandinis were ever built.  His final car, the Berlinetta 1000 Turbo 16V, was finished shortly before his death in 1992 at the age of 80.

Extraordinarily, Ilario was still getting behind the wheel to compete himself even into his 70s. He drove his 1300 16Vi in the Predappio hill climb in 1985, at the age of 73.

Members of Bandini’s extended family have preserved the memory of his achievements in a museum established in his last workshop in Forlì., which has many documents relating to his career and 10 Bandini cars, considered to be representative of the development of the marque. There are thought to be 46 surviving Bandinis, owned mainly by Japanese and American enthusiasts.

Travel tip:

Villa Rovere was a hamlet at the time of Ilario Bandini’s birth. Situated some 13km (8 miles) west of Forlì, it is now part of the city’s metropolitan area, almost a satellite community.  Forlì itself is a wealthy city with thriving clothing and footwear industries and a number of notable buildings, including the Basilica of San Mercuriale in the central Piazza Saffi, the Pinacoteca Comunale art gallery and the Rocca di Rivaldino, once the fortress stronghold of the redoubtable Caterina Sforza.  Local restaurants are notable for Romagnolo cuisine.

Hotels in Forlì from

The Bandini Collection is housed in a museum in Rovere
The Bandini Collection is housed in a museum in Rovere
Travel tip:

Ilario Bandini’s achievements were recognised in 2002 – 10 years after his death – when in a special ceremony in Forlì, a square just in front of the city’s railway station was renamed Piazzale Ilario Bandini in his honour.  The museum – the Collezione dell’Automobile Brandini – can be found in Via del Braldo in Rovere, although note that viewings are by appointment. 

Forlì  hotels from Expedia

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