The Ferret traces its lineage to post war Italy where countless metal working artisans pounded out swoopy bodywork on top of trusty Fiat mechanicals. Known collectively as Et Ceterini, these unique creations found their way to America and the welcoming arms of sports car enthusiasts enwrapped in a world of speed and daring.
Jan Mueller, a Detroit area enthusiast purchased a Siata (Societá Italiana Auto Transformazioni Accessori or Italian Car Accessory Company) powered by a 750 cc Crosley engine for an assault on the SCCA’s H Modified class. Under Mueller’s ownership, the 300 BC Spider would acquire a number of modifications to increase its competitiveness. With either Mueller or his good friend Bill Mitchell behind the wheel, the Siata appeared in races in the U.S. and Canada, including at several of the early U.S. road racing venues.
It was at the Cumberland Airport in the Spring of 1958 that our story would take a twist and give rise to the Ferret. Detroit racer and mechanic Lou Jeffries would occupy the cockpit that day. During the combined G and H Modified race, Jeffries suffered brake failure at the end of the back straight. His luck did not improve as he somehow managed to miss the haybales set out to catch errant racecars and plunged nearly 75 feet over an embankment. Despite rolling several times, the Siata came to rest “shiny side up” on the road below. Jeffries was a little worse for wear, having suffered numerous cuts, bruises and broken bones. He would spend the evening in the hospital before being released the next day. Somehow the rudimentary safety measures of the day, consisting of little more than a lap belt and a ”barely there” rollbar saved the day.
Once back to Detroit, Mueller set out to make something of the wrecked Siata. Along with Detroit area fellow racer and friend Peter Dawson, the two began salvaging usable pieces from the Siata and combining them with purpose-built bodywork and chassis. The Ferret would come together using the time-honored design practice of “chalk marks on the floor”. Together the duo competed at tracks as far North and West as Road America and as far South and East as Cumberland. Mueller and Dawson raced the Ferret and learned from it. Eventually the H Modified Ferret would be replaced by a G Modified car powered by an outboard motor and the original car would slip from view until acquired and restored by the craftsman at Big Iron Garage, who channeled the skills of those long-ago Italian craftsman who built the original Siata.
The entire car is aluminum and magnesium. Ray found the car just outside of Woodstock Georgia and it will be returned to its original condition with the ultimate goal of getting it back on the racetrack where it belongs.