A Mercury in Italy…

Peter Collins, Louise Collins, Mille Miglia

Peter and Louise Collins are sitting on the front bumper of their Mercury Station Wagon prior to the 1957 Mille Miglia. They are in the parking lot of the Marzotto brothers hotel used by Ferrari for the Mille Miglia and located at Manerbio, just south of Brescia. Louise Cordier King, as she was before her marriage to Collins, was a well-known American actress who had met and quickly married the young British driver only a few months before. She also appears in numerous other photographs at Ferrari, and before the Mille Miglia.

The Mercury had been purchased from amateur racer Edmund (“Ebby”) Lunkin who came from Cincinnati and regularly drove with his friends in “The Cincinnati Gang” of sports car racers when he was not flying one of his P51 Mustangs. It was a rather large car for the villages and roads of 1950s Italy.

In the Mille Miglia, Collins with our photographer Louis Klemantaski as navigator (they had finished a strong second overall in the 1956 race), drove a Ferrari 335 Sport. They set a new record pace, faster than that of Stirling Moss in 1955, but the transaxle failed at Parma with only about 80 miles to go.

Collins would die at the German Grand Prix in August 1958. Louise attended the Italian Grand Prix at Enzo Ferrari’s invitation in support of her late husband’s great friend Mike Hawthorn who would win the 1958 World Championship. In another cruel turn of fate, Hawthorn was on his way to London to see Louise when he was killed in a road accident near Guildford. Louise then returned to America and her acting career and lives today in Sarasota, Florida. The stories of Peter and Louise Collins and Mike Hawthorn have been lovingly told in Chris Nixon’s book Mon Ami Mate.

Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection



  1. jim sitz · · Reply

    Just the sort of prank that would Peter would do, His father had Ford agency in their hometown and he loved to drive Huge trucks, Even transported a racing Aston for the team to Geneva Auto Show in March 1955!
    When i arrived in Modena, May 1957 he and new wife Louise had Lancia Flaminia and so happy seemed to still be on Honeymoon,,their romance in Florida a brief one, introduced by
    Donald Healey in January and married within a few days, Think Peters parents bit stunned on his arrival home, Lancia was choice of most top notch drivers including Fangio, Behra and Musso. Exceptions were the drivers using cars from their native country like Hawhorn’s Jaguar, Masten Gregory
    in ’57 Chevrolet convertible. von Trips in Porsche cabriolet, etc

    Thanks for the memories,!

    Jim Sitz


  2. We are working on that book right now. The Klemantaski Collection will have a special limited edition of it.


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