Modern racing in the O’Connell family dates back to the late 1950′s and early 60’s with car owner & driver Augustus “Gus” O’Connell Jr., an Annapolis (United States Naval Academy) trained mechanical engineer and east coast sports car racer from Huntington Long Island, New York.
Gus O’Connell raced and fielded a Fiat Abarth Allemano “H” production sports car in regional SCCA races on the east coast at tracks such as Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, Bridgehampton Race Circuit on New York’s Long Island, Marlboro Motor Raceway in Maryland, Thompson International Speedway in Connecticut and Vineland Speedway in southern New Jersey. Early crew members consisted of girlfriend at the time Susie Cassin (later Susan O’Connell), and Susan’s cousin Denny Cassin along with high school friend Roger Ryan as race day support.
The #59; the number entered on Gus’ racecar was chosen to be symbolic. Only one number was considered, and it would be decided that the #59 would be run, representing the year in which Sue and Gus were married….1959.
Abarth: The Man, The Machines; the Abarth Allemano Spider was a hybrid, which explains its three part name. It was built on a Fiat 600 chassis by Turin coach-builder Allemano, but designed by the visionary Giovanni Michelotti (also from Turin). The car was definitively beautiful, with sleek lines. Abarth was primarily a race car maker and the company introduced the car to much acclaim at the Turin Auto Show in 1959. While a vast majority of Carlo Abarth’s offerings were closed cars, some of his clientele preferred open cars for racing competition. As such, he commissioned a Spider from Zagato based upon the 750GT. With Zagato’s initial designs drawing only limited appeal, Abarth turned to Carrozzeria Allemano, the Turin based coachbuilder famous for their work with Maserati throughout the 1950s. The result of their efforts was a Spider that was sleek and sporty while retaining a period Italian charm.