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Cars
08/11/2018

The 1950s Ferrari raced by the legends

This 1956 Ferrari 290 MM by Scaglietti was driven by legends such as Fangio, Moss, von Trips, Castellotti and others

Few cars have been driven by such an incredible array of the world’s greatest racers as this 1956 Ferrari 290 MM by Scaglietti. Its list of piloti di corse reads like a who’s who of motorsport, and such rich lineage is why this matching-numbers 290 MM, the fourth and final one built, may soon sell for more than $20 million.

Ferrari introduced the 290 MM in 1956, to compete in the World Sports Car Championship – and also the Mille Miglia, which is why it gained the initials MM. But Enzo Ferrari didn’t just want to compete in sports cars, he wanted to win. The 290 MM’s task was to secure Ferrari’s third manufacturers’ world title in the global series. The 290 MM did just that, with Ferrari taking the 1956 World Sports Car Championship.

A steering wheel held by Fangio, Moss, von Trips...  Photo: Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

It also won in the race it was named after, with Eugenio Castellotti taking a heroic victory in the 1956 Mille Miglia. Many consider this race the Italian’s finest ever drive. Another 290 MM, driven by Juan Manuel Fangio, finished in fourth place – and in 2015, this car sold for over $25 million, making it the most expensive race car ever. A 290 MM also won the 1956 Swedish Grand Prix, which was then a round of the World Sports Car Championship, in the hands of Phil Hill and Maurice Trintignant.

It was still winning in 1957 too, taking victory in the 1,000km of Buenos Aires, the opening round of that year’s FIA World Sports Car Championship.The car we’re looking at here doesn’t have the win-rate of the three other 290 MMs, but it’s the drivers who piloted it that make it special. Chassis number 0628 debuted at the 1956 Mille Miglia, where it was equipped to 860 Monza specification.

Ferrari Classiche has restored this beautiful 290 MM  Photo: Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

This was a Scaglietti-bodied car, with a 280hp 3.4-litre four-cylinder engine. Peter Collins and Louis Klemantaski gave the car its race debut and, wearing car number #551, finished in second place, behind the 290 MM of Castellotti. It then raced in the Nürburgring 1,000km, the Targa Florio (where it finished third in the hands of Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendenbien) and several other events including the Swedish Grand Prix, where it was raced by the dream pairing of Fangio and Castellotti, although it sadly didn’t reach the chequered flag.

In 1957, the car was converted to 290 MM Spider Scaglietti specification, with a new body and 3.5-litre V12 engine. It was shipped straight to Buenos Aires for the 1,000km race where Alfonso de Portago, Collins, Castellotti and the great Wolfgang von Trips finished in third place. Phil Hill and von Trips raced it in the 12 hours of Sebring, and the car’s Scuderia Ferrari Works racing career culminated in serving as Ferrari’s test vehicle for the 1957 Mille Miglia.

Famous Ferrari: this 290 MM's provenance is superb  Photo: Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

But the 290 MM continued to race. In private hands, Sir Stirling Moss won both the Nassau Memorial Race and Trophy Race in the Bahamas later that year, and in 1958, Luigi Chinetti displayed it at the Chicago Auto Show before Dan Gurney raced it to second place in the USAC International Formula Libre Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. It continued to race in the United States until 1961, when it was retired to join the ranks of several notable private collections.

 

More recently, this storied car was driven at the 2011 Goodwood Revival, as part of the Juan Manuel Fangio Parade. In 2014, it was restored to the highest standard by Ferrari Classiche in Italy to its final 1957 12 Hours of Sebring specification, and in 2015, was shown at the Amelia Island Concours. Soon, this car, with so many stories to tell, will be sold once again. Collins, Klemantaski, Fangio, Castellotti, von Trips, Hill, Moss, Gurney and many others all drove it – another chapter for this amazing 1956 Ferrari 290 MM is about to begin.