Model history: While Ferrari dominated the Formula 2 class in 1949 with their 2-litre V12 engine, Enzo Ferrari had his eye on HWM's four cylinder Alta engine. One of the biggest advantages of the 'four' was its superior fuel efficiency compared to the gas-guzzling V12. Ferrari's new chief engineer Aurelio Lampredi set out to design a four cylinder to replace the Gioacchino Colombo designed V12. When the sports governing body decided that the World Championship would be run under Formula 2 regulations, the development of the 'four' got top priority.
Lampredi jointly developed a 2 and 2.5 litre engine, both sharing many interchangeable parts. Completely constructed of light alloy, the engine featured a double camshaft head. The 2-litre engine made its debut in 1952 in the 500 F2. Alberto Ascari drove it to the World Championship, winning six of the seven championship races. He took another championship a year later. In good Ferrari tradition, the Grand Prix engine was also fitted in a sportscar chassis. After two experimental models built in 1953, the 2.5 litre 625 TF and 3 litre 735 S, two four cylinder 'production' sports cars were released in 1954.
First up was the 3 litre model, which debuted at the Gran Premio Supercortemaggiore at Monza and was aptly called 750 Monza. The Gonzales/Trintignant driven 750 Monza featured a Dino Ferrari designed body and took a debut victory. Late in 1953 a 2-litre prototype was first raced. In the hands of Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi, the four-cylinder engined machine was driven to a class victory. To commemorate Ferrari's back-to-back World Championships, the 2-litre production car was dubbed 500 Mondial.
In its smallest guise, the all-alloy 'four' displaced just under two litres. Fitted with twin spark injection and twin Webers, it produced a hefty 170 bhp. Mated to Ferrari's latest five-speed gearbox, the engine was mounted in a conventional tubular chassis that was shared by both the two- and three-litre production cars. The first examples were fitted with Pinin Farina built and designed bodies. From halfway through 1954, Scaglietti became the coach-builder of choice. They equipped the four-cylinder racer with a slippery body penned by Dino Ferrari.
Both the two and three litre cars were campaigned by the works team and customers. The successes of the four-cylinder single seaters could not be matched, but various class victories were scored. Career highlights for the 500 Mondial was a second place in 1954 Mille Miglia and a class victory in the 1956 12-Hours of Sebring race. For the 1955 season, the 500 Mondial was slightly reworked with the most obvious change the revised front suspension; the single transverse leaf spring was replaced by separate coils on each corner.
These detail changes proved insufficient to keep up with the rapidly growing competition from arch-rivals Maserati both also the likes of Lotus and Porsche. The Mondial was replaced early in 1956 by the 500 TR, which featured a more powerful engine and a revised chassis. By that time 31 examples each had been built of the 500 Mondial and the 750 Monza, making Ferrari's first generation of four cylinder racers also an economic success.
In addition to the Spyders, Pinin Farina also constructed two Berlinettas specifically for the 1954 Tour de France. This is the first of these two, which was raced in the French national colours by Dustaritz and Lino Fayen. They failed to reach the finish and the car was not raced again. It has survived in remarkably original condition and was not seen in public for decades until the current owner acquired it in 2002. He has since shown it at select events, including the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, where it won the Post-War Preservation class.
The second 500 Mondial Berlinetta also failed to finish the gruelling 1954 Tour de France. It was subsequently actively campaigned and competed in two Mille Miglias. In the early 1960s, it was sold to the United States where it was used both on the track and for shows. In the 1980s chassis 0452MD returned to Europe and while in the ownership of Emilio Gnutti, it was shown at the 2005 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este. Some years later, it was acquired by the current owner at the 2010 RM Auctions Monterey sale for a relatively modest $1.6 million.