THE RESURRECTION OF 250 GT ELLENA S/N 0855 GT
Volume 45 Issue 06
Mar 14, 2020
The early Ferraris, specifically the Boano and the Ellena, were manufactured by Carrozzeria Boano and Carrozzeria Ellena.Each Carrozzeria during this time was competing for Ferrari’s business to manufacture their cars during the 1956 - 1958 era.There were 69 Boano cars manufactured and 49 Ellena cars produced, each having its own unique style, known as the “Low Roof and High Roof” cars. A few (seven to be exact) Ellen as initially made had the “Low Roof” configuration.
The early Ferraris, specifically the Boano and the Ellena, were manufactured by Carrozzeria Boano and Carrozzeria Ellena.
Each Carrozzeria during this time was competing for Ferrari’s business to manufacture their cars during the 1956 - 1958 era.
There were 69 Boano cars manufactured and 49 Ellena cars produced, each having its own unique style, known as the “Low Roof and High Roof” cars. A few (seven to be exact) Ellen as initially made had the “Low Roof” configuration.
As purchased by Bradley Balles in 1976
Many of the Ellena cars over the years have been reconstructed into LWB and TDF style replicas as well as used for replacement parts for other Ferrari cars of that era.
As a result, especially for the Ellena cars, the number of these cars originally intact today have been substantially reduced. Less than 20 Ellenas are known to exist in their original 1957-1958 design.
Ellena S/N 0855 GT, the subject of this article, has been lucky enough to survive in its original design, albeit in thousands of pieces by the time I got to it. So the story goes like this…
In August of 2014, a neighborhood friend was visiting my garage where I stored a number of my prized Yenko Camaro collection of cars. He is a Porsche guy so we had the usual exchange of stories on our passion for these cars.
After seeing my 330 GT S/N 8289 GT, that I bought from the original owner, he asked if I was interested in another Ferrari. The answer is always, of course!
He made a call to his good friend out of Reno, Nevada, so that we could discuss his Ferrari 250. The car was an Ellena, S/N 0855 GT, which had been in storage since 1976 when he acquired the car.
After some discussion and thinking about it for a day or so, I decided to go to Nevada to see the car and the parts that were available. Armed with some quick research from the internet and available pictures, off I went. I flew into Reno and made a quick drive to the Carson City area where the car was located.
We drove to a more remote, “off the grid” type place where there was a large tractor trailer parked next to a garage which was next to a mobile home.
The owner had to move the tractor trailer in order to gain access to the garage. Once he moved the tractor forward, the lift gate came down and inside the trailer was a completely disassembled 1958 Ellena body on a rickety moving skid with rollers and six crates of parts, as well as a few loose bins. Well, here it is…..now the fun begins!
Over the next two days, one by one, we uncrated all the parts, took pictures, investigated what was there and more importantly, I was making a mental note of what was not there.
As purchased by Ed Montini in 2014
I did not have an in-depth knowledge of these early cars, so trying to determine what was correct or not correct and what was missing was a bit challenging.
Once we had gone through all the crates, we rolled out the body and I searched for the chassis number on the frame and the body tag. All this checked out, including the chassis number on the motor and the correct production numbers on the transmission and the rear section.
Once done, exhausted from the events, I traveled back home to summarize everything that I learned and I tried to estimate what the value and the cost of the missing parts would be.
Some of the missing parts included the wire wheels, Houdaille shocks, radiator and louver, front bumper and seats. These were the major items that I had on my list. A grille was there but it was from another car, actually Boano S/N 0621 GT.
How did the current owner get hold of the car? The story goes like this….in 1975, responding to an ad in the FML, Bradley Balles, now living in Dallas, purchased the car from Mike Curley out of Pennsylvania.
Curley was known as the Ferrari junkyard guy, acquiring a number of vintage cars, swapping parts around and selling the cars off, either as projects or as whole cars. Balles bought the car because he wanted to cut the roof off and make the one and only Ellena convertible.
Shortly after his acquisition, Balles acquired a TDF and sold the Ellena to a gentleman living in California who now lived in Carson City.
Shortly after this gentleman purchased the car, he disassembled the car completely. Everything was taken apart and all the nuts, bolts, washers and loose items were tossed into about 30 coffee cans. Nothing was marked (at least when I got the parts in 2014), including all the wires disconnected from the fuse board.
The owner had every intention of restoring the car but time and health issues crept up on him and he decided it was time to sell and I was the guy to buy the car!
