#0093 - Ferrari 500 Mondial Series II Scaglietti Spyder, #0556MD, 1955
Two Acts for an Owner: Straight off the mark, it's worth noting that Rear Admiral Robert Phillips is a gracious person. He spent ample time with the flood of people who came over once the bonnet was opened. And as I was framing a shot of the motor, he wandered by and dropped a bug in my ear to look at the plates on the Weber carburetors; they're serial numbers two and three. I eyed him a moment later and, noticing I had a question, he came back over to chat for a bit.
By his reckoning, serial number one was likely a prototype or test version, and by that reasoning we might expect these are the first Weber 45 DCOA/3 carburetors of a production run. Not being familiar with the numbering of Weber carbs, it's difficult to assess the significance expect that, Wow!, that's a pretty important component to have such low numbers on it.
But apart from the trivia, our retired naval officer was looking pleasantly on everyone at the show with a touch of childish expectancy. He's owned the car since 1960. That means he was close to purchasing the Mondial directly out of its competition life where it was run as a Ferrari team car by Francois Picard, notching two class wins for the Scuderia, possibly by drivers Harry Schell and Eugenio Castellotti. There's buzz about this being the only Ferrari team car that didn't race in red paint, (a claim I can't confirm), being painted French racing blue. In any case, it was imported shortly after.
So, Rear Admiral Phillips' first act after purchasing the car was of running it around California, driving it from San Fancisco to New York, and of course racing it himself. Apparently there's a story about driving from Bridgehampton down the Long Island Expressway to the Brooklyn shipyards using a screwdriver in place of the lever, because one of the shift forks had broken during a race. But I really have no details on that misadventure.
Over the decades he held on to the Ferrari, and act two began in 2000 with a full restoration. Since completion, the car has been an A-list celebrity at the coutry's top events—best Ferrari on the field at Pebble Beach, best competition Ferrari at the Palm Beach Cavallino Classic—taking top honors wherever the most discriminating judges were looking to be impressed. Rear Admiral Phillips, however, mentioned that this was all something unimaginably fun that he simply gets to do because people seem to like the car so much. Obviously, it was never his intention to wind up here, but his words expressed that both car and owner are enjoying retirement just now.
For evidence, here's a video of the Admiral and his Ferrari 500 Mondial starting up at the Cavallino Classic.
Differences: Perhaps the first question to ask is how the 500 Mondial differs from the 500 Testa Rossa. Both the Mondial and the TR use the Aurelio Lampredi Tipo 131 4-cylinder, the Mondial being the first sports racing car to do so. Use of the Tipo 131 continued in basic form for a few more years in the Mondial series. And, as a blunt clue of its origin, the Mondial was so named for Ascari's back-to-back Grand Prix Championships, which he accomplished in the diminutive 500 F-2—the same motor.
The Testa Rossa, however, is a Tipo 131 hotted up. Revamped by Vittorio Jano, the TR cars were good for 10 horsepower more than the Mondial, a figure that was eventually pushed up to 180 brake horsepower in the unforgettably beautiful TRC of 1957. These complete the three sports racing cars derived from the 500 F-2: The Mondial, the Testa Rossa, and the TRC. Those last two obviously should not be confused with the V-12 250 Testa Rossa, which is another bowl of racing kelp.
But early on, Ferrari was about using every horse in his stable. The team ran an army of 4-cylinder cars to compelement their V-12 brutes, and the results were of unprecedented success. By the time the Mondial was out and about, the Scuderia were celebrating a second Sports Car World Championship, with many more yet to come.
The pages we're putting together here will only ever show a small percentage of the color and life given to Ferrari in the golden age of motor racing. Hopefully we'll hit a lot of highlights, which, if an encounter like the Admiral's 500 Mondial is any indication, should give us an impressive stock to work with.
Ferrari, Design of a Legend: The Official History and Catalog, 1990, Gruppo Editoriale, Ferrari Technology by Gianni Rogliatti
Ultimatecarpage: Information on the Series II Scaglietti Spyder, with design credit given to Dino Ferrari.
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