Wild Beasts

Beautiful and unbeatable

The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, legendary from birth.

Photo credit: Ferrari, Wheelsage

The idea of Sergio Scaglietti, the magical coachbuilder from Modena who worked for Ferrari during the 50s, was to make the magnificent mechanics of the new Ferrari sports car – christened Testa Rossa and destined for the World Sports Car Championships, perform even better through aerodynamics. His inspiration for the front section was from Formula 1: a distinctive cut-away nose separated from the fenders, visible front suspension and a deep recesses in the flanks to facilitate the flow of air from the brakes. At that time, and we are in the autumn of 1957, no-one imagined that even the smallest aerodynamic appendage – as today’s Formula 1 cars clearly demonstrate – could significantly change the behaviour of the car.

This image reveals the secret of the Testa Rossa name: the cam covers were painted bright red above which stand the six mighty two-barrel carburettors that allowed it to produce 300 hp when it was presented in the autumn of 1957

When the car was presented everyone found it magnificent – and still today it is the most sought after Ferrari after the GTO – but some began to doubt that beauty and performance had really combined. At high speeds, the original and beautiful shape of the car, known as a Pontoon Fender, caused the front end to lighten. The problem was so noticeable that Ferrari returned to a more conventional front section for Le Mans in 1958, Hill and Gendebien drove the modified version to victory.

The single-seater type nose section and the large air passages, also used to cool the drum brakes, was undeniably beautiful, but wasn’t particularly effective from an aerodynamic standpoint

Original or modified, lightly revised by Pinin Farina with fabrication of the bodies handled by Fantuzzi, from Modena like Scaglietti, the Testa Rossa is always magnificent. It was this version that won Le Mans in June 1960, while the third victory of this model, with its dramatically re-designed front air inlet that was now split into two openings, introducing the distinctive “sharknose” style, arrived in 1961.

Three of the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa cars that competed at in the 1960 Le Mans 24 Hours with the modified nose compared to the launch version: behind the wheel Von Trips running number 9 followed by Ginther with number 10, while number 17, with its Pininfarina-styled bodywork made by Fantuzzi, was the N.A.R.T car driven by Rodriguez

Enzo Ferrari demonstrated that he had clearly interpreted the new regulations that limited the displacement to 3 litres for safety reasons: he chose a tubular steel spaceframe chassis, resulting in a light and agile car and the classic V12 engine that had already been proven on his Gran Turismo road and racing cars, modified but always very reliable and elastic.

In this 3/4 rear view this magnificent sports car appears to invite you to get behind the wheel and just drive it. A unique and priceless experience

Helping to create the legend around this car is, of course, its name: the cam covers were painted bright red like the Ferrari, so when the engine cover was raised, this vision inspired its timeless name “Testa Rossa” (literally, “Red Head”)

This split view highlights the car’s tubular steel spaceframe chassis, the powerful V12 engine, the drum brakes and the large tank at the back