The Ferrari red-head first won 60 years ago - and once it started, it couldn't stop...
Testa Rossa is a legendary name in Ferrari folklore. For decades, the name has been used by memorable models, most notably the iconic 1980s Ferrari Testarossa, a bona fide poster car for millions. And the origins of the name date right back to 1957, and an enforced rule change in sports car racing. The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa was borne through an upcoming change in rules for the World Sports Car Championship.
For 1958, cars would be required to use 3.0-litre engines. Canny Enzo Ferrari anticipated this and ordered the development of a 3.0-litre V12 sports car. It first raced at the 1957 Nurburgring 1000km event, where it finished in the top 10.
The 250 Testa Rossa was a development of the successful 1956 500 TR. Here, the 500 name followed tradition of referring to the cylinder capacity – the engine was a 2.0-litre four-cylinder. Designed by famous Ferrari engineer Aurelio Lampredi, the engine was the first Ferrari four-cylinder and was originally designed for use in Formula Two cars, and later, the Ferrari 500 Mondial sports car.
It was to signify the more powerful evolution of its predecessor, the 500 Mondial, that the cylinder heads (testa) were later painted red (rossa): 500 Mondial became 500 TR. This tradition was carried over to the 250 Testa Rossa. The cam covers of the V12 engine wore bright red paint, and a legendary team of drivers was recruited to send the name into Ferrari folklore. The first success came early on in 1958, the car’s first full season of racing.
Phil Hill and Peter Collins triumphed in the 1000 Kilometres of Buenos Aires, quickly following this up with victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring – and they won ahead of other 250 Testa Rossa racers in that event. That was only the beginning of the car’s successes, too: later in the year, the Testa Rossa won the Targa Florio event, and then took a famous first victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The 250 Testa Rossa finished the year with enough success to take the 1958 World Sports Car constructors’ title for Ferrari. 1959 was a tougher year, but it still earned victory at Sebring, and by 1960, the victories came again, including that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. The car again helped Ferrari win the constructors’ title, a feat it repeated in 1961. Even by 1962, five years after its introduction, the Testa Rossa was still winning, taking more victories at Sebring and Le Mans.
The 250 Testa Rossa nowadays is an icon in Ferrari’s annals. It is one of Maranello’s most successful racing cars of all time, and a classic example of how Enzo Ferrari’s vision helped the Scuderia achieve so much.
It was driven by most of the household-name drivers of the time – people such as Dan Gurney, Mike Hawthorne and Wolfgang von Trips – and today, original examples sell for many, many millions. Indeed, the 1957 car that Hill and Collins drove to those inaugural victories in 1957 was reportedly sold for almost $40 million back in 2014.
After its racing career, chassis number 0704 spent 30 years in The Henry Ford Museum, who helped keep it in a remarkably original state. It was a headline-grabbing valuation for the famous Ferrari red-head - and just one more reason why the 250 Testa Rossa is such a legendary car.