3 min read
11 Aug

Rare and damaged historic four-cylinder racer heads to RM Sotheby's Monterey Auction

In a surprising turn of events, Ferrari, a brand synonymously linked with V-12 engines, is garnering attention for a historical four-cylinder model, the 500 Mondial. This intriguing piece of motorsport history will soon find its way to the spotlight at RM Sotheby’s forthcoming Monterey auction, where it is anticipated to command a premium price. 

Ferrari is no novice in the realm of diverse engine configurations, having produced a broad array of them to secure motorsport victories throughout the years. In the early 1950s, the Italian automaker even ventured into four-cylinder territory with the creation of several models, including the noteworthy 500 Mondial. 

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The 500 Mondial's journey began as a test model for the 1951 Bari Grand Prix, making it the first four-cylinder Formula 1 racer to emerge from Ferrari's stable. The car was engineered with a 2.5-liter inline-four, the brainchild of renowned designer Aurelio Lampredi. 

Later the same month, Ferrari opted for a smaller 2.0-liter version of this engine to power their Formula 2 entrant at the Italian Grand Prix. Christened as the Tipo 500, this engine was more than your average four-cylinder

It was an all-aluminum marvel, equipped with dual spark plugs and twin twin-choke Weber carburetors. The Tipo 500 churned out a commendable 180 horsepower, a testament to Ferrari's prowess in engine innovation. Encased in a Ferrari chassis, this power-packed four-cylinder engine showcased its inherent potency. 

Now, the remnants of these four-cylinder wonders, relics of a time when Ferrari explored beyond the iconic V-12, are expected to create a stir at the upcoming auction. 

The 500 Mondial Was The Poster Child Of An Ambitious Prancing Horse

Ferrari 500 Mondial - RM Sotheby's

The 500 Mondial, once a symbol of Ferrari's motorsport ambition, is set to remind the world of the automotive giant's relentless pursuit of innovation and success, irrespective of engine configuration. 

Alberto Ascari, the legendary Italian racer, steered the Ferrari 500 F2 to consecutive World Championships in 1952 and 1953. This commendable feat led Ferrari to design the 500 Mondial, a customer car, in 1954 to celebrate this motorsport triumph. 

The 500 Mondial was an embodiment of innovation and style. It housed a 170-horsepower variant of the Tipo 500 engine, was equipped with a de Dion rear suspension setup, and was adorned with striking Pininfarina coachwork. 

Only a limited series of 13 spiders were produced, with the car now up for auction being the second off the production line. The car was initially sold to Franco Cornacchia, who helmed Scuderia Guastalla, one of the region's most successful racing teams. 

Ferrari 500 Mondial Racing Exploits

Ferrari 500 Mondial - RM Sotheby's.

Its first foray into motorsport was at the 1954 Coppa della Toscana, with Franco Cortese behind the wheel. Cortese, known among Ferrari enthusiasts as the winner of Ferrari's inaugural race, piloted the 500 Mondial to a 19th place finish overall, securing the second in class.

Later that year, he took the car to a fourth-in-class and fourteenth overall at the historic Mille Miglia. The 500 Mondial's racing journey spanned across Europe until 1958, after which it found a new home in the United States. 

By 1963, the car was under the stewardship of Stanley Surridge. In an unexpected twist, Surridge replaced the original Lampredi four-cylinder engine with an American V-8, demonstrating that even Ferraris weren't immune to the Shelby-inspired modifications. 

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However, this change in heart didn't bode well for the car. By 1965, the 500 Mondial met with an accident during a race, which led to its current state.

As it heads to auction, this Ferrari carries with it a rich tapestry of racing history, a testament to its endurance and the indomitable spirit of motorsport. Its story is a vivid reminder of Ferrari's legacy and the brand's relentless pursuit of innovation and victory. 

A Million Dollars Heap Of Scrap

Ferrari 500 Mondial - RM Sotheby's.

This seemingly unassuming pile of charred and warped metal, the remnants of a once glorious Ferrari 500 Mondial, is projected to garner between $1.2 and $1.6 million at the RM Sotheby's Monterey auction slated for August 17-19. 

Despite the car's damaged state, its prestigious lineage and the potential for restoration present an enticing prospect for collectors, warranting such a hefty price tag. What remains of the car essentially amounts to its invaluable VIN plate—a testament to its storied past. 

There's little doubt some dedicated Ferrari enthusiast will be willing to invest heavily in restoring this four-cylinder racer to its former glory. While the original engine has unfortunately been lost to time, the sale includes the numbers-matching gearbox and some elements of the rear axle.

Also included in this unique package is a larger 3.0-liter variant of the Lampredi engine—providing an excellent foundation for the restoration process. 

For those who favor a more intact Ferrari, the 500 Mondial isn't coming alone. It is part of a collection of 20 other Maranello barn finds being offered at the auction. Among them, bidders may find a drivable model or one that still possesses a floor. 

Regardless, the opportunity to own and restore a piece of Ferrari's racing heritage is bound to make the 500 Mondial an exciting prospect, even in its current state.

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