Sunday, January 8, 2012

Frank Dominianni and the Nardi 'Boby Sport'

Reading through the new issue of Vintage Motorsport I came across an obituary for Frank Dominianni who passed in November.  In 1947 Dominianni opened Hi-Speed Power Equipment, one of the first speed shops on the East Coast, and he was soon taking every opportunity to test his products out on the track, most famously with a string of racing Corvettes.  Even though he was on a shoestring budget, he ran - and often won - against greats like Roger Penske, Dick Thompson and Don Yenko at high profile events like Sebring and Daytona in the late fifties and sixties.
 
Frank's name rang a bell, and not because of the Corvette connection - I had just happened to have come across a mention of him the day before while reading Nardi: A Fast Life by Dino Brunori and Andrea Curami.  Like many racers who went on to fame in heavier machinery, Frank Dominianni started his career in Class H.
The story begins in Torino in 1947 - the same year that Dominianni opened his speed shop in New York.  Enrico Nardi had just partnered up with salesman Renato Danese to fulfill his dream of building and selling his own race cars: the Nardi Danese Co. was born.  Their first output was a tiny 750cc racer called the 'Boby Sport' after Nardi's daughter.  Boby sported a smooth envelope body, a tube frame and was powered by an air cooled BMW motorcycle engine that had been heavily tweaked by Nardi.  The Boby Sport competed in a number of Italian races and its performance immediately made a name for the new company.
A few years later, Nardi had parted ways with Danese (who seemed to do a lot more talking than selling) and was experimenting with a variety of motors, including Crosleys.  Nardi's manifolds, steering wheels and other performance equipment were selling well and his sportscars were becoming a dominant force in the major Italian events like the Mille Miglia.  Meanwhile, that first Nardi Boby had changed hands, and was now owned by racer Berardo Taraschi who owned the Giaur auto company.  Taraschi made some modifications and continued to campaign the Boby - now rebadged as a Giaur!
In 1952 the 'Giaur' Nardi was sold to the US where Frank Dominianni took charge of it.  I don't know for sure if Dominianni was the one who dumped the BMW motor, but by the time the car was getting press in the US it sported a hot Crosley motor.  (It would make sense - I've read that he started off racing a Hot Shot.)  He began to race the Boby in 1952, entering it in hillclimbs, Watkins Glen and a bunch of other events before retiring the car in 1955.  A couple of years later he started entering hopped up Corvettes in B production races, and the rest was history.
Dominianni never went back to H modified racing, but he kept the 'regular guy' spirit that seems to be a hallmark of the folks who raced smallbore cars back in the day.  By all accounts he was a swell guy and lived a long happy life, falling into his final sleep at age 86 while sitting with his wife.  His Crosley/Nardi days never come up, but here's a link to a nice interview that gives you a sense of what Frank Dominianni was all about.  RIP, Mr. D.

(Thanks to Cliff Reuter at Etceterini for many of the photos!)

7 comments:

d a v i d e said...

amazing amazing amazing story. Had no idea!

Ol' Man Foster said...

Nardi was Turin-based... I should give you his address and see if the shop building still exists!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story this was something new that I learned about my dad. Thank you for taking the time out to write this story and post it. Best regards Beth

Ol' Man Foster said...

Beth- sounds like your Dad was a great guy! Glad you enjoyed the story...

d a v i d e said...

wow... "this was something new that I learned about my dad"...



OMF please do give me the address, even if I really think there won't be much left to see.

Ol' Man Foster said...

I'll check the Nardi book when I get home!

Anonymous said...

bonjour j ai retrouver dans le stock de mon père une boite a vitesse faites par monsieur nardi
une boite a vitesse toute en aluminium avec incruster dessus le nom suivant nardi torino avec des numéro dessus
si vous pouvez m aider a savoir a quel modèle de voiture elle étais j en serait heureux
mon email jm2002@live.fr
merci bonne continuation a tous