There is an undeniable historical link between the Philadelphia area and Marenello, Italy’s unparalleled world championship Formula 1 racing tradition. It begins with Luigi Chinetti Sr., the original United States dealer for Ferrari automobiles. The famous race car driver and American immigrant convinced his close friend Enzo Ferrari that tapping into American affluence was the ideal means to fund Ferrari’s most competitive racing effort. Timing was important. Italian teams dominated from the beginning of Formula 1 in 1950, winning eight titles in the first nine years. Yet, when a separate championship title was awarded to the constructors of the cars in 1958, only two titles were won by Italian racing teams – both by Ferrari – in the next seventeen years.
But we're getting a bit ahead of the story...
Derham Custom Body Company
In 1887 Joseph Derham opened Derham Custom Body Company and became known throughout the world as the coachbuilder of the finest motorcars ever produced. Founded by Joseph J. Derham, an Irish immigrant, the company catered to Philadelphia's Main Line, an string of towns in the city's suburbs where the affluent gathered in private clubs – on their sprawling estates – to escape the city's hustle and bustle. In the early days of the car, bodies and chassis were constructed separately. At the time it also wasn't unusual for a wealthy auto-owner to have an auto-body for both summer and winter months. Of the classic custom coach-builders, only Derham survived the Great Depression in the 1930s.
By the 1960’s, Derham Custom Body Company was deriving much of its revenue from retrofitting automobiles with fiberglass bulletproofing. Al Garthwaite had his eyes open for new opportunity. Al Garthwaite Jr. became the owner of Derham Custom Body Company in 1962 and renamed the company Algar, short for AL GARwaite.
In 1972, Garthwaite and Chinetti partnered to create an automobile importing company fundamental in giving birth to the East Coast American Ferrari Dealer Network. Establishing retailers from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River and through the lower half of Texas, the Chinetti-Garthwaite enterprise imported over 1600 Ferraris to this network through a distribution facility in Paoli, Pennsylvania.
The success of the Paoli-based distribution partnership contributed measurably to the restoration of Ferrari racing greatness. In a contest where dollars produce horsepower, Chinetti’s idea paid off with a Formula 1 title merely three years after the Chinetti-Garthwaite partnership was established. The Scuderia Ferrari team won the coveted Formula 1 World Championship three more times in the next four years. They won thirteen Formula 1 titles over the last thirty- three years and fifteen since the Constructors award was presented. The next closest competitor won nine.
Chinetti-Garthwaite partnership disbanded in 1980 when Ferrari established a factory controlled entity for US distribution. Under the name Algar Enterprises, Inc., (from AL GARthwaite) Garthwaite continued as a dealer for Ferrari automobiles.
It was a time when exotic car manufacturers and retailers were recoiling from the impact of a recession and the implementation of an ill-timed federal luxury tax. Maserati left the market in 1990 and Alpha Romeo in 1995, leaving Segal with a single brand in his show room. Yet, in the last half of the 1990’s, Ferrari was the automobile line to have. Pre-sold production runs and long waiting lists at the factory were common throughout the country. This trend continues today with waiting lists as long as two years for the current Ferrari product line up.
Algar’s long association with Ferrari gives them a unique distinction worldwide. Left over from the Chinetti-Garthwaite partnership, parts for many of the earliest Ferraris are only available from the stock held by Algar.
Every week, shipments of “new” old-stock from an inventory valued at over one- million dollars leave Algar to destinations like Japan, Egypt, Russia and even Italy.
If you own a vintage Ferrari in Algar’s immediate area, repairs made with these rare, factory original, out-of-production parts may be installed by a Ferrari-certified master technician that was repairing your classic Ferrari when it was new. Algar is rare among Ferrari service centers, having four factory certified master technicians on staff.
Both the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix and everyone at the Cortile is very pleased to welcome the great folks from Algar as a sponsor at the 2014 Cortile!