Model history: Ever the conservative, Enzo Ferrari rarely produced an experimental or ground-breaking racing car. He much rather followed a path of gradual evolution, which resulted in fast but above all reliable racing cars. By the early 1960s most manufacturers had switched to the mid-engine configuration, including Ferrari for the Formula 1 cars and the smaller engined sports racers. It would, however, take until 1963 before Ferrari built the first sports racer with a mid-mounted V12 engine. Considering that the Italian team had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the 3rd year running in 1962, it was certainly not too late.
Using the lessons learned with the six and eight cylinder sports racers of previous seasons, a simple but effective steel tubular spaceframe was drawn up. Suspension was also very straightforward with double wishbones and coil springs being used front and rear. Stopping power was provided by Dunlop discs brakes, which were mounted inboard at the rear to lower the suspension's unsprung weight and improve handling. The space that was traditionally reserved for the screaming V12 engine was now used for the radiator and the fuel tanks.
Mounted longitudinally behind the driver was the familiar 'short block' V12 engine. A hallmark of Ferrari's design philosophy, it was a direct development of the engine originally penned by Gioachino Colombo back in 1946. Particularly in three liter guise, it had been hugely successful, scoring wins in almost all major races including Le Mans and the Mille Miglia. For the new mid-engined racer, the latest specification of the '250' engine was used. Breathing through six Weber Carburetors, it produced just over 300 bhp.
Dubbed the 250 P, the rolling chassis was sent to Fantuzzi, who clothed it in a curvaceous, slippery aluminium body penned by Pininfarina. It featured an airfoil behind the open cockpit and a cut-down rear-end to reduce drag. These 'aero' features were reminiscent of the front engined 330 TRI/LM that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans a year earlier. A large opening in the nose fed air to the front mounted radiator. In the rear-deck two large scoops allowed the V12 engine to breath. Completed the 250 P had a dry weight of just 760 kg, which was considerably lighter than the comparable front-engined 250 TR.
Ferrari's ground-breaking new prototype racer made its international racing debut in the Sebring 12 Hours. The two car team scored a very convincing one-two victory ahead of four other Ferraris. It was the start of yet another successful season for the Scuderia with outright victories in the Nürburgring 1000 km and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In the latter Lorenzo Bandini and Ludovico Scarfiotti scored the first ever win for a mid-engined racing car in the legendary endurance race. In the fall of 1963, Ferrari revealed the '250 LM' production version.
Encouraged by the success of the 250 P, Ferrari returned to their regular practice and only produced an evolution of the existing design. While similar to the original, the body was reworked and differed in many details. The biggest changes were the angle of the A-pillars and the slightly longer tail. More importantly, two larger engine variants were available and used side by side. The first was the '275' version of the V12 that displaced 3.3 liter and the even larger and slightly different 4 litre '330' variant. The two engines developed 320 bhp and 370 bhp respectively.
Surprisingly, the smaller 275 engine was far more successful. One of the original 250 Ps with a bored out engine scored the all important win at Le Mans, ahead of two of the four liter cars. The 330 P did score several wins late in the season in England and France. Looming over the success was the ever growing threat of Ford's racing program. Although the new GT40 had not been a factor at Le Mans yet, everybody knew it was a matter of time before the bugs were ironed out. To combat the 'Americans', Ferrari developed the P2 to replace the first mid-engined Le Mans winner for 1965.
The first of three 330 Ps built for the 1964 season, chassis 0818 was sold new to British privateer Maranello Concessionaires. They entered it for the likes of Graham Hill, Joakim Bonnier and Innes Ireland. It finished second behind a sister car at Le Mans. Later in the year Hill won the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood and joined by Bonnier he also won the 1000 km of Paris race at Monthlery. Chassis 0818 was raced three times in 1965 before being sold to Dick Protheroe.
Protheroe had the car rebodied to P2 style by Drogo. Sadly he crashed fatally with the car in the practice of the Oulton Park TT. The remains were eventually acquired by Mike Oustromoff, who used the original engine and chassis for a reconstruction. After a brief spell in the United States, the car was bought by Fabrizio Violati in 1985 for his Maranello Rosso museum. In recent years the car was involved in a lawsuit because a second person claimed ownership of the car. Early in 2011 the Italian courts ruled in favour of the Violati estate.
One of three new cars built for the 1964 season, chassis 0820 was fitted with a four liter engine from new. Entered by Scuderia Ferrari, it finished second in the 4 Hours of Le Mans, it won the Nürburgring 1000 km and failed to finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Like so many other redundant racing cars, this 330 P was sold to Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team. Under the NART banner, Pedro Rodriguez scored a win in the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport. It made a final appearance at the 1965 Sebring 12 Hours and was then retired.
Chassis 0820 has survived remarkably undamaged and has been in the ownership of some of the best known Ferrari collectors. As part of a superb Seattle, Washington based collection, it was displayed at the 2008 Retromobile show in Paris on the Hall & Hall stand. Under new ownership, it returned to Le Mans two years later. It was driven with great verve by German pro Claudia Hürtgen until mechanical problems forced her to drop out.