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.
Chassis 0812 was the second of three 250 Ps built for the 1963 season. It debuted at the Sebring 12 Hours in March, where it finished second behind a sister car. After a disappointing Targa Florio, this 250 P scored its maiden victory at Nurburgring 1000 km in the hands of John Surtees and Willy Mairesse. The same drivers piloted chassis 0812 at Le Mans. They held a substantial lead until a fire ended the race prematurely for Mairesse and Surtees.
The wrecked car was sent back to Ferrari and rebuilt to the latest specifications. It made a victorious return to the track at the 1964 Sebring 12 Hours with Mike Parkes and Umberto Magioli at the wheel. Chassis 0812 made its final works appearance at Le Mans a few months later but it again failed to make it to the finish. Fitted with a four-litre engine, the car was sold to Luigi Chinetti, who fielded it with some success for the likes of Pedro Rodriguez and Walt Hansgen. Fittingly made its final competition appearance at Sebring in 1965, where it finished eighth overall and second in class.
Luigi Chinetti returned the car to Italy where it was fitted with a brand new body. Styled and constructed by Giovanni Michelotti, the unusual design featured gull-wing doors. In its new guise, chassis 0812 was displayed at the 1968 New York Auto Show. Chinetti retained the car but in the late 1980s had the car fitted with the old body back in Italy. Chassis 0812 returned to Italy for a second restoration some years ago, when it was rebuilt to its original configuration. In the very first or one of the very first public outings since then, this Ferrari 250 P is seen here at the 2010 Monterey Motorsport Pre-Reunion as a warm-up for the actual Motorsport Reunion held from Aug 12-15.