The ex-Anna Maria Peduzzi/Gilberte Thirion, 1956 1000km Paris, class-winning
1956 FERRARI 500 TESTA ROSSA
COACHWORK BY SCAGLIETTI
Chassis No. 0620 MDTR
Engine No. 0620 MDTR
Red with red seats
Engine: four cylinders, 1,984cc, 180bhp at 7,000rpm; Gearbox: 4-speed manual; Suspension: independent front wishbone with coil springs, rear, rigid axle with coil springs and trailing arms; Brakes: four wheel drum. Left hand drive.
In the mid-Fifties, Ferrari had existed not even ten years and had produced fewer than a few hundred cars. The activity of the Modenese manufacturer was still very artisanal and mainly directed towards competition. Ferrari was present on all fronts: Grand Prix racing with the single seaters, as well as long distance and road racing with the sports grand tourismo cars.
The company had so far devoted most of its efforts to promote the V12 engine. Its abandonment in favor of the four and six cylinder units (the sports cars of the Scuderia were exclusively equipped with these types of engines for the 1995 season) might appear an astonishing change of course. In fact, the decision to experiment with four cylinder sports cars had a logical explanation. These engines had been continually tested and developed in the single-seaters with considerable success.
Engineer Colombo's arguments in favor of the V12 engine, notably its large piston surface area and the high piston speed brought about by the short stroke, were self-evident. But Aurelio Lampredi, who had taken over from Colombo, seemed to attach less importance to them than his predecessor and preferred other important advantages: weight reduction, better torque at low speeds and a considerable reduction in the number of moving parts.
With a capacity of 2 liters, the first four cylinder engine proved from the start to be almost invincible and gained Alberto Ascari and the marque Grand Prix World Championship titles in 1952 and 1953. Ferrari then decided to let the sports car benefit from the four cylinder design. It was tried out in 2.5 liter form only in official cars like the 625 TF. The 2 and 3 liter versions gave birth to two models for private customers: the 500 Mondial and the 3 liter 750 Monza, beautifully bodied by local coachbuilder Scaglietti. Then, in 1954, the factory also started using 750 Monzas in long distance racing.
Driven by champions of the caliber of Hawthorn, Gonzales, Maglioli, Trintignant and the likes, the very fast 750 played an important role in clinching the World Championship Car Manufacturer title for Ferrari in 1954. The jubilation of Lampredi, the originator of the four cylinder engine, must have reached its peak when Mike Hawthorn, driving a 555 Squalo Formula One car sharing the same engine concept, also defeated the dominating Grand Prix Mercedes in the Spanish Grand Prix.
At the close of the 1954 season, Ferrari considered themselves well satisfied with the results obtained and decided to continue along the same line. The development of the existing four cylinder took place in the form of a six cylinder engine, created by adding two extra cylinders without altering the prior designs. There was the 376S (3.7 liter), better known as the 118, and the 446S (4.4 liter), more commonly called the 121, both of which actively opposed the Mercedes 300 SLR, the Maserati 300S and the Jaguar D-Type in competition.
Ferrari lost the 1955 championship by only one point thanks to the numerous points scored by private entrants running the faithful four cylinder cars like Johnny Claes, Masten Gregory, Phil Hill, Francois Picard, Carroll Shelby, Mike Sparken and Jacques Swaters, to name a few. The 500 and 750 models had proven themselves to be much more reliable, so much so that Ferrari decided to drop the six cylinder experiment and to replace it by further development of the four cylinder, the 857S (capacity enlarged to 3.4 liter). These versions were unfortunately entered too late and the Ferrari team, with its ten mechanics, could do nothing against the mighty Mercedes and its 45-men task force, a situation which would repeat itself.
The tragic loss of national hero Alberto Ascari during the season, coupled with the defeat, had a profound effect on the Maranello team. An industrial power in full development, Italy was well aware of the negative consequences of failure. This gave more than enough impetus for Italy to decide on a reallignment of its troops by assigning the Lancia competition department to Ferrari. More or less simultaneously, Aurelio Lampredi left the Scuderia to join Fiat. It was not long before the sports car benefited from the infusion of new blood and came back to winning circles, obtaining a new World Championship title in 1956 in which the four cylinder played a decisive role.
For 1956 Ferrari introduced the 500 Testa Rossa, the first car to wear a name that has become synonymous with the marque and referenced their use of red-painted cam covers on the new model. While it kept the same bore and stroke as the Mondial, it was more closely linked to the single-seater 500 engines, with the same cylinder head arrangement and now a strengthened lower end. Technically, its only other alteration was the move from transverse leaf springs at the rear to coil springs.
The Testa Rossa was almost certainly built with the American market in mind, which is supported by the fact that the new model was launched at the New York Auto Show on 26 April 1956.
It would be a further two months before a racing debut came, but when it did, at the 1000km Supercortemaggiore race at Monza, the field was supported by no fewer than six examples, of which 0620 MDTR was one. On that day, the Works 625 LMs piloted by Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn and Fangio and Castellotti came 1st and 3rd, but they were followed by the 500 TR of Gendebien and Portago in 4th.
Ferrari built seventeen 500 Testa Rossas in all, and 0620 MDTR was constructed mid-way through their production as the only example completed to left hand drive configuration. It is recorded as being supplied new to D'Oro of Italy, though no note is made of the person's use of the Ferrari.
The car's racing career began at the 1956 1000km of Paris at Montlhèry on 10 June 1956, where the car was driven by the French female duo of Anna Maria Peduzzi, who it may be assumed was now the owner, and Gilberte Thirion. Thirion was a successful Belgian privateer, who had a successful career racing Porsche 356s, Gordinis, Mercedes 300 SLs and Renault Dauphine, was often partnered by her father Max. On this occasion, they brought the car home in 10th place overall and won their class, a very respectable debut for the car.
Two weeks later the same pairing campaigned the car at the Monza Supercortemaggiore, wearing number 62, as illustrated in photograph from the paddock showing the car in its original racing guise, most distinctively because of its left hand drive form.
Peduzzi next used the car at the Giro di Sicilia on 14 April 1957 without success. It is recorded as being run by Munaron, Mantovani and Peduzzi (who practiced but did not race) in the 1958 1000km of Buenos Aires on 26 January 1958, when it came 6th overall and 2nd in the Two Liter Sports class. By the middle of that year, the Testa Rossa was back in Europe and was entered by Peduzzi and Siracusa in the Targa Florio, although it failed to finish. Its last known period competition entry was still with Peduzzi, at the Coppa S. Ambroeus at Monza on 3 May 1959.
By 1974 the car was in America and wearing silver livery with a maroon stripe, when it passed into the ownership of Bob and Barbara Fergus of Ohio. In 1979 it was completely restored by Paul Kline, and then subsequently campaigned by Barbara Fergus in various vintage sports car racing events. In May 1984, the car was featured on the cover of Cavallino (issue no. 21), just prior Bob and Barbara Fergus' entry on that year's Mille Miglia, and they returned to this event in 1986 and '87. In 1994 after two decades of ownership, the car was sold to a collector in Japan, where it remained until recently, although being used in Europe for Mille Miglia retrospectives from 1994-96.
In its current ownership, the Ferrari has received a refreshing of the paintwork and interior, such that today it is presented in excellent order all round.
Today, this unique Testa Rossa wears a full width wraparound screen, ideally suited to the road racing events for which it has been used in more recent times and is ready to be used.