It was a rush job, to put it mildly. In Hans Tanner and Doug Nye’s authoritative ‘Ferrari’ it says it took ‘less than four months to design, build and test two cars.’ Interestingly one dissenting voice is none other than Ferrari himself who wrote in his autobiography ‘My Terrible Joys’ ‘…I did build just one car for two young customers of mine in the old Scuderia Ferrari workshop in Modena’. You’d think you’d be able to remember how many examples of your very first car you’d built, particularly when choice was one or two, but there you go. It is not the only statement in that book that, shall we say, gives Ferrari’s version of the truth. For there is no question that two 815s were built, designed by Alberto Massimino, one for none other than a then 21-year-old Alberto Ascari, the other for the improbably entitled Marchese Lotario Rangoni Machiavelli di Modena.
The urgency meant the car had to rely heavily on Fiat parts, particularly the Fiat 508C which provided the chassis and basis for the engine. This may sound strange to anyone wondering how a 1.1-litre four-cylinder turned into a 1.5-litre straight-eight. In fact it was mainly the head design they were after. A new block was cast which carried a Ferrari crankshaft and as many Fiat internals as possible. When finished, the motor developed around 75bhp which wasn’t exactly sparkling: Aston Martin was producing 85bhp from the same capacity with just four cylinders in the middle of the previous decade. The car came with independent front suspension, a live rear axle and a rather attractive body courtesy of Touring of Milan.