This beautifully-presented Ferrari began life in 1952 as a 2-litre 4-cylinder engined Tipo '500' before being restored in the 1980s with the enlarged 2-litre Tipo 625 power unit installed. This chassis could legitimately carry engines of either size since this Ferrari model saw frontline service in World Championship 2-litre Formula 2 racing 1952-53 - winning back-to-back Drivers' World Championship titles with the works team's number one star Alberto Ascari - and was then updated into World Championship 2-litre guise for the new-sized Formula 1 of 1954-60. When first introduced in 2-litre form these graceful cars were nicknamed the Ferrari 500 'Starlet' by the Italian press, and what could be more appropriate now than to find such a beautiful Starlet in the Californian sun
Few driver and car name-combinations have ever had a more euphonious ring than 'Ascari (Ferrari)'. During the early 1950s that phrase was heard repeatedly in almost every news broadcast or sports bulletin which mentioned motor racing.
Ferrari number one racing driver Alberto Ascari often set the performance standards of his time. 'Who is the greater - Ascari or Fangio?' was a common enthusiast argument of the time. Although Fangio would build the greater career, he was sidelined by injury for most of 1952, and into '53 the Drivers' World Championship road racing world was at that time simply owned by Ascari and his near-unbeatable 2-litre unsupercharged, Tipo '500' Ferraris.
The rotund, always cheerful and immensely popular Ascari -drove these 4-cylinder engined cars absolutely brilliantly to secure the Drivers' World Championship titles in both 1952 and '53. He was the first man to win consecutive World Championships, and these were also the first-ever World titles to be secured by La Ferrari.
The FIA governing body of the sport then promptly allowed organizers to apply World Championship status to Grand Prix races run instead for the minor Formula 2 class and thus these unsupercharged 2-litre cars assumed the premier status. This would also apply throughout 1953, but an all-new 2-litre unsupercharged/750cc supercharged Formula 1 was then announced which would come into effect from 1 January, 1954.
The old 1-litre supercharged/4-litre unsupercharged Formula 1 had died on its feet at the end of 1951 through poor support, and the World governing body - the FIA - then transferred Drivers' World Championship Grand Prix status to unblown 2-litre Formula 2. Ferrari, with typical perspicacity, had the ideal cars already available - the 2-litre 4-cylinder F2 Tipo 500 model whose power and torque left the rival Maserati, Gordini, German BMW and British Bristol-engined opposition simply gasping for breath in pursuit.
The prototype 4-cylinder Ferrari 500 first ran on test in the spring of 1951, instantly delivering a claimed 170 bhp against the preceding 2-litre Tipo 166 V12cylinder model's 155bhp. The larger 2.5- litre Tipo 625 4-cylinder unit - as fitted today in '0210' here - was actually raced first, at Bari on 2 September 1951, before the 2-litre F2 Tipo 500's debut at Modena two weeks later.
The Ferrari Tipo 500 proved an unqualified success, and through 1952-53 these beautifully-proportioned cars simply won every race they entered, save for two non-Championship events in 1952 and the final Grand Prix of 1953. Ferrari in this period totalled no fewer than 30 wins from 33 races entered, and achieved 81 finishes from 109 starts with only 18 retirements ... a truly astounding record.
Ascari missed the opening World Championship Grand Prix of 1952, the Swiss event, since he was racing instead in the Indianapolis '500'. Team-mate Piero Taruffi - 'The Silver Fox' - won for Ferrari instead from the Swiss Rudi Fischer's private new customer 500 'Starlet'.
Ascari subsequently won the Belgian, French, British, German, Dutch and Italian GPs. Not only did he become Ferrari's first World Champion Driver, but his team-mates Farina and Taruffi, and 'Starlet' private owner Rudi Fischer placed 2-3-4 in the Championship table behind him.
What's more, 'Ascari (Ferrari 500)' won the non-Championship races at Comminges and La Baule, Farina's works car won at Naples and Monza, Fischer in the German Eifelrennen and at AVUS, Taruffi at Montlhry, 'Gigi' Villoresi at Les Sables d'Olonne and Modena, and French customer Louis Rosier's private car won at Cadours.
