It Began With 12s...
When thoughts turn to the classic Ferrari sports racing cars of the 1950s, and the engines that powered them, it’s only natural to think of twelve cylinders. After all, these were the cars whose success in international competition gained Ferrari worldwide recognition and respect and, as entered by the Factory or Factory-backed distributors, they came with a bewildering array of twelve cylinder power plants.
In the earliest days, V-12s with displacements of 1.5, 1.9, 2.0, 2.3, and 3.3 liters were used, followed in 1951 by the 2.6 liter 212 Exports and 4.1 liter 340 Americas. The first V-12 displacing three liters won the 1952 Mille Miglia, which gave rise to the 250 MM series of berlinettas and spyders of 1952 and 1953. The 2.7 liter 225 Sport coupes and spyders were also introduced in 1952.
By the mid-1950s, Ferrari was fielding twelve cylinder competition cars displacing 3.0, 3.5, 3.8, 4.0, 4.5, and 4.9 liters, using both single and double overhead cam designs. Considering the small size of the young company during those formative years, the mixture of twelve cylinder engines designed and produced for street or racing use by Ferrari is nothing short of remarkable.
The In-Line Fours...
But not all Ferrari competition sports cars from those early days used twelve cylinder engines. From 1953 through the 1956 season, the Ferrari works team included four cylinder cars. Concurrently, Ferrari made an interesting assortment of four cylinder cars available to privateers who, more often than not, turned in surprisingly successful results, mainly on American and European tracks.
The four cylinder parade began in 1953 with the introduction of the 625 TF on June 29 at Monza, a 2.5 liter in-line four which was directly descended from the contemporary 625 Formula One engine. A spyder and berlinetta were built by Vignale. In the same race, Ferrari introduced another new four cylinder Aurelio Lampredi engine, the 2.9 liter 735 S, with coachwork by Autodromo of Modena.
The next Ferrari four was the two liter twin cam 500 Mondial, first seen in Morocco at the Casablanca 12 Hour race on December 20, 1953, where Luigi Villoresi and Alberto Ascari rode it to a remarkable second overall finish. This newest Ferrari engine by Lampredi was developed from the 500 F11 motor, Ferrari’s two-time Grand Prix Champion and, beginning in 1954, was sold to Ferrari’s racing clientele in Pinin Farina spyder and berlinetta form, or as a Scaglietti spyder.
A new three liter four cylinder motor, which came to be known as the 750 Monza, also first appeared in 1954, but at the Supercortemaggiore 1,000 kilometer race at Monza on June 27. Fitting the pattern established by the earlier fours, this motor was derived from Ferrari’s 553 Formula One engine intended for the 1954 season.
Other variations on Ferrari’s four cylinder theme included the 857 (also known as the 354 S) and 860 Monzas, which were 3.4 liter engines intended for the 1956 sports car calendar, but first seen in 857 guise in September of 1955 at the Tourist Trophy event on Ireland’s Dundrod circuit. Ferrari’s 860 Monza was initially raced in the 1956 Sebring 12 Hours, where Juan Manuel Fangio and Eugenio Castellotti were first home in s/n 0604 M.
And then, early in 1956 as a replacement for the two liter 500 Mondial, came the four
cylinder Testa Rossas (the V-12 TRs were still more than a year away). This latest four cylinder Ferrari, which was intended for customers to use against the proven two liter Maseratis, first raced at Dakar, Senegal, on March 11, 1956, where Jacques Swaters took the first car built, s/n 0600 MDTR, to a victory in the two liter class and an eighth place finish overall.
Ferrari called it the 500 Testa Rossa, the 500 indicating that each of the four cylinders displaced about half a liter, or 496.21 cubic centimeters to be exact. The engine, which was based, of course, on the very successful 500 Formula Two motor of Aurelio Lampredi, took its Testa Rossa name from its red painted cam boxes. Between February and June of 1956, Ferrari and Scaglietti produced seventeen examples of the new Testa Rossa, for sale to independently funded racing teams and private clients.
In addition to those seventeen Testa Rossas, Ferrari built three cars on 500 TR chassis for a special 2.5 liter class, created by the organizers of the 1956 Le Mans 24 Hour race. These Touring bodied spyders, the last Ferraris with Touring coachwork, originally received two liter four cylinder 500 TR engines for the Supercortemaggiore GP at Monza on June 24, but for Le Mans in July, Ferrari equipped them with engines displacing 2,498 cc, making them 625 LMs. This was the only time they raced in 2.5 liter form, and after the 24 hour race, all three were returned to 500 TR status and sold to customers. &nbs p; &n bsp; &nbs p; &n bsp; &nbs p;
The 500 TRCs...
For the 1957 season, Ferrari chose to compete with both four and twelve cylinder Testa Rossas. The three liter V-12s comprised the works team, while the four cylinder cars, now called 500 TRCs in reference to a new set of rules, were for Ferrari’s clientele. These new regulations, included in Appendix C of the international rules for sports car competition, as promulgated by the Commission Sportive Internationale of the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile, required, among other things, a full width windscreen with wipers, a passenger side door, a convertible top, and a 120 liter fuel tank
Mechanically, this new four cylinder Ferrari was identical to the earlier 500 TRs but, as realized by Scaglietti, the new body was slightly lower than that of its predecessor, and is generally considered one of the most beautiful competition Ferraris ever built.
The Last Of The Last...
