Hans Tanner – Ferrari Historian

Hans Tanner, Ferrari, Monaco

Hans Tanner

The somewhat mysterious gentleman with the dark glasses standing at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1960 is non other than Hans Tanner. Who was Hans Tanner you might ask?

Hans Tanner was a somewhat mysterious Swiss, born in 1927, who came to light and fame as an automotive historian, quasi-journalist and “fixer” through his various Continental automotive contacts, especially for those Americans who came over to compete in the European racing world of the 1950s and 1960s. He offered access and guidance to dealing with Ferrari, Maserati, OSCA and others. Tanner had close relationships with Phil Hill and Mike Hawthorn, as well as many other drivers. He divided his time between Modena in Italy and Los Angeles where he eventually moved.

Tanner is perhaps best known as an author of The Ferrari, the first serious book in English about the cars from Maranello, published in 1959 and afterwards revised and expanded by Tanner and Doug Nye. He also wrote several other books and numerous magazine articles, many of which were illustrated with photographs by the famous lensmen of the day, such as Louis Klemantaski and Peter Coltrin, another famous Modena resident, both of whose archives are now part of The Klemantaski Collection. Other Tanner books include the Maserati Owner’s Handbook and Ferrari and Maserati in Action.

In his later years in Los Angeles, Tanner stayed involved with the Ferrari world that he had had a hand in creating, but also got involved with firearms. In 1975, diagnosed with cancer, he fatally shot his then girlfriend and himself, ending what had been an interesting existence with tragedy.

Photo by Ami Guichard ©The Klemantski Collection

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14 comments

  1. […] formula 1Hans Tanner – Ferrari Historian Hans Tanner The somewhat mysterious gentleman with the dark glasses standing at the Monaco Grand […]

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  2. stephen griswold · · Reply

    Nice photo. i remember when he gave me the Tanner trophy at Pebble beach ( Ferrari 212 Export Touring barchetta 0158ED),The only time he personally gave it, next year he was dead…sad and a long time ago.
    What has long been forgotten is that the idea for the Tanner Trophy was performance on the track and beauty. I finished that day just behind Chris Cord in the 122LM at Laguna Seca. Too bad that this part has long been forgotten and now it is paint and finish only that count.

    Ciao From Italy Stephen

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  3. Jim Sitz · · Reply

    Hans Tanner..i knew him in Modena. then coming top Los Angeles he obtained guns from Fred Datrig(a local sports racer in 1953) and thus became gun runner for Castro in Cuba,.This has beendocumented, My old Boss, Harry Morrowm the founder of AUTOBOOKS told me there was
    a price on his head!

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    1. At an early point in my dealings with Hans I was fully aware he could sell sand to the Arabs or winter to the Eskimos that said he was a real charmer. His automotive knowledge is legendary to put mildly though some of his “facts” fitted his needs. One fact that has slipped into the grey past is—Hans could not drive and never had a license! Being with Hans was one part automobilia, one part of eating and drinking good food and ten parts pure fun!

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  4. Being with Hans was unreal as well as he was unreal… For a young newbie to the world of Ferrari Hans always tailored your experience in special ways. When he was in New York he hung around Luigi’s Ferrari store spinning tales and always awaiting an offer to be taken for a meal–as a matter of fact he did this everywhere… I do not want play down his automotive knowledge, he could spin your mind, he was a walking encyclopeda. If he did not know the fact well… It was always fun to be with him–see the photograph of him and me in Venezuela in my book American Racing. In the 50s Hans was part of the scene and I will never forget him.

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  5. Graham Gauld · · Reply

    Glad to see you are remembering Hans as he was a true character. I have two fond memories of him. Firstly in the Fini Hotel the night before the Modena Grand Prix. Everyone is having a drink and the television is on. They are showing the United Nations and the Secretary General Dag Hammarskhold is giving a speech at which Louise Collins called out “There;s Daddy” because her father was Hammarskhold’s private secretery. At this Hans wandered ovever and casually asked Louise if she was going to the ball after the race. |When she said yes he remarked ” I will be there also wearing my tightest blue trousers!!!!!”
    On another occasion I was at the Maserati factory and was about to go in when Hans came out with Temple Buell as Hans had done the negotiations for Temple to buy a couple of 250F Maseratis. Just outside the door were two Aladdin Pots about four foot high and Temple remarked about them to which Hans, ever interested in commerce, remarked ” I can get a couple for you at a great price”

    We need more Hans Tanners. He underlined a happy period in racing

    Graham Gauld
    Claviers France

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    1. Graham that is/was the “Hans” we were amused by, staggered by, impressed by, the consummate hustler and some of us even loved him. Hans had a gift of “Verbal slight of mouth” and used 24/7. Right now without a doubt he’s looking up/down at us and laughing heartily…

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  6. Pamela Spengler-Tanner · · Reply

    Hallo zusammen
    Ich bin die Nichte von Hans Tanner aus der Schweiz.
    Grüsse Pamela Spengler-Tanner aus Schaffhausen

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    1. Jennie Avni · · Reply

      Pamela Spengler-Tanner, I would be interested in speaking with you sometime. I am his daughter.

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      1. See an email sent to you tonight.

        THE KLEMANTASKI COLLECTION
        http://www.klemcoll.com

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  7. jim sitz · · Reply

    Tanner was involved in guns and even providing them to Castro in Cuba
    he came to Los Angeles for them, to the home of Fred Datig, Jnr, who never had
    any visable means of support but bought pair of D.B, race cars for he and his father
    I knew Hans from Modena, in fact he still owes me money for photos in his book
    “Ferrari & Maserati in Action” pub in 1957.!

    Jim Sitz

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    1. As I’ve said before Hans was a serious character to say the very least. He once took me for diner—I paid of course, Hans was independently poor—to a friend’s restaurant with a large plate glass kitchen in its center where the chef cooked solely with a gigantic blow torch. At Sebring Hans was in his element, the Ulemanns loved him with his swarmy continental ways they were addicted to. Yes, Hans was a “Pro”, a mystery man and real fun to be around…

      Tom Burnside

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    2. Rainer Nyberg · · Reply

      Tanner provided arms to COUNTER-revolutionary Groups on Cuba and not for the Castro regime.
      He wrote a book (his diary notes) about it: Counter-Revolutionary Agent – Cuba (1962).

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  8. It’s too bad his life became too much for him…

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