Padua

22nd-25th October 2020

Padua

22nd-25th October 2020

26 Jul

LMX: THE FORGOTTEN FAIRY TALE

in: VINTAGE CARS
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No more than 50 actually hit the road, but the brief experience of Sirex crossed paths with lots of motor racing’s greats, starting from the designer Franco Scaglione. Every detail in this car had a touch of design; although it seems American at first glance, its story actually started in a shopping arcade in Milan, after a toy salesman met a visionary engineer. At the 2019 Auto e Moto d’Epoca, we’ll be telling the story of this car, which began half a century ago.

One of the men was Italian, the director of an important toy shop in Galleria Manzoni in Milan. The other man, half French, half Argentinian, was an engineer specialised in fibreglass cars with a backbone chassis. They first met in a nightclub in Milan and decided to build their own car. Giovanni Mandelli was born and raised in Milan, and it showed: he was proactive, efficient and creative. Always on the go. Jean Michel Liprandi was unknown to the public but he had already worked with some important names in motor racing: Panhard, De Tomaso, Abarth and OSCA.

For a few years, the two men experimented with ideas and solutions in a small workshop, starting from a chassis that Liprandi had brought with him from previous work. They first created "Limaplas” and then “LMX Automobile s.r.l.” (with a share capital of 5 million lire). When they were finally ready, they needed a final design for the bodywork. 

That's when we progressively start to see a cross-section of motor racing in the 1960s. The two contacted Eurostyle in Turin, which built unique models for selected clientele. Ivo Barison worked here - another forgotten name who was also significant in the world of motor sport. Barison took on the project and knew which strings to pull. In fact, Franco Scaglione also lived in Turin, just a short distance away. At the time, Scaglione was working with Alfa Romeo and Intermeccanica, but he was also available for work on other projects, although he could only provide the designs as he was not able to dedicate the time necessary to follow the engineering side too.

It was this legendary designer who brought Liprandi’s sketches to life and came up with the concept for the shapes of the LMX Sirex: a gran tourer that could be adapted to become a coupé and convertible. The Sirex also left its mark on its creator, because it was this car that went on to drive Scaglione’s stylistic thoughts, from the soft curves of the Alfa 33 to the sharp lines of the Intermeccanica Indra, which was designed afterwards. The Sirex became the link that connected the style of the 1960s with that of the 1970s.

The Sirex was officially presented in 1969: exactly 50 years ago. And it was very popular: people liked its shape, engineering solutions, powerful engine and reduced weight (it was made from fibreglass and the chassis only just weighed 74 kg). What's more, another great mind of motor sport history contributed to the turbo engines: the Swiss driver and engineer Michael May. May was the one who convinced Ferrari to move from spokes to allow rims, for example, and he also developed a turbocharger for six-cylinder Ford engines, which was then also adapted for the SIREX.

So, a success story?  Sadly not. The fairy tale came to an end. LMX Automobile S.r.l. ran out of money, or maybe someone was taking it, no-one ever found out. The company couldn’t keep up with the orders and ended up in liquidation. It was then purchased by a company from Alba that was specialised in customised off-road vehicles, but the new owners were more interested in the machinery than continuing to build the vehicle, and only went on to complete eleven semi-assembled chassis. After this, the LMX SIREX was consigned to history. Mandelli carried on with his life. Liprandi moved to Spain and continued to offer consulting in the field of motor sport.

Almost all of the fairy tale was forgotten. Even by experts and historians. But not by the LMX SIREX Registro Storico, which has put a lot of effort and research into rebuilding this piece of history that was “almost” lost, bringing it to the 2019 Auto e Moto d’Epoca. A ‘battle’ in the name of motor sport culture and, above all, an act of love by this car’s incredibly few but incredibly passionate enthusiasts. Although no more than 50 models of the Sirex were ever sold, in Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Spain, there are still some on Europe's roads today. And it would appear that they are incredibly exciting to drive, just like on day one.