Parts to be sorted and identified
When I received the car and the parts at my home in Gilbert, AZ, my wife said “you paid what for this pile of rust and stuff!” OMG! Luckily I had shown her a picture of a finished Ellena prior to the delivery of mine.
First order of business was to validate the stampings again and, thanks to Marcel Massini, we were able to do so. Once that was checked off, we started on the restoration process.
Next order of business was to unpack all of the crates and lay everything out to organize parts that went together and begin to assemble the car and subassemblies on the floor in the garage.
All the parts were loosely assembled while identifying all the correct bolts, nuts, washers, etc., that were appropriate for the part. Once I got through that process and identified what was missing I began to list what was needed.
Next we made a make-shift dashboard, installed all the gauges, switches, fuse board, headlights, tail lamps, ignition, etc., and laid out the wiring harness. This allowed me to make some sense of the overall car electronics.
We applied a battery to the harness and began to trace out which fuses controlled what and how the dash was to be wired.
It also allowed me to see what needed to be repaired. Once this was sorted I sent the wiring harness out to be duplicated and had a new harness made for the car.
Stripping and inspection
While that was happening, the body of the car was installed on a rotisserie so that we could make a full inspection of the overall condition.
The left rear quarter panel had been hit sometime in the past and rust had found its way in the rockers and the lower six inches of the body.
Based on my research and with the help of FML, Cathy Roush was able to provide me with previous “for sale ads” of the car. These ads were from all around the northeast area, thus the rusty pieces.
The frame tubes and floors, as well as the inner fenders, were in near perfect shape. No evidence of any structural damage, just the rust that had crept in on the lower sides of the body.
To gain access to all the metal on the car we decided to pull the front and rear clip off the car. This allowed us to access all the internal metal, media clean it and epoxy prime (in and out, including the backsides of the front and rear clips).
After media clean and epoxy primer
Once cleaned up and primed, the original metal on the frame, floors, firewall and inner structure were in very nice condition.
Based on what we discovered during the media cleaning process, we made new rockers which are made up of three individual pieces, one outer and two inners.
Due to the rust on the trunk lid area we made a new lower section of the trunk lid by rolling new metal, shaping it and bead rolling a new partial inner structure.
Recreation of trunk lid
We also found that the hood had a substantial crease across it (thanks, Brad, for towing the car backwards!) and instead of trying to straighten it, we decided to make a new hood outer skin, which was rolled and molded to the existing frame.
Lots of detailed metal work was done to make the body fit perfectly, doors gapped with metal applied to the edges, and everything from doors, windows, trim, bumpers and lights were reinstalled to ensure a perfect fit as we progressed towards paint and final assembly.
One area of difficulty was the headlamp rings. They were severely damaged due to storage issues over the years, so I decided to have new ones made using a process called metal spinning.
To my surprise, there is a local company here in Chandler, AZ, that does this for a living. I brought my damaged ones to them and they worked with them to develop the engineering drawings to duplicate new ones.
Separately I had to make the tabs that mount the headlamp rings. When you decide to make one set of parts, you may as well make ten sets as the price is about the same, so now I have nine sets to sell!
Another challenge was the grille: the one I had was for a Boano (the slats are thicker than the Ellenas) and no two grilles are the same. After acquiring several Ellena grilles from a variety of sources (three to be exact) I resorted to making my own grille as none of the three grilles would work.
This was a real challenge, but what could I do? I needed to make a grille that fit into the nose opening and it had to fit perfectly as the Ellena cars do NOT have the rubber gasket around the edge of the grille to hide any surface imperfections or fit issues.
Once the grille surround had been worked extensively to fit perfectly, it was sent off for chroming. I told the chrome plater that the grille needed to be perfectly flat inside - no exceptions.
When I got the grille back, the opening edge was 1/4” larger than when I sent it out, so of course it didn’t fit!
They had applied so much copper to make it straight that the buildup on the edge grew, so we had to grind the edge, refit it, again, again and again, and then send it back for re-chroming.
The grille slats were cut from a 3-axis laser machine because the horizontal slat design has a slight curve and a 17 degree front leading edge taper. Another comprehensive set of engineering drawings were done to make the vertical and horizontal slats and of course, why make one set when you can make three sets for the same price!
The body side moldings that came with the car were original to the car based on the serial number stamped on the parts.
The side moldings were pretty banged up. They had been sanded upon, subjected to grinding and abuse, thus they were not usable for what I was trying to achieve.
So, using the engineering side of me, we made a complete set of body side molding engineering drawings utilizing the original moldings. We had the parts CNCd into six new pieces for the car. Once machined, we needed to fit them to the car and trim the front and rear to contour to the body.
