1959 Moretti-Branca Formula Junior Monoposto Chassis no. 020
- One of only five or six built
- One of only two known survivors
- 2008 Monaco Historic Grand Prix participant
- Very well documented
Update: The comment about Chassis No. 0020 is not correct. All the Formula Juniors has Fiat 1100 pushrod engines. Not Moretti twin cams.
Brainchild of Count Giovanni Lurani, Formula Junior started in 1958 in Continental Europe, where the FIAT-engined Stanguellini quickly established itself as the car to beat. Styled like a Maserati 250F, the Stanguellini employed a tubular ladder-frame chassis and was powered by a tuned FIAT 1100 engine, mounted in the orthodox position ahead of the driver. Formula Junior's elevation to international status for 1958 helped swell Stanguellini's order books, and the cars dominated European racing throughout 1958 and 1959.
Almost two full seasons passed before British manufacturers took a serious interest in the class, their arrival coinciding with the dropping of Formula 2 in 1960, a decision that elevated Formula Junior to the status of 'official' Formula 1 training ground. Many followed Cooper's lead and produced mid-engined cars, relegating the Stanguellini and other front-engined designs effectively obsolete. Although the British are widely credited with starting FJ's mid-engined revolution, one Italian manufacturer - Aquilino Branca - beat them to it, introducing his own mid-engined car for the 1959 season. Born in Buscate, Italy in 1924, Aquilino Branca had started out with a 500cc Formula 3 car, which was followed by designs for the Italian 750 formula that preceded Formula Junior. Branca's first FJ effort was front engined, but early in 1959 the mid-engined version arrived. Two of the latter contested that year's first-ever Formula Junior support race at the Monaco Grand Prix, driven by Aquilino Branca himself and 'Madero'. The cars were entered under the name 'Moretti', Aquilino Branca having (apparently) used Giovanni Moretti's premises and/or resources to build these early examples.
(Giovanni Moretti had built the first Moretti motorcycles, light cars and vans in the late 1920s and in 1945 established Fabbrica Automobili Moretti SpA in Turin as a motor manufacturer. By the early 1960s it had become apparent that manufacturing was no longer sustainable and the firm turned exclusively to specialist coachbuilding, reorganising itself as Moretti Fabbrica Automobili e Stabilimenti Carrozzeria SAS).
Following a split between the two men, subsequent cars were known by a variety of names: 'Moretti Special', 'Branca FIAT Special', 'Branca Moretti Special' or just plain 'Branca'. Branca's mid-engined Formula junior was constructed around a tubular spaceframe chassis, featuring wishbone/coil spring independent suspension, and powered by a FIAT 1100 engine driving via an inverted FIAT 600 gearbox. The Moretti-Branca FJ entered many prominent races in 1959 including Monza (6th place), Monaco (6th) place, Albi and Sicily. Only a tiny handful (perhaps five or six) of this type was built before Branca switched his attention to the newly introduced Formula 3 for 1964. Although competitive at Italian Championship level, Branca's F3 offerings made little impact on the international stage and the marque faded away in the late 1970s.
One of only two of its kind known to exist, the other (resident in the USA) being one of the two Monaco GP cars, chassis number '020' was built in 1959 and used by the factory for international Formula Junior events before being sold in 1960 to French enthusiast Jean Marie Bert. Mr Bert raced the car successfully for several years, achieving 2nd place at Mont Ventoux in 1960/1961 (photo on file) and 6th place in the Formula Junior race at the Monaco Grand Prix. He also competed at Lake Garda, Madrid, Rouen, and Innsbruck. The car comes with a typed letter from Branca confirming its early ownership history and competition record.
The immediately preceding owner bought '020' from Didier Marty of Toulouse, France in the 1980s and kept the car for some 20-or-so years before offering it for sale at Bonhams' Monaco auction in May 2007 (Lot 145). The Italian buyer restored the car, ensuring it conformed to FIA regulations, and entered it in the Monaco Historic Grand Prix in 2008. He continued to look after the Moretti-Branca until its sale to the current vendor.
The history file contains the following: Passaporto Tecnico CSAI; correspondence (1991) with the owner of the only other Moretti-Branca in the USA; assorted period photographs and restoration photographs; FFSA documents (1986); FIA documents (2007); and an Invitation application from the 'Automobile Club de Monaco' for the 6th Grand Prix de Monaco Historique.
Nicely restored, 'on the button' and ready to go, this Moretti-Branca represents a rare opportunity to acquire a pioneering Italian Formula Junior offering a relatively inexpensive entry into historic monoposto racing and eligible for inclusion in a host of prestigious events worldwide.