The Ex-Franco Cortese,1956 Ferrari 500 TESTA ROSSA SPIDER  Chassis no. 0640 MD/TR Engine no. 0706MD/TR

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Lot 643
The Ex-Franco Cortese, 1956 Ferrari 500 TESTA ROSSA SPIDER
Chassis no. 0640 MD/TR Engine no. 0706MD/TR

Sold for £ 210,500 (US$ 291,362) inc. premium
The Ex-Franco Cortese
1956 Ferrari 500 TESTA ROSSA SPIDER
Chassis no. 0640 MD/TR
Engine no. 0706MD/TR
This remarkable restoration project is based upon what there appears to be the surviving chassis of the 13th of the total of 17 Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa Spider cars which were constructed by the world-famous Maranello factory for the 1956 racing season. The chassis serial number stamping ‘0640’ is clearly legible upon the now partially restored and repainted chassis frame. Before this remedial work was carried out, this frame had plainly led a hard life in private hands apparently in Brazil, and had had various tubes excised and replaced. However, it is plain from its provenance, and from some of the associated original components and body sections acquired with it by Mr Derek Lees, that this chassis identity attribution seems justified and the number stamping is considered to be probably the original.

Ferrari Testa Rossa ‘0640’ began life in 1956 as a works team car which was provided to veteran driver Franco Cortese – the man who had driven the very first prototype Ferrari V12 upon the illustrious new marque’s racing debut at Piacenza in 1947 – for his use in primarily national Italian sports car events.

The car was in fact pictured with Franco Cortese at the wheel in the 1956 edition of the well-known Ferrari Year Book, as in June that year his programme with the car had begun most successfully when he had "gone international" and had won with it in the little-known Gran Premio Adriatico event in Abbazia, Yugoslavia.

Franco Cortese went on to prove that he could also win in ‘0640’ against more serious home opposition with victory at Reggio di Calabria, followed by third place in the 2-litre Sports class in the Giro di Calabria event, followed by a fourth place in the sports car race at Pescara on the Ferragosto national holiday weekend.

On June 24, 1956, Cortese had also co-driven the car with Pinzero in the Gran Premio Supercortemaggiore sports car classic at Monza Autodrome. They finished 11th, and in the extremely gruelling and dangerous Messina 10-Hours Night Race, Cortese then finished fourth overall, co-driving with the Sicilian Prince Gaetano Starrabba. Another race victory followed for Cortese in ‘0640’ at Sassari, and in the Coppa Shell at Monza he then finished in ‘0640’ again, in fourth place. On November 4, 1956, Cortese and his faithful Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa appeared in Caracas, Venezuela, where he placed sixth in class and 11th overall.

There is a possibility that the car was not brought back to Europe and was then sold in Venezuela or perhaps neighbouring Brazil as it does not appear to have resumed racing in Europe through 1957. In contradiction of this possibility, however - although Franco Comotti had by that time settled in partial retirement from motor racing - he re-emerged with what appears to have been this self-same car in 1958, competing in the Austrian FlugplatzRennen at Vienna-Aspern aerodrome and in August that year returning to the Messina Dieci Ore Notturno race in which he co-drove for the second time with Prince Starrabba. What appears to be this car was again pictured in the relevant Ferrari Year Book but thereafter – as was common with so many of the more minor Ferrari sports-racing cars originally supplied in Europe – it effectively disappeared from public gaze…most probably being sold to a Brazilian private customer at that stage.

Derek Lees acquired the chassis frame offered here, plus many of the related 500 Testa Rossa components now also offered with this Lot, from Antique Automobiles Ltd of Peterborough in March 1979. We understand that these components had been located and acquired in Brazil not long before that time. The chassis frame and associated body and other parts were plainly very old, and had been – absolutely typically - quite hard used.

No engine was included with Mr Lees’s purchase and it was plain that the chassis frame had been modified, with its major midships cross-member cut-out and replaced by what is described as a "less than craftsman quality" fabrication to support the rear end of some alternative power unit to the original 2-litre Ferrari 4-cylinder, probably a Chevrolet V8.

We understand that the components had been retrieved some time earlier from Brazil, and most significantly perhaps the original bonnet panel associated with this purchase matches that pictured on the original ‘0640’ with its distinctive Testa Rossa model cambox clearance blisters.

In 1980 Mr Derek Lees purchased a suitable original Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa 4-cylinder engine to return chassis ‘0640MD/TR’ as far as practicably possible to its original configuration. This engine – offered here as part of this Lot – is serial number ‘0706MD/TR’ which Mr Lees bought via Ferrari authority Stan Nowak from Grand Prix SSR & Co in New York – for $15,500.

Between 1980 and 1985 considerable restoration work was carried out on this project, and many bills and records of work done on this 500TR– in common with all Lees Collection ‘project’ Lots in this Sale - are available for inspection

Amongst Ferrari sports-racing models the mid-’50s 2-litre Testa Rossa was one of the most popular amongst private owner-drivers. Interest in 2-litre class racing had increased, and with the end of the 2-litre 4-cylinder 500 Mondial sports model’s run in 1955, its place in the Ferrari catalogue had been taken by the new Testa Rossa. This model was of course so-named after the red crackle paint finish applied to the camboxes topping the engine which had been much improved and developed by former Maserati engineer Alberto Massimino, who had moved to the Maranello design office.

Such 4-cylinder 2-litre sports-racing cars were very easy and economical for private owner-drivers to maintain, prepare and race even in such gruelling events as the Le Mans 24-Hours and the Sebring and Reims 12-Hours, while the chassis proved sufficiently light, nimble and good handling to secure considerable success in twisty European mountain-climbs – precisely the kind of terrain on which such modern events as the Tour Auto and Classic Adelaide are run today. This restoration-project Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa – with the relatively simple and uncomplicated 4-cylinder 2-litre twin-cam engine - therefore offers a potentially ideal introduction to this kind of Historic racing or road/rally event – and promises a new owner/driver some tremendous Ferrari fun…for what promises to be minimal maintenance and running cost.

This Lot is offered for Sale entirely as viewed.
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