The 500 TRC was destined to become the final four cylinder race car built by Ferrari, and the only four cylinder car to follow it was the little 850 cc Ferrarina of 1959, and its off-shoots. Just as had been done with the 500 TRs, Ferrari and Scaglietti built seventeen TRCs, plus three other cars using TRC chassis but fitted with 2.5 liter 625 engines. The last 500 TRC built, and the last competition four cylinder sports racer developed by Ferrari, was s/n 0708 MDTR, which is the car featured on these pages. Owned today by Chantal Chamandy of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, you can expect to see this final Testa Rossa competing in vintage races and Ferrari Historic Challenge events.
An Old Tale, But True...
As was so often the case with the 500 TRs and TRCs, s/n 0708 MDTR led a less than charmed life, being saddled at one point with Buick V-8 power, as well as both 625 and non-original 500 TRC Ferrari motors, but today the silver spyder is all back together, the chassis and body having been reunited with the original engine. How it came full circle, and the adventures it encountered and the treatment it received along the way, illustrate how the popularity of many old Ferraris has ebbed and flowed down through the years.
Ferrari finished s/n 0708 MDTR in September of 1957, and dispatched the car to John von Neumann’s west coast dealership, Ferrari of California, too late for most of that year’s racing schedule. In fact, the last TRC did not find its first owner until the following August 29, when it was sold for $11,232 plus tax, to Jack Nethercutt of Sylmar, California. While it missed most of the 1958 season as well, Nethercutt made up for lost time in 1959 by running s/n 0708 MDTR up and down the West Coast in at least thirteen events, with mediocre success. But after only three races in 1959, Nethercutt replaced the original two liter engine with the 2.5 liter 625 unit from s/n 0672 MDTR, engine s/n 0708 MDTR going to Jean-Pierre Kunstle who used it in his Lotus 15, which he called the “Ferrotus”. The following season, Nethercutt apparently took the car out only once before selling it, engineless, to Lewis Kenner of Thousand Oaks, California, on February 18, 1961. &nb sp; &n bsp; &nbs p; &n bsp; &nbs p;
The first thing Kenner did with s/n 0708 MDTR was to drop in a Buick V-8. Eleven years later, Kenner sold the car, still with Buick power, to California car dealer Peter Boyd, who quickly resold it to Ed Niles, then of Van Nuys, California. Although Niles had a TRC
engine on hand (s/n 0662 MDTR), he didn’t put it into s/n 0708 MDTR. Instead, in January of 1973, Niles turned the car, and his TRC engine, over to George Sirus of La Habra, California, for $3,800. Fifteen years later, the car, now using engine s/n 0662 MDTR, was shipped down under when owner number six, John Maher of Melbourne, Australia, bought the TRC from Sirus.
Here is where the body and chassis of s/n 0708 MDTR were reunited with the original motor. After its days in the “Ferrotus”, the engine from Nethercutt’s TRC saw service in an MGA built for land speed record runs at Bonneville, Utah, in the 1960s. Then, after lying dormant for many years, engine s/n 0708 MDTR was discovered in March of 1988, still in the clapped out MGA special, and the package was sold to England just to get the Ferrari motor. Maher knew about this, and offered his 500 TRC engine, s/n 0662 MDTR, in return for the engine that belonged in s/n 0708 MDTR. A deal was struck, and the earlier engine was shipped to Heathrow, whereupon it disappeared into the bowels of the airport! A worried Maher flew to England and, after several days hunting around Heathrow’s warehouses, the missing motor was found.
About a year later, the car, now using its original motor, was sold to England and shipped from Australia, but financial difficulties with the new owner caused the car to sit on the docks, locked up in its sea container, where it cooked during the hot summer months, causing its paint to blister. Now needing work, the car and motor were restored by David Cottingham’s DK Engineering in Watford, England, in the early 1990s, which is when it acquired its John von Neumann-like silver and red livery, although it was solid red when raced by Nethercutt in 1959.
Then, in 1995, the little TRC was sold to Japan but, by 2002, the car was back in North America where it’s found it current owner. Although the car was ready to go as delivered, it benefited from a brief detour to Motion Products, Inc. in Wisconsin, for some fine tuning before being delivered to Montreal.
Now, A Small Classic...
A close look at s/n 0708 MDTR will reveal a stronger, more reinforced chassis than used on the 500 TRs, an engine set lower in the frame, dual distributors instead of the twin magnetoes used on the 500 Mondials, a four speed all synchro gearbox, and a rigid rear axle with coil springs. The independent front suspension uses two coil springs in place of the transverse leaf spring that had been used on some Mondials. Less visible are the lightened flywheel, the new dual dryplate clutch, and the strengthened crankshaft. Two 40 DCOA Weber carbs are fitted, the compression ratio is 8.9 to 1, and maximum horsepower is about 190 at 7,400 rpm.
A New Life...
The 500 TRC was first seen in Chantal’s ownership at the April of 2003 Ferrari Club of America Annual Meet in Sebring, Florida, where, in the club’s North American Field and Driving Concours, it was a Silver Award winner in a very competitive class. This is a wonderful example of a seldom seen, rare and beautiful Ferrari, that occupies a pivotal position in the Company’s history. Don’t miss the chance to see it when it visits a venue near you.
Alan Boe is one of the foremost Ferrari historians and researchers of our day, and he writes intelligently, and extensively, on Ferraris for many serious publications. He is also Chief Judge of the Ferrari Class at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Copyright © 2005 Cavallino Magazine.