Ferrari P for prototype

Published on Tuesday, November 19, 2019.

At the end of the 1950s, centrally mounted endurance sports cars were on the mind of developers much due to the success that formula cars were achieving with similar designs for single seaters.

Ferrari, no different than the others although not a first mover, was developing a V6 motor for single seater racers, initiating the Dino name that would evolve to represent a strand of sports endurance racers from Maranello, single seater formula racers, as well as Ferrari’s very first mid-engine, luxury, production street automobile, the Dino 206GT, introduced to the market in 1967.

Ferrari went through a series of shocks and jolts between the departure of the heart of Enzo’s engineering, development, and commercial team, as well the aborted financial deal with Ford that derailed in 1963. Technically, Ferrari needed to remain pertinent, despite appearances. Winning at Le Mans seven out of eight years in a row, between 1958 to 1965, from the outside indicated a formidable powerhouse of technical and managerial superiority. The reality was different. Although still menacing, there were dents in Ferrari’s armour.

Ferrari 156 Sharknose

Ferrari was conservative but he wasn’t apposed to technical solutions that would provide victory. He had proven that many times over, going back to his engineers’ breakthroughs during his Alfa pre-war years, as well as continued decisions for the development of his streak of winning engines and sports models throughout the 1950’s. Perhaps his success was responsible for the internal disputes that forced change within Ferrari at the beginning of the 1960s.

Whatever the reasons, Ferrari was still winning and the need to develop centre mounted engines in his racers was just as evident to him as to anybody in the world of motor sport. Remarkably, Ferrari while winning at Le Mans in 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1965, also won the Formula 1 World Championship Drivers’ Title in 1961 and 1964, thanks to Phil Hill, John Surtees and Mauro Forghieri. The Ferrari 156 Sharknose is an iconic driver title, and team championship winner. It was Ferrari’s entry into the world of mid to centre mounted winning race cars and a rather obvious statement of the excellence that Maranello could turnout at the time, surprising no one in the process.

Ferrari 250 P

The departure from Ferrari of Carlo Chiti, Giotto Bizzarrini, Girolamo Gardini and Romolo Tavoni in late 1961 gutted the company. The need to transfer engineering solutions from the Sharknose to the 250 P mid-engine planned endurance platform, as well as the need to finish the development of the 250 GTO to impose and maintain Ferrari in the GT category, vs. the English competition from Jaguar for example, caused Ferrari to look within his own team. Struck by the promising figure of his young apprentice engineer, Mauro Forghieri, son of one of the factory’s employees, Ferrari put his faith initially in a solution that came from within his company. Forghieri, only in his late 20s, turned out to be perhaps the most prolific and successful of all the engineers that Ferrari ever employed. He would go on to develop the V8 engine for the 1964 driver’s title and world championship winning Ferrari 158, and nearly a decade later the Formula 1 series 312 models that Niki Lauda and others would drive to win championship titles throughout the 1970s.

Ferrari 250 GTO

The 250 GTO was an enormous achievement for Ferrari. Scaglietti contributed to the design of this splendid car as Forghieri worked on suspension, road handling and chassis solutions. Scaglietti was Ferrari’s neighbour, literally. Bodies fabricated by Scaglietti were never more than a few metres away from the Ferrari assembly lines. That type of reliance and dependability as well as the loyalty that the young Forghieri could afford ‘Il Commendatore’ were certainly not lost on him.

Part of the development of the 250 engine for the GTO was the basis of developing a platform to allow a range of variations on the same theme. The 12 cylindre 250 layout was the backbone of racing development at Ferrari for a period spanning decades. In March 1963, Ferrari introduced to the press its very first 12 cylinder, mid-engine powered, racing prototype: the 250 P. Born to win, the 250 P went to win at Sebring, Le Mans and Nurburgring all in its maiden year. Its open roll-bar wing proved to be extremely efficient, just slightly telling of the closed version that would follow by 1964, the 250 LM.

Ferrari 250 P

Engine development, and FIA rules permitting, Ferrari’s motor development team built larger displacement engines descending directly front the 250 layout, which was the basic 12 X 250, 3.0 litre V12. Even a couple of the GTO would receive the enlarged version, the 330 or 4.0 litre V12. The 330 LMB, the GTO’s replacement, received this engine as well as the prototypes that came along behind the 250 P. Another version was the 275 or 3.3 litre V12, to be found in the 275 SP as well as the street model cars that received homologation as the 275 GTB and 275 GTB/4. In 1965 the two Le Mans winning and 2nd place 250 LM were actually 275s, but Ferrari wanted to maintain the linage in the model’s title. Along side the 250 LM arrived the 330 P2, with a redesigned chassis to incorporate the 3.3 litre V12 solely for racing purposes as a full fledged prototype. While extending Ferrari’s outreach towards hardcore race winning contenders, the 330 P2 was meant to win and to lead Ferrari down a path of continued dominance in endurance sports racing. Reliability problems precluded the 330 P2 to exceed and shine in the limelight of victory. Although winning at Nurburgring in 1965 and taking 2nd later that year at the 24 Hours of Spa, the P2 was replaced in 1966 by the P3.

