Sunday, January 8, 2012
Frank Dominianni and the Nardi 'Boby Sport'
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!)