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Bandini Automobili is an Italian automobile manufacturer operating between 1946 and 1992. It was named after its founder Ilario Bandini.
Founded in 1946 in Bandini’s hometown Forlì, the first Bandini used a modified Fiat 1100 engine, the body was made from hand hammered aluminum and the chassis from aviation-grade tubular steel. Many other post-war Italian sports car companies followed a similar design. But Bandini’s sharp mind, racing knowledge and his eye for detail ensured that Bandini cars were a force to be reckoned with in Europe and the US.
Interest in America surged when Bandini Siluros with their screaming 750-cc engines and wildly flared front fenders won SCCA class championships in 1955 and 1957. His slightly modified Crosley engines became famous thanks their DOHC Bandini heads. Bandini himself continued to race in Italy, including the Mille Miglia, while newer models were being built and developed at the factory.
One of these included the new 1957 Sport International "Saponetta". It was a two-seat sports car with a tubular steel frame and room for engines of up to 1.0 liter. The design of the car body was very striking. The smooth lines and petite dimensions gave the car the Italian nickname "Saponetta" (little soap).
The Formula 3 car of 1954 had disc brakes on all four wheels, following closely on the 1951C-type Jaguar. The Zagato bodied Bandini GT raced in Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring. The coupè by Corna was a 1000 cc and the engine was mounted in front.
Ilario Bandini was born in Forli Italy a farmer’s son. He was trained as a mechanic and in 1936 traveled to Africa where he made a small fortune. He returned to Forli in 1938 and opened his own shop and then a Lancia dealership.
His first racing car, produced in 1946, featured a fiat chassis (which was cut in half in order to avoid it being appropriated during WWII), a tuned Fiat 1100cc engine, and a handhammered aluminum body by Rocco Motto.
From then on he concentrated on producing purpose built racing cars to compete in races such as the Mille Miglia in Italy and the SCCA series in America. His biggest success in America came in 1955 (Gandolph Vilardi) and 1957 (Melvin Sachs) when a Bandini Siluro won the SCCA NationalClass H Modified championship. Ilario Bandini moved on to the Saponetta "envelope body" racer starting in 1957, these raced with 750cc, 850cc, and 1000cc engines. In 1959 he produced one of themost successful and beautiful Formula Juniors. Bandinis won SCCA Class HMod races well in to the mid 1960’s,
Alex Vazeos 1955 750cc Twin Cam Siluro was undefeated and won the SCCA Southwest Regional Championship from 1961-1963 and the
Mark Brinker Saponetta took 3rd in the National Hmod class in 1961. Bandini continued to make one off racing cars well into the 1980’s and the great "Drake of Forli" passed away in 1992.
75 Bandini cars were produced and 46 are known to exist in the world today. Ilario Bandini's Nephew, Dr. Dino Bandini, has honored his Uncles memory by creating the Ilario Bandini Museum in Forli, Italy.