One of only two built, ex-1954 Tour de France Automobile

1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Berlinetta

Coachwork by Pinin Farina

 

“If the light, efficient and torque-rich four-cylinder engine worked so well in a Formula 2 car, reasoned Ferrari and Lampredi, why not try it in larger sizes? By the end of 1953 Aurelio Lampredi had crystallised his ideas for sports-racing cars using his four-cylinder engines.” Karl Ludvigsen describes the birth of the 500 Mondial in his 2008 work ‘Red-Hot Rivals – Ferrari vs Maserati’

The design and engineering department at Maranello in the early 1950s was a hotbed of innovation. While well-known for its V12s in a dazzling range of capacities from 1,500cc to 4,900cc, Alberto Ascari won two World Championships for Ferrari at the wheel of a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre F2 car. At one point, he and his Tipo 500 single-seater won seven consecutive World Championship races in a row.

The nimble racing cars powered by throaty four-cylinder motors, each piston displacing the capacity of a torquey 500cc GP motorbike, were strong performers on events where handling and low-down response were highly valued. On 20 December 1953, Ascari paired with Gigi Villoresi in a brand-new 2.0-litre racing car, finished second to a big Ferrari V12 at the Casablanca 12-hour race. The small two-seater beat a 4.5-litre Talbot and factory Aston driver Roy Salvadori sharing a privateer DB3. 

The new sports car intended for wealthy gentleman drivers was named 500 Mondial: ‘500’ for the capacity in cc of each cylinder, ‘Mondial’ in honour of Ascari’s brace of championship wins.

Driving solo, Vittorio Marzotto – most senior of the well-known brothers – finished second overall on the May 1954 Mille Miglia in a prototype 500 Mondial Spider bodied by local firm Scaglietti. Most early (Series 1) production cars, though, carried aggressively elegant open coachwork by Pinin Farina in the style of the bruising 375 MM.

The famous Torinese carrozzeria clothed only two chassis as berlinettas, Ferrari’s spine-tingling name for its most potent closed road-racing cars. Both were entered in the September 1954 Tour de France Automobile – this car is one.

 

The Ferrari 500 Mondial

The chassis of the 3.0-litre and 2.0-litre, four-cylinder sports-racing Ferraris were very similar: De Dion rear suspension; a gearbox rear-mounted in unit with the differential; transverse-leaf springs front and rear; Houdaille adjustable dampers all round; an identical 2.25m wheelbase and powerful Lampredi-designed engines.

Compared with its arch-rival, the 1953 Maserati A6GCS, the new 500 Mondial had larger brakes (from the 3.0-litre 750 Monza). Other than that, the two cars were broadly similar in weight and power: both mustered 160-170bhp and weighed around 1,600lb, although the Ferrari was the more compact.

The 500 Mondial’s engine – with some modifications – came straight from Ascari’s Driver’s World Championship-winning cars, running at that time to Formula 2 rules. Bore and stroke of 90 x 78mm gave the Tipo 110 motor a swept volume of 1,984.8cc. Dry-sump lubrication, gear-driven double overhead cams, twin plugs-per-cylinder and a pair of large Weber DCO carburettors were the hallmarks of yet another thoroughbred born in Maranello. All chassis were right-hand drive to accommodate the trend for clockwise circuits and a big, 150-litre fuel tank sat in the tail.

Most marque historians consider that of the believed 22 first-series 500 Mondials of 1954, 14 carried Pinin Farina spider bodywork, six were bodied by Scaglietti in the style of the 750 Monza and just two – agreed by all sources – were Pinin Farina berlinettas. The following year, Ferrari updated the design to make the car very similar to its bigger brother, with a Tipo 553 block from the Squalo single-seater. 

Compact, light, and able to use its punchy engine to great effect, the 500 Mondial was a fine privateer and occasional factory car, frequently seen wheel-to-wheel with Maserati’s latest A6GCS/54 in Europe and North America. Well-known 500 Mondial drivers in 1954 included Italians Franco Cortese and Umberto Maglioli and Frenchmen Charles Pozzi, Robert Manzon and François Picard.

 

This Motor Car 

According to a copy of this car’s Foglio di Montaggio (build sheet) supplied by the Ferrari factory to the current owner in March 2002, chassis 0422 MD was completed in mid-1954. On this document, the chassis is clearly marked as Tipo 501, the motor Tipo 110. Both carry Matricola No. 0422 MD.

A first bench-test of the engine was carried out on 4 June 1954, overseen by technician Franchini. The car was fitted with a four-speed Tipo 501/282 transmission and ran on 16in diameter Borrani alloy-rim wire wheels with 5.25in Pirelli tyres at the front, 6in at the rear.

