The sun is warm at Palm Springs, even in the winter. And it is shining brightly on December 3, 1955 as Carroll Shelby sits in a Scaglietti-bodied Ferrari 375 Plus owned by the mysterious Tony Parravano who is third from the left wearing a tan pit pass on his shirt. This car was a kind of special hot-rod built for Parravano who in those days was an important Ferrari customer. It had a 375MM chassis, but with Ferrari’s then most powerful 4.9 liter V12, as fitted to the 375 Plus factory cars. Shortly after this photo was taken Shelby started the Saturday race but crashed heavily and the Ferrari was badly damaged. It was subsequently rebodied by California aluminum export Len Sutton and was sold to Frank Arciero who gave a driver named Dan Gurney his first big car starts with it in 1957. But the weekend was not all lost. With the Ferrari sidelined, Masten Gregory won the big car race with Parravano’s Maserati 300S and Ken Miles won the 1500cc race with the Scuderia Parravano Maserati 150S.
Tony Parravano got the nickname of “Saturday Night Tony,” because he often would decide at the last minute to enter his cars in a race, often showing up after Saturday practice. Because of his tendency to work on his own cars, the Press also referred to him as The Man With the Golden Screwdriver. He had come to the United States from Italy in 1934. After the War he had some success in the construction business and bought his first Ferrari, a road car, taking delivery at the factory in 1952. Jack McAfee got Parravano interested in going racing and Scuderia Parravano was soon seen on Tony Parravano’s cars with McAfee the first driver. Parravano was making good money with his business in the mid-1950s, so he bought a number of Ferrari and Maserati racing cars and at one point had the largest such stable in America. The Parravano team also had access to the best drivers, in addition to McAfee and Shelby, including the likes of Ken Miles, Masten Gregory, Lou Brero, Bob Drake, Skip Hudson, and Indy drivers Jimmy Bryan and Pat O’Connor.
Parravano withdrew from racing after 1957. He was having various tax problems with the IRS, as well as conflicts with one of his business partners. He was about to gain a settlement of his tax problems in April 1960 when he suddenly disappeared, never to be seen again. He was then 43 years old.
Photo by Peter Coltrin ©The Klemantaski Collection