Wilfredo Ricart, the design director for Alfa Romeo between 1936-45, was a man who crossed swords with Enzo Ferrari many a time.
Ricart left Alfa Romeo to join ENASA, a Spanish motor vehicle manufacturing company incorporated in 1946 after having bought the automotive assets of the Spanish Hispano-Suiza and the Italian Fiat in Spain. It produced trucks, buses and military armoured vehicles under the Pegaso and, for a short while, Sava brands.
Although the prime objective of ENASA was commercial vehicles, Ricart still hankered a desire to build the ultimate sports car. Can you imagine Ferrari’s reaction?
To achieve his aspiration, he recruited Ettore Pagani, his chief draughtsman at Alfa, plus some other key personnel.
Ferrari and Ricart had very different philosophies, as revealed in Enzo’s autobiography. When the Spaniard returned home to take up the reins at ENASA, the newly formed national commercial vehicle company, he harboured ambitions to finally make his mark in the automotive world with the ultimate sports car.
Then he proposed his plan to Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator, to build a sports car to rival any country, particularly Italy, where Ferrari was developing a new V12 road car. Ricart’s unhealthy resolve became almost irrational; he would go to any length to take the spotlight away from Enzo.
The result was the super-exotic Pegaso, a technical wonder built in the old Hispano-Suiza factory in Barcelona, La Sagrera. The Pegaso was unveiled to the world at the 1951 Paris Motor Show. It received a rapturous response from the motoring press and public alike.
To expose the Pegaso’s impressive specification, a show chassis and a body made from Perspex proved a magnet for enthusiasts at international events, including Paris, London and New York in 1952.
The Pegaso name was Ricart’s idea, but the mythical flying horse had to be redrawn without wings for the badge after worries of legal action from American petrol giant Mobil.
Ricart had a reputation for a focused mind with a deaf ear to criticism; this intolerant behaviour was his ultimate downfall. In 1956 the last of only 86 Pegasos were built.
To see Ricart fail wasn’t enough for Mr Ferrari; in his autobiography, his critical assessment was mocking and dismissive.
Widely felt that had Ricart been less ambitious, Pegaso could have succeeded, and La Sagrera might today be as hallowed as Maranello.