The final page clearly states ‘Berlinetta Mondial’. As mentioned earlier, chassis 0422 MD was one of only two cars – both surviving today – bodied by Pinin Farina in the style of the fire-breathing 375 MM Berlinetta shown at Geneva in March 1954 and raced by Briggs Cunningham’s team at Le Mans that June.

So just who commissioned this almost unique berlinetta, and for which purpose? While sister car ‘0452 MD’ was sold to Italy, this 500 Mondial berlinetta’s first owner was Moroccan resident Mario Dustaritz. Both cars were intended for that September’s Tour de France Automobile, an unrelenting event for loosely production-based cars in which closed bodywork gave some respite from the elements.

Dustaritz’s ‘0422 MD’ was sourced through the local agent André Vanon of Cogemati SA.  He’d already entered at least one TdF, as the records show he finished 13th overall in 1953 at the wheel of a Fiat 8V, sharing the car with a Monsieur Itord. The Otto Vu was wheeled out for the June 1954 Tangier Grand Prix, where Dustaritz finished second, but as soon as the French Racing Blue 500 Mondial was delivered to Morocco it was immediately prepared for the big event in September.

Before that, allowances were made for local conditions, so extra locks were fitted to secure it from theft. And to ready it for the Tour, windscreen washers and a battery of four driving lights were installed. At the time, it was Moroccan registered 3092 MA 24 (‘MA’, Maroc).

Joining Dustaritz on his TdF adventure in car no. 233 was experienced Venezuelan driver Lino Fayen, whose career began in the early 1950s and who in 1959 finished 6th overall at Le Mans sharing his Ferrari 250 GT LWB ‘Interim’ with Italian Grand Prix driver Gino Munaron.

Despite being just ‘out of the box’, and enjoying the talents of the experienced Fayen, like that of the other four 500 Mondials, the 1954 Tour de France for ‘0422 MD’ and Dustaritz ended in failure.

Although research is unlikely to ever reveal the full story, it’s believed that following the Tour de France the car was seized by French customs, quite possibly for non-payment of arrears to Vanon and Cogemati. As a result, in 1955 it was sold by Vanon to French gentleman driver Jean Piger who registered it 746 BZ 43 in the Haute-Loire. Piger, who at one time lived in the Château de Margeaix, was a discerning car collector with the means to order, amongst others, a new Ferrari 275 GTB/4 (sold by Kidston SA in more recent years) but to hardly ever drive any of his cars. At the time of the sale of ‘0422 MD’ to our client in 2002, he still owned a Bugatti Type 57.

A copy of a French Recepisse de Declaration de Mise en Circulation d'un Vehicule a Moteur (declaration of road registration) dated 23 August 1962 confirms that Ferrari chassis 0422 MD was indeed owned by a Jean Prosper Piger (‘engineer’) and bore the registration 746 BZ 43.

Piger’s ownership of ‘0422 MD’ lasted an incredible 47 years. During this time, it was exercised sparingly, remaining untouched, a time-warp example of an early Pinin Farina-bodied 1950s Ferrari. Never fully repainted or restored, for most of Piger’s ownership it was hardly used at all.

Our client – a North American Ferrari collector of great standing – purchased the car via an American agent in March 2002. It was in, as our client puts it, “unrestored, in ‘as is’ condition,” one of the great barn-finds of the decade.

On arrival in America, all mechanical parts of the car were carefully disassembled, cleaned and – only if really required – replaced. Hoses, pipes with leaks and bad rubber bushings were changed, but nothing was painted, plated or otherwise altered from the condition in which the car was received. The engine was carefully inspected and serviced. Some engine work had been carried out over the years, but it had never had a major service for bearings or similar parts. 

In January 2003, ‘0422 MD’ made a stunning appearance on the Ferrari show circuit at the Palm Beach Cavallino Classic XIII, winning the Coppa 4 Cilindri, the Preservation Cup and a fine silver in Class 13. On 16 November 2005 the car was Ferrari Classiche certified, the 29-page document that accompanies the car attesting to the originality and matching numbers of its body, chassis, engine, gearbox and running gear.

Seven years later, the car impressed the judges at Pebble Beach (including Simon Kidston), winning the Post-War Preservation Class in 2012 after first completing the evocative Tour d’Elegance. That year it was granted a green FIVA A/2 Identity Card.

Today, it remains exquisitely ‘as found’, with original paint, interior and all fittings untouched from the mid-1950s. The characteristic yellow glass of the extra driving lights is the same as when those lamps illuminated French country roads on the 1954 Tour de France. Skilled, yet sympathetic maintenance has meant that this car can still be enjoyed on tours and other events, while the patina of the interior and powder blue paintwork recalls times long past.

All this, the delicate yet aggressive bodywork by the Torinese master – truly a ‘svelte 375 MM’ – and only three private owners known from new, make this car unrepeatable. Ferrari aficionados searching for one of the most beautiful survivors in existence should look no further.