Model history: For the 1957 season, Ferrari offered customers just a single type of sports racer; the 500 TRC. Powered by a two-litre engine, it was to be the ultimate development of the four-cylinder sports racer that had originally debuted in 1953. Ferrari, meanwhile, were working on a three-litre V12 powered sports racer that would become available to customers in 1958.
The 500 TRC proved particularly popular on the American West Coast where it was raced in the SCCA National Sports Car Championship against Porsche 550s and Lotus Elevens. Instrumental in bringing many of these cars to North America was John von Neumann, who was Ferrari's distributor for California. He was a racer himself as well and used his connections to order two TRCs, powered by the 2.5 litre '625' engine.
Mechanically and visually, the two 625 TRCs were identical to the 17 other TRCs produced that year. The chassis was a straightforward tubular ladder frame, suspended by double wishbones at the front and a solid rear axle. Coil springs and hydraulic shock absorbers were fitted on all four corners, as were massive, finned drum-brakes. As on most Ferrari sports racers of the day, a four-speed gearbox was used.
For 1957, the Pinin Farina styled and Scagilietti built body of the original 500 TR was modified slightly to comply with the new Appendix C regulations; hence the TRC type name. These changes included the adaption of a full-width and tall windscreen. Also mandatory from 1957 were functional doors on both sides of the car. Whereas the 500 TR featured small blisters to clear the tall engine's cam-covers, the TRC design sported a completely smooth engine cover.
Originally developed for the 1954 Grand Prix Ferraris, the 2.5 litre version of Aurelia Lampredi's 'four' boasted both a bigger bore and stroke. At 220 bhp, the larger engine produced an additional 30 bhp compared to the more commonly used two-litre unit. Ferrari fielded 2.5 litre engined 500 TRs, known as 625 LMs, at Le Mans in 1956 but these were all sold on with smaller engines, so Von Neumann's two 625 TRCs were very much unique.
Von Neumann raced both cars extensively and with considerable success, although one was quickly fitted with an even larger 860 Monza engine. While very powerful and torquey, Ferrari's four cylinder engines were notoriously vulnerable to over-revving and eventually most were swapped out for more forgiving units. This also happened to both 625 TRCs with Von Neumann fitting a V12 engine halfway through 1958 in the first to effectively create a 250 TR.
In new ownership both chassis were fitted with American V8s to extend their racing careers well into the 1960s. Today both 625 TRCs have been restored using 250 TR-specification three litre engines. For the value of the cars, this has hardly been an objection as one recently sold at auction for just over EUR 5 million.
The first of two 625 TRCs built for John von Neumann, chassis 0672MDTR was fitted with a 3.5 litre engine soon after arriving in California. It was then extensively raced by Von Neumann, scoring numerous wins, including class victories in the end of year races at Nassau. Late in 1958, a 250 TR engine with serial number 0750TR was fitted and the car was raced well into the 1960s by the likes of Richie Ginther and Ken Miles, who scored a victory as late as May 1962. It was subsequently acquired by a Ford dealer, who fitted a V8 for drag racing.
The rare Ferrari racer then passed through various hands without an engine or gearbox. During the 1980s, a 250 GT V12 engine was fitted in the United Kingdom. Following the complete restoration, the car was owned by briefly owned by a Dutch drug dealer until his collection was seized by the government. Almost a decade later the 625 TRC was acquired by the current owner. Not much later, he tracked down the same 250 TR engine that had briefly been in the car before and had been bought new from the factory by Von Neumann. Restored once again, the car has since been occasionally shown at events like the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance where it is seen here.
The second 625 TRC, this example made its competition debut in Austria where Von Neumann finished best in class in a hill-climb. The car was then shipped to the United States where Von Neumann campaigned it mostly in local events. The four-cylinder engine was subsequently removed and in 1960 the car was sold on to Stan Sugerman. Fitted with a Chevrolet V8, he continued racing chassis 0680MDTR for another two seasons. Passing to more hands, the car's contemporary racing career did not end until the mid-1960s.
A decade later, a Ferrari 250 GT sourced V12 filled the void left by the original 'four'. In 1981, the 625 TRC was acquired by Michael Callaham. He had the car meticulously restored and prepared for racing. From 1985, Callaham and the V12-engined Ferrari had been regulars in North American Historic events, and in particular the Monterey Historic Races / Motorsport Reunion. Callaham eventually also managed to track down the original 625 engine but continued to race with the more potent and forgiving V12. In 2012, he decided to part with the car, and original engine, and it was offered in RM Auctions' biennial Monaco sale. Well exceeding the pre-sale estimate, it eventually found a new owner for just over EUR 5 million.