The story of Ilario Bandini

Ilario Bandini was born in Forlì on the 18th of April 1911, from a family of farmers like many others in Villa Rovere. After finishing school, he started working as a mechanic and turner. Therefore, his life will soon cross paths with cars and with different roles in a constant presence. In alternate stages, he was a pilot, a trainer, a manufacturer and an entrepreneur. He did it with the classic Italian flair who pursuits his dream with fantasy and determination. A flair which kept him active almost until the age of 81. So his business activity ended with his death, even though, until the very end, he worked as if time, for him, would never stop.


The turning point that will determine the beginning of his success came at around the age of 40, as we can say, with a “double turn”. In fact, it is in the ’50 when the first Bandini cars arrived in the United States, in the hands of pilots such as Dick Gent and Bob Said, and with them also came the first successes. His cars were appreciated for their light weight and stability because of the patented frames made of special steel pipes of elliptical section. Tony Pompeo, the Italian-American importer, came up with the idea that those frames chassis might be even more competitive in the category up to 750cm³ fitted with Crosley engines. This would not be enough to Ilario, who also made changes to the thrusters in total respect of the regulations, revised the lubrication system, displacement, distributor, assembling everything in frames of only 18 kg and with the sinuous carbody by Motto, which perfectly matched the Bandini style.

So the 750 Sport Siluro was born and, with the exports, the productions also increased. Bandini earned the respect with success in overseas racings, the specialized press confirmed his value with covers and news reports. From that moment, Ilario, would take care personally of every aspect: project, style, testing, and ultimately defining the last details. In fact, from 1953, even the carbodies would be self-produced and the Crosley engines would undergo a radical transformation. At the end of the same year, he was fourth at the Italian 750cm³ championship.

In 1954, production of the Sport Siluro continued alongside the Formula 3, with a new line and significant mechanical evolutions. In the meanwhile in USA, in the SCCA championship, James Riley and Jim Pauley continued to take podium places in FM and HM class, in national and international competitions.

In 1955 Dave Michaels competing with a Bandini-Offy of 1.625 cm³ in the EM class (up to 2.000 cm³) won in Watchins Glen, fighting cars of larger displacement such as Ferrari Monza, Maserati, Cunningam and Ferrari Mondial. In the H-M category (up to 750 cm³) Dolph Vilardi won the American championship defeating competitors on Crosley Special, Renault, Giaur, Panhard, Siata, Nardi etc.

Ilario Bandini with Enzo Ferrari, 1964

These are the basis on which the entire work of Ilario Bandini then evolved: innovation ability, operative concreteness and willpower led him to become one of the most appreciated Italian manufacturers. That’s how in 1981 he received the honorary degree in mechanical engineering from the University of New York, while a Bandini car was exhibited at the Marconi Museum in Los Angeles and he received a medal by the Italian National Olimpic Committee as a “due recognition for many years serving Italian sport”.

In 1985 he took the wheel for the last time in Predappio on his own 1.300 16 valve. A few years later came his last creation, the Berlinetta 1.000 Turbo 16V that was completed at the age of 80, just before his death in Forlì in 1992. Ten years after his death, Forlì named a square in his honour.

This is only a summary of the life of a person who made of it the mean to make his dreams come true.

To know more about the human and sporting path of Ilario Bandini, you can look at the specific section on Wikipedia, which has been verified by the great-grandson Michele Orsi Bandini, currently CEO of Bandini Automobili.

The story of Bandini Automobili Forlì

The Bandini Automobili Forlì started its car manufacturing business in 1946, and ended it on the 12th of April 1992 with the death of its founder, engineer Ilario Bandini. The emblem represents a rampant rooster and a “caveja” typical of the Emilia Romagna region and symbol of the city of Forlì, placed on a yellow background with the Italian flag delimiting the lower side.

The story of this small car brand blends with Ilario Bandini’s life: pilot, manufacturer and honorary engineer. The business started with the intent of making racing cars, carving out its space particularly in the 750 cm³ displacement category.

It stood out for the ability of making in house frames, two-shaft engines and carbodies, despite the limited capacities and artisan dimension, and restricting to the maximum any collaboration with external companies. As a manufacturer, he contributed to the promotion of Italian style and creativity in the world. It is indeed in the United States of America that Bandini cars achieved the greatest sport success by winning the very popular national championships SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) in 1955 and in 1957 (runner-up in ’54 and in ’58) and those in the South-West region from 1961 to 1963, also competing in world championship for two-seat sport cars.

From the mid 1960s, upon suspending relations with foreign countries, the “Bandini Automobili Forlì” slowed down production but didn’t give up the new challenges brought by modernization, keeping up with the introduction of innovations to its own cars in terms of frames, engines, aerodynamic and style, with the same enthusiasm and passion for racings, peculiarity which reflects the profile of who built them, who lead them to race and who admired them.

The historical register recorded the existing Bandini cars and issued a certificate of originality to the 46 Bandini car owners in the world; a good part of these are in the US, but also in Japan, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Russian Federation and obviously Italy.

To see the produced models, please visit the specific section.

The production of new cars in "Continuation"

The activation of the “Continuation” branch has already been scheduled, with the first making of the Bandini 750 sport international model, known as “Saponetta”. It is a basic model on a racing version which is going to have an upgraded mechanic, while the style will only have a minimal evolution to guarantee a higher degree of safety. It could also be homologated, should there be an interest to use it on the road.

Here are the possibilities and differences of the various versions:

  1. Replica FR, Faithful Reproduction, it indicates the possibility of reproducing faithfully every part of the original one, wherever possible.
    • It is only made upon request and cannot be homologated.
  2. Replica A, Upgraded, it indicates the possibility of reproducing formally every part but with a modern mechanic.  
    • It is only made upon request and cannot be homologated
  3. Continuation P, Racing Use, it indicates the making of an upgraded model, like the Replica A version, but with better performance and with a line that recalls the original but is adapted to the necessary features.   
    • It is only made upon request and can be homologated as a one-off.
  4. Continuation S, Road Use, it indicates a further evolution  compared to the P version, able to provide more comfort and safety even for a “traditional use”.
    • It is only made upon request and in Limited Edition, can be homologated as a one-off or small series, according to the customization required.

To see the full list of the models included in the Continuation program, please take a look at the specific section.

For all of the other models there is only the option of making them as One-off.

The Models of the '900

The production capacities of the firm were the ones typical of an artisan activity. In fact, only 75 cars were produced in the ’50s and beginning of the ‘60s, all of which were developed for competitions. This aim requires that, in the majority of cases, the technical and style choices are inclined towards technical regulations, the natural developing process or the needs of the time, rather than following a specific market request. Therefore, it is more accurate to refer to them as “types” instead of “models”, since there are also significant differences in between units of the same model. These distinctive features along with some common ones, often make them unique pieces of a much limited and incomparable production. It is also possible to find some Bandini cars  which, over the years, have been equipped with different engines because of treading deals or simply to compete in other categories.

So the following types can be distinguished:

Each one of the types mentioned above is linked to a specific Wikipedia page where is possible to find detailed information. These pages have also been verified by Michele Orsi Bandini.