Genevieve Shows Her Teeth – The 1904 ‘Sharknose’

Genevieve Shows Her Teeth – The 1904 ‘Sharknose’ - Racing Daydreams by Colin Johnston

There’s nothing new under the sun, so they say. Still, I imagine that Carlo Chiti and Medardo Fantuzzi must have gazed upon their new Ferrari 156 and thought it rather unique. It was certainly striking and effective in 1961, and it has proven iconic – the ‘Sharknose’. However that wind cheating snout is not without precedent in motor racing….

Journalist Denis Jenkinson and engineer Medardo Fantuzzi

In the early years of the twentieth century the speed trials at Dourdan, south-west of Paris, was quite the event. A speed test for 2 & 4-wheel vehicles over a flying kilometre and a standing-start mile. Such was the class of the field that on three occasions the Land Speed Record was set at Dourdan; culminating in 1903 with Arthur Duray’s 84.73 mph run, on a Gobron Brillié Paris-Madrid machine. Duray and the Gobron Brillié were the first to raise the automobile speed record above the locomotive speed record, a landmark achievement.

In those pioneering days there were many approaches to attaining high speed, and if you couldn’t rely on sheer cubic capacity, then you had to get creative. Which brings us to the Ferrari 156’s French grandmother!

A Darrac "Sharknose" at the 1904 Dourdan speed trials
A Darrac light car is prepared for the 1904 Dourdan speed trials

A Darrac "Sharknose" at the 1904 Dourdan speed trials
A Darrac light car at the 1904 Dourdan speed trials

This is a Darracq light car at the Dourdan speed trials. The photographs are listed as October 1903, but the ’03 Dourdan meeting was in November. My hunch – not least because of the resemblance to the famous 1905 Darracq – is that this is the Dourdan meeting on 3 October 1904. Exactly 117 years ago… and 57 years before the artisans at Fantuzzi created Ferrari’s ‘Sharknose’.

Journal de Roubaix report, 5 October 1904

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