Through 1953 the World Championship series saw the seven of the eight Grands Prix fall to these Ferraris; Ascari winning in Argentina, Holland, Belgium, Britain and Switzerland, while new-boy Mike Hawthorn won the French GP sensationally, and Farina the German after Ascari's 500 had lost a wheel.
'Ciccio'Ascari was again World Champion Driver in these cars, with fellow Ferraristi Farina, Hawthorn and Villoresi 3rd-4th-5th in the final table.
Ascari had also won at Pau and Bordeaux, Hawthorn at Silverstone and Dundrod, Farina again at Naples, while the private 'Starlets' won at AVUS Berlin (driven by Belgian Ferrari concessionaire Jacques Swaters), and at Les Sables d'Olonne (Louis Rosier).
For 1954 Formula 2 was replaced by the long-awaited new unsupercharged 2.5 litre-Formula 1. All but one of the existing Ferrari 500s - there were at least six, possibly seven works cars built plus five 'Starlet' customer versions - were uprated to 2.5 litres to suit, and accordingly reclassified as Tipo 625s. As such they soldiered on into 1955, when French driver Maurice Trintignant won the Monaco GP...
This particular customer Ferrari 500 'Starlet' - chassis '0210' - is accompanied today by a considerable documentation file which includes copies of its Ferrari build-sheets, recording its completion and first test on July 3, 1952 as chassis '500/0210/F2'. It was supplied to Rome Ferrari dealer Antonio Checcachi who then used it` as a feature of his customer display, basking in the glorious success of its works team sisters. The car was not run seriously until June 6, 1954 when - under the new 2-litre Formula 1 regulations - it was entered for the non-Championship Gran Premio Roma on the Castelfusano public road circuit, driven by Guido Mancini. Handicapped by being still 2-litre engined against full 2-litre opposition, '0210' here in Mancini's inexperienced hands did not finish.
Still in 2-litre form, '0210' then passed to Giorgio Scarlatti who made his serious debut with it in the Naples GP street-race on May 8, 1955, qualifying respectably considering his power deficit and in fact finishing fifth!
He then ran the car in the Albi GP in France but the road circuit there proved too fast, and he was unclassified. He was again out-gunned in the Syracuse GP on the fast Sicilian course, yet returned for the 1956 event, this time retiring after 20 laps. The tight twists and turns of Naples' Posillipo street circuit suited '0210', however, and in the Grand Prix there on May 6, 1955, Scarlatti again qualified well and finished fourth in this lovely car
After that profitable outing '0210' was then entered for Scarlatti by 'Mimo' Dei's private new Scuderia Centro Sud in the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring, on August 5, only to retire early.
Dei then secured an entry for the ageing car in the Argentine Grand Prix - opening the 1957 World Championship season in Buenos Aires on January 13. The drive was rented by rising local racer/entrepreneur Alejandro de Tomaso, in whose hands '0210' finished ninth. Dei found a local buyer for the car - possibly Sticoni who placed 11th in a Ferrari in Heat One of the following non-Championship Gran Premio Ciudad de Buenos Aires on January 27, 1957.
This car was not the only Ferrari 500/625 to find a racing retirement home in Argentina and, like its sisters, its original Ferrari engine was at some time replaced by a locally-made Chevrolet unit for 'home-built' Meccanica Nacional racing. In the early 1970s British sports car racer Alain de Cadanet rescued the remains of several historic cars while in Argentina for the country's newly-revived International Formula 1 and endurance racing series. This 'Starlet' car's chassis and other components were amongst them, and - back in the UK - they were acquired by rock musician Eric Stewart, who commissioned leading Ferrari specialists to rebuild and restore the car for him to running order. However, before completion with definitive 2-litre Ferrari 625 engine fitted, it was then sold to the present owner in the mid 80s, for whom it was completed to the exquisite standards apparent today by highly-respected specialist David Cottingham's DK Engineering Company - many of whose invoices are preserved within the historic documentation accompanying this Lot.
In many ways it was these beautifully-profiled modello 500s which secured Ferrari's special standing within the motor racing world. But above all their record stands today as an awful warning to those designers who still don't understand that an ounce of simplicity and practicality can be worth a ton of theory. Ing. Aurelio Lampredi understood this perfectly, and Ferrari's very first back-to-back World Championship titles - barely five years into the postwar company's racing history - were the reward.