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The Original 1927 Mille Miglia

Updated on June 28, 2011

The history of the Mille Miglia is actually a bit complicated. The original races only ran from 1927 to 1957, the event was then continued as a rally event from '58 to '61, wherein the drivers would stay under the speed limit save for a number of predetermined stretches, but this toned down version of race was discontinued as well. In 1977, the race was revived in the form of, essentially, a parade, as opposed to a fast paced competitive race, and finally, in 1982, the original Mille Miglia was resurrected as a full-tilt endurance race, with cars produced between 1927 and 1957 competing for glory.

It began with that race in 1927, held from March 26th to 27th, when Ferdinando Minoia and his co-driver Giussepe Morandi beat out seventy seven other cars for first place in an Officine Meccaniche 665 S. It's not unusual for racers to finish the course in a total of sixteen hours these days, but at the time, Minoia's time of just under twenty one hours and two minutes was truly groundbreaking. While the starting line was dominated by the likes of Alfa Romeo and Fiat, O.M. actually claimed the first three spots, with the next cars crossing the line roughly twenty minutes after Minoia. They were followed shortly by a pair of Lancia Lambdas and an Isotta Franschini.

Officine Meccaniche - OM 665 SMM (1927) in 2009 Mille Miglia

Certainly, many considered it a shock that they had even finished the race in under a day, or at all, for that matter (of the seventy seven cars in competition, only fifty four actually managed to reach the finish line).

When the first Mille Miglia was held, it was unlike anything Italian racing had seen before. The racers involved had little to go on but speculation. This didn't stop them from boasting, as each driver seemed to believe his team to have some sort of special insight that would give them the upper hand. Nonetheless, the fact that many packed overnight bags shows just how little any of them knew to expect of the race.

The legend has it that this first race had somewhere in the neighbourhood of twenty five thousand soldiers lining the roads as people simply didn't know what to expect regarding spectator safety issues.

As night fell on the first race, spectators actually lit torches to help the drivers find their way. Modern race fans like to consider themselves part of the action, but it's safe to say, we've got nothing on these folks.

2009 Mille Miglia - just starting to get dark

Amongst the many relatively unknown racers who participated in the 1927 Mille Miglia was a young motorcycle racer driving a 3000 c.c. Bianchi. He went largely unnoticed, but after the race, having found a true passion for the four wheelers, he had promised that, one of these days, the world would know the name Tazio Nuvolari (and that's as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story).

Racecar drivers Tazio Nuvolari (5th from left), Luigi Arcangeli (6th from left) and Enzo Ferrari (7th from left) of Alfa Romeo with Prospero Gianferrari (1st on

While the Mille Miglias held since have had plenty of appeal to race fans, drivers, automakers and general petrolheads, the first race was a venture into uncharted territory: Seventy seven cars racing one thousand miles across Italy. The Mille Miglia set the precedent that still stands today, and while there are a few endurance races that go on a few miles longer than the Mille Miglia, the Mille Miglia did it first.

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