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Momo De Sanctis steering wheel

The most likely rarest Momo steering wheel of all

Only little do we know about production numbers of pre-Momo steering wheels made by Moretti in the 1960s, the famous 1964 pre-Momo Montecarlo steering wheel or other early Momo steering wheels, the Momo Prototipo, Le Mans, Monza, Sebring and others. But there is one out there, a very early production steering wheel made by Momo – the rarest Momo steering wheel of all – and we actually know the exact production numbers. 

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Fifty, you heard that right. Fifty, five-ohh. Oh yeah. And if you wonder how many of these still exist, well, nobody knows. These wheels were made for Gino and his son Lucio De Sanctis by their mutual friend Gianpiero Moretti of Momo. He liked the design Gino and Lucio De Sanctis had in mind, thought about making it available to the general public, but it never actually happened.

Gino, respectfully called “Sor Gino” (Mr. Gino) was a motor racing legend already when he started to run a Fiat dealership together with his son Lucio north of Rome, Italy in the Mid-1950s. In 1958, when new new Formula Junior category was created, they’ve built their own Fiat-engine-based single seater race car, which was driven by Lucio, aged 21 at that time. In 1958 and 1959 he finished seventh in the Italian Formula Junior Championship in the De Sanctis rear-engined Formula Junior car. Gino and Lucio De Sanctis continued to build Formula Junior, Formula 3, Formula Ford and Formula 850 single-seaters. In 1962 and 1963, Geki Russo won the Italian Formula Junior Championships in a De Sanctis Fiat and in 1964, he won the first Italian Formula 3 title, again in a De Sanctis. 1966 was by far the most successful year for the De Sanctis team when one of the most promising youngsters in the circuit joined the team: Jonathan Williams. He became very close friends with Lucio, Gino treated him like a son. And that’s where Jonathan Williams got that rare, exclusive and extraordinary steering wheel from – the Momo De Sanctis. 

Momo De Sanctis steering wheel

Momo De Sanctis steering wheel

De Sanctis by Momo

De Sanctis engraving

Momo De Sanctis steering wheel signed by Jonathan Williams

Signature of Jonathan Williams

De Sanctis Roma Badge & Sticker

De Sanctis Badge & Sticker

Jonathan became one of the leading drivers in the Formula 3 in the De Sanctis, then powered by a Cosworth engine. In 1966 he won at Monza, Iola, Vallelunga, Caserta, Pergusa and the Garda Lake Grand Prix. However, he couldn’t win the Italian Championship since the series was reserved for Italian drivers. But he was also very successful in European races like Monaco, Reims and Villa Real.

At one point Jonathan Williams shared a London flat with Piers Courage, (Courage Brewing), Sheridan Thynne (family of Alexander, Lord Bath of Longleat notoriety) Charlie Lucas (Lucas Engineering) and Frank Williams – when he could afford it. Frank acted as mechanic on some of Jonathans ventures, though apparently he didn’t know one end of a screwdriver from the other – far better at, as it turned out, running his own F1 team. They stayed close and Jonathan was godfather to Frank’s son, named Jonathan, after him.
 
In the Italian Formula 3 season 1966, Williams caught the eye of the great Enzo Ferrari. From 1967 he had become a works driver seemingly out of nowhere and was given a lot of time behind the wheel: sports cars, Formula 2, CanAm, F1 tests. When Mike Parkes had his serious accident at Spa-Francorchamps, Ferrari needed a pilot on the fly and promoted Williams to be a GP driver. Perhaps Jonathan Williams should have turned down the tempting offer: although he did well finishing 8th in Mexico, the gap to his Ferrari teammate Chris Amon was too great for Enzo Ferrari’s liking. So Enzo  dumped him as quickly as he hired him, especially after Williams crumpled up a prototype in Modena. He also did most of the driver side development of the Dino, he had a background in engineering. 

Williams then kept his head above water with sports car races, film fans know him as the driver of the Porsche 908 camera car together with Herbert Linge in Le Mans in 1970 for Steve McQueen’s cinema film. Williams disappeared from the racing scene in the early 1970s, the death of his close friend Piers Courage had ended his enthusiasm for the sport, and for years no one knew where he was. Journalists were looking for him and found him in Spain where he died in 2014.

The general public knows little about him, Formula 3 has always been very important for motorsport, but only Formula 1 seems to have media significance. Jonathan Williams’ former ownership makes the already rare Momo DeSanctis steering wheel even more special, one that will of course stay in my collection.

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