Ferrari 330 P2

In 1966 Ferrari fitted the 330 P3 with Lucas mechanical fuel injection on the factory team cars, a Ferrari first. The P3 encountered many problems with its type 593 gearbox. Ferrari built five P3 chassis in 1966 but only three were completed and used for racing in 1966. Although the P3 and the P4 (the 1967 version) both had 4.0 litre displacement engines, the P4 block was of a different design. The client version of the P3 was the 412P with the main difference being Weber carburettors on the 412P instead of the fuel injection of the P3. One could imagine that Ferrari wanted to retain an advantage for his factory cars over those of his customers. The two remaining P3 chassis were built for clients in 1967 as 412P. One of the original P3, chassis 0846, received a P4 engine in 1967 to be known as the P3/P4. It crashed and burnt at Le Mans in 1967 to be completely destroyed and written off by the Ferrari factory.

Ferrari 330 P3

For 1967, as stated above, a newly developed version of the 4.0 litre engine was fitted into the 330 P4. Three new specific chassis were built, 0856, 0858 and 0860. As also stated, P3 chassis 0846 was converted to P4 specification. The P4 engines introduced three values per cylindre, vs. only two on the P3s, combined with the same Lucas fuel injection the P4s attained output of 450 bhp. In 1967 P4s took victory at the 1000 Km of Monza and at the 24 Hours of Daytona however victory at Le Mans escaped Ferrari. Despite finishing 2nd and 3rd, the absence of victory at Le Mans in 1967 cannot be over emphasised in terms of where Ferrari was heading in the world of prototype racing.

Ferrari 330 P4

During the three year period from 1965 through 1967, Ferrari introduced a series of chassis, motors, fuel systems, gearboxes and coachwork. The key to understanding the various versions, 330 P3, 412 P, 365 P2, P4 … basically factory team cars were fitted with fuel injection starting in 1966. The largest engine displacements, that is the 4 litre cars and above, would no longer be eligible for racing according to the FIA rules changes announced in late 1967 for the 1968 racing season. Sports GT cars with displacements of greater than 3.0 litres had to be produced in at least 25 examples or they would be considered factory prototypes for which the new displacement limitation was reduced to the very limited 3.0 litre size. This blow virtually eliminated Ferrari from the endurance sports championship for 1968. Ferrari had not produced enough 412 P, 330 P3/4 or P4 in order to qualify for engaging these cars in the Sport 5 litre category. Ferrari decided to boycott the 1968 season.

In the real world of racing, Ferrari was faced with the direct and present danger inflicted by Ford. Victories at Le Mans in 1963 and 1964 were well deserved. The Ferrari mid engined 250 P/275 SP was perfect enough to win. Its replacements, the 330 P2 and then 330 P3, did not provide the success that Ferrari might have otherwise achieved had Ford not come out in force to beat Ferrari in the endurance racing world, Ferrari’s world. Things that made Ferrari the dominating force at Le Mans, at the Tour de France, and at the Mille Miglia, were not maintained to the level necessary to beat Ford, as Ford turned up the pressure through 1965, 1966 and 1967. Ferrari still produced fine, fantastic racing machines but Ford had gained the game winning advantage over Ferrari by 1966.

Of the various Ford GT40 Mk I through Mk IV (also read Ford GT40 : the Ferrari slayer) an estimated 105 cars were produced. This is perhaps inaccurate but it is at least an approximate number for discussion purposes. Of all of the Ferrari prototypes built to race against the Ford GT40 from 1964 through 1969, a similar total number of cars (maybe less…) were built: 250 P, 275 SP, 250 LM, 330 P2, 330 P3, P3/P4, 412 P, 365 P, 312 P…

Ferrari 365 P2

The market today for each and everyone of these cars is off the charts, although there is a real and active market for all of them. A Le Mans winning GT40 seems to have exchanged hands for > $20 million a couple of years ago. Considering that Ford won four times at Le Mans but with only three cars (chassis 1075 won twice, in 1968 & 1969) and considering that two of the three belong to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, the buyer might have gotten a very good deal.

Ferrari 365 P2 Spyder

The Ferrari chassis 0816, that won at Le Mans as a 250 P in 1963 and as a 275 P in 1964, sold in a private sale last year for an estimated (guesstimated) $25 million. Comparable and similar. A 1967 330 P4 however would no doubt demand a much higher price. Considered by some as more valuable than a 250 GTO (really?), one of the three P4 from 1967 must be worth upwards of $50 million, if GTOs are trading for as much.

So where is the value in all that? Perhaps a Ferrari Dino 206 GT or 246 GT from 1967-69. Good 206 GT are probably trading for $500k to $600K, that is those that are not hidden in a Tokyo garage. Good 246 GT, early series, all original cars, are probably going for $300k, more or less. But you’d better hurry up, as they are going fast.


Daniel Brooks

Daniel is a contributor for CarJager and also Forbes France writing texts in French language for their daily newsletter and trimestrial print editions.  His articles cover the classic automobile market as well as