They were exact to the original fronts and backs including the mounting designs on the back. Once they were trimmed to fit perfectly, they needed to be wet sanded by hand, then highly polished. They are aluminum like the originals. So, when making one set, why not make five sets, everybody needs a set of these, so I have some for sale as well.
Another major challenge on the restoration process were the seats. Everyone in the world was looking for a set of seats for me.
The seats that came with the car were 330 GT seats which I recognized immediately as incorrect when we first unpacked everything.
The search was on around the world until I finally had to bite the bullet and have a set made. Even the well-known manufacturers of Ferrari seats said “we can make you seats” but when I said I needed Ellena seats, they backed up and said “we don’t have patterns for that car”……ha, no kidding.
Starting with a friend’s Ellena, I was able to remove his seats (not the material) and take many measurements of all the tubing that I could see.
I also measured the leather patterns and did traces with Muslin cloth so that I could get all the detail on the pleats, bead rolls and design.
A good friend of mine builds custom motorcycles and he started the process of bending tubing to match the measurements and designs I provided.
Another Ellena owner in the Czech Republic was restoring his Ellena and he fortunately had his seats all apart and did paper tracings of all of the tubing, tracks, top, side and backs.
He also did a digital scan of the seats and with this data, plus more than two hundred pictures and measurements, we were able to duplicate the seat tubing, rails and overall size and construction.
My Czech Republic friend also had sent his seat springs out to have new ones made, so I tagged along and he made two sets.
Now I had seat frames and springs duplicated from another Ellena. As with everything else, no two seat frames are exactly the same for these cars, so some modifications had to be made along the way for everything to fit my car.
After a few times installing them in the car and making some adjustments for fit and function, they were ready to go to the upholstery shop.
Armed with hundreds of pictures of Ellena seats and a seat pattern that was traced out - what else did we need to finish?
I ordered all the leather material for the car from HVL, including the carpet, headliner and trunk material.
The final result on the whole interior is nothing short of amazing. I worked daily with the upholstery shop to get the results that we are happy with.
Thank you “Sonny G” for a great interior. Oh, one more thing - I have one set of seats we made, and I have the drawings.
With all this going on, the rest of the car was in process for restoration: the motor was out for a complete rebuild, the transmission was reassembled, and the rear section and axles were all redone. The brake cylinders were restored and the master cylinders, as well as other minor components, were restored to a high quality level.
As a side note on building parts for the car exact to the originals, we had to also make a rear view mirror that had the correct ribs on the back and the correct post and mounting bracket, as well as door and dash knobs.
It seems the knob styles used for the 1957-1959 years are one of those unobtainium items. I had a company make me three styles of the knobs; one dash type and two door types from the few originals I had.
With the knobs, inserts were needed to be made, taped and drilled to fit in the knob. Now I have about 100 knobs left to sell!
The body work was done over a period of 18 to 24 months, starting in the back of the car and working forward. It was a daunting task but taking it in steps was the only way to go.
Test fitting of body components
Several coats of epoxy primer were applied, with plenty of cure time to minimize any shrinkage in the prep work and ultimately the paint. The paint process was the most painful process to go through.
We had difficulty matching the paint after we had to do a small repair. That repair, after blending, did not match.
After multiple tries of the formula, we were at the PPG Color Lab in Cleveland, Ohio, looking for help. We ended up having to repaint the entire car as they were not able to match the original formula perfectly. The only solution was to repaint the whole car and buy a lot of paint.
In the end I can’t believe I made it through this! We are extremely pleased with the overall results - the efforts by everyone were extraordinary.
I’m such a hands-on person, it was important to me that I be the one to manage and perform the restoration, with necessary help for paint and body, interior and machine shop for the motor.
The rest of the assembly and restoration details, fine tuning, dialing things in, etc., was done by me. I did many, many hours of research and studying multiple original Ellena pictures and all of the small details in an effort to restore this car back to its original creation.
I documented my restoration over the years on Ferrari Chat under the Vintage Category. Search for Ellena 0855 GT and you can read more details.
We finished the car with a final three week push and help from my business partner Tom, from Classic Performance Restorations, and our crew to enable us to enter Cavallino 2020 and Mar-a-Lago 2020.
We received several awards and while we were on the Palm Beach Island, we had a photo shoot by Gunther Raupp from Germany for the 2021 Official Ferrari Calendar.
Hopefully we will make the FCA event in Montreal and potentially a visit to Pebble Beach.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
Congratulations to Ed Montini with awards