The ex-Marquis de Portago, Magioli, Hawthorn
1954 FERRARI 750 MONZA SPYDER
COACHWORK BY SCAGLIETTI
Chassis No. 0496 M
Engine No. N 002
Italian Racing Red with red interior
Engine: four cylinders, twin overhead camshafts, 2,996cc, 260bhp at 6,400rpm; Gearbox: five-speed manual; Suspension: front, independent by upper and lower A-arms with coil springs, rear, De Dion with transverse leaf spring; Brakes: four wheel alloy finned drums. Right hand drive.
In the mid-fifties, Ferrari had existed not even ten years and had produced no more than a few hundred cars. The activity of the Modenese manufacturer was still very artisanal and mainly directed toward competition. Ferrari was present on all fronts: Grand Prix racing with the single seaters, long distance and road racing with the sports gran turismo cars.
The company had so far devoted most of its efforts to promoting 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 1955 season) might appear an astonishing change of course. In fact, the decision to experiment with four cylinder sports cars had a logical explanation, as these engines had been continually tested and developed in single-seaters with considerable success.
Engineer Colombo's arguments in favor of the V12, notably its large piston surface area and 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 these arguments 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 litres, the first four cylinder engine proved from the start to be almost invincible and gained Alberto Ascari and Ferrari Grand Prix World Championship titles in 1952 and 1953. Ferrari then decided to let his sports car benefit from the four-cylinder design. It was tried out in 2.5 litre form only in official cars like the 625 TF. The 2 and 3 litre versions gave birth to two models for private customers: the 500 Mondial and the 3 litre 750 Monza, beautifully bodied by local coachbuilder Scaglietti. Then, in 1954, the factory also started using Monzas in long distance racing.
Driven by champions of the caliber of Hawthorn, Gonzales, Maglioli, Trintignant and the like, 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 a peak when Mike Hawthorn, driving a 555 Squalo Formula 1 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 367S (3.7 litre), better known as the 118, and the 446S (4.4 litre), more commonly called the 121, both of which actively opposed the Mercedes 300 SLR, Maserati 300S and Jaguar D-Type in competition.
Ferrari missed winning the 1955 championship by just one point despite the numerous points scored by their drivers 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 857S (capacity enlarged to 3.4 litre). These versions were unfortunately entered too late to make a significant difference in 1955 and the Ferrari team, with its ten mechanics, could do nothing against the mighty Mercedes and its 45-man 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 as a country was well aware of the negative consequences of failure. This gave more than enough impetus for the Italian car manufacturers to decide on a re-alignment of their 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 cars 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.
0496 M was the fourth Monza built, and was sold new to Spanish aristocrat Alfonso Cabeza de Vaca, Marquis de Portago. Portago, a great all-round sportsman who achieved success as a jockey, winning the French amateur championship three times, and whose talents ranged from polo to swimming and bobsleigh, both of which he competed in at Olympic level, had turned his interest to motor racing in 1953. He began an association with Ferrari having partnered Luigi Chinetti in the Carrera Panamericana. In 1954 as a privateer he won at Metz and in the Governer's Trophy at Nassau. For 1955 he ran this Monza, which would lead to factory Grand Prix drives, and sadly to his death in the 1957 Mille Miglia.
It is possible that the Ferrari had previously been used by the Works, though this is not documented, but recent research confirms Portago to have first used the car in March 1955, partnering Magioli in the 12 hours of Sebring. Unfortunately they did not finish, nor again when a drive was shared with Hawthorn in the Goodwood 9 Hour race in August, though they did set fastest lap before retiring. A week later, however, Hawthorn came second overall at Oulton Park in The Daily Herald Trophy. Then, having withdrawn from Aintree due to a crash at the beginning of September, Portago took the car overseas. Subsequent outings were far more successful. In November 'Fon' brought the Ferrari home in second place at the Venezuelan Grand Prix and repeated his Nassau Speed Week victory in the Governer's Trophy, also winning the Ferrari race, Ascari Trophy, and taking second place to Phil Hill in the Nassau Trophy.
In 1956 the car was sold to Gary Laughlin of Fort Worth, Texas, who used it for some local racing, and kept it for approximately 4 years, before selling to another Texan, Northrop Peck. Some years later the Ferrari was sold to Christian Baverey in France. It was then sold to Brian Classic, the well-known racing car dealer in England, from whom the Monza was acquired by the present European owner approximately twelve years ago.
The bulkhead plate confirms the car's original combination of Monza engine (119) and five speed transaxle gearbox (510). It also notes that the Monza was originally fitted with matching engine number 0496 M. This original unit must have been removed at some stage as, although the circumstances surrounding the change are unknown, it is confirmed by the fact that it later surfaced and is currently fitted to Mondial 0506 MD. In its place is fitted a period Ferrari four cylinder; from the number stampings it appears that this has a block of Mondial type which perhaps came out of a race car. The engine is stamped N002 in the correct place and the numero interno is 21M. A Mondial block can easily be bored out to Monza specification, and after measuring the stroke on this car, which is 90mm, it is confirmed to be a full 3 litre unit. In addition, correct Monza 58DCOA3 sidedraft carburetors are fitted. The gearbox has also been confirmed as original. In keeping with the overall condition of the car, it seems that the engine has been in place for many years.
Although unused for nearly a decade, in preparation for the auction the Ferrari was sent to a UK marque specialist and after a basic mechanical overview the car started and ran. Remedial attention has been paid to the brakes, and while undergoing mechanical recommissioning, the car has been carefully examined. On close inspection the car seems never to have been apart, and the bodywork, chassis and engine appear extremely original. Clearly not used in anger for many years, the exterior and bulkhead have been repainted at some stage, but both have now mellowed.
Fast, good looking, brutish in behavior, Ferrari Monzas are impressive cars. This attractive and unspoiled example would make an ideal car for the enthusiast wishing to take part in the classic races and rallies for which it is eligible.