Compiled written & edited by Bernard Martin, Updated and re-editied January 18, 2023
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.
For 85 years the company built custom coachbodies for cars, from some of the earliest cars ever made to some of the most sought-after vehicles by collectors. During the early part of the last century, Derham bodies graced Duesenburgs, Packards and Pierce-Arrows – all crafted by hand in Philadelphia and Rosemont. Cars that rolled out of their carriage works chauffeured kings and dictators, Popes, presidents and movie stars like Josef Stalin, Pope Pius XII, King Farouk, President Eisenhower, and Gary Cooper owned Derham-built automobiles.
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 partnered with Luigi Chinetti to create an automobile importing company fundamental in giving birth to the East Coast American Ferrari Dealer Network. Luigi Chinetti was one of the key figures in Ferrari's early success in America. In 1949, Chinetti drove a 166 M to Ferrari's first win in motorsports during the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Chinetti had been appointed as the official importer of Ferrari cars to the United States in the late 1940s. Chinetti's passion for the brand, and his belief in the potential of American drivers and teams, led him to establish the North American Racing Team (NART) in 1958. NART was the only American team to ever compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and it was also involved in other international motorsports events such as the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona. The partnership between NART and Ferrari was key in promoting Ferrari in the American market, through the team's numerous racing successes and its lasting impact on the sport.
Chinetti and Garthwaite established 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.
In 1995, Garthwaite sold his business to Bob Segal, a young motorsport enthusiast who brought racing to Algar in the form of the Ferrari Challenge Series and sponsorship of Ferrari Club of America track events.
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 Ferrari of Philadelphia
2023 Update: FErrari of Philadelphia
In December 2021, RDS Automotive Group, a premier luxury and exotics dealership group owned by Robert DiStanislao acquired Algar Ferrari of Philadelphia and renamed it Ferrari of Philadelphia in keeping with the brand standards of Ferrari dealerships.
Throughout the Americas and world-wide, no other building has a richer history in the advancement of automobiles designed and crafted for the discerning motorist. It’s where the world’s greatest cars, Ferrari should be sold.
Both the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix and everyone at the Cortile is very pleased to welcome the great folks from Ferrari of Philadelphia as a sponsor at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix's Cortile!
This is a compilation of articles from a variety of sources and contributors. Attrition and sources are always provided at the top and/or the bottom of the posting.