Compiled and edited by Bernard Martin
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...
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 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.
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.
The least experienced has over ten years of experience with these highly technical exotics, while some have been working on these cars for more than twenty. In a way, seeing these extraordinary automobiles on the Algar showroom floor is expected. 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, Ferrarishould be sold.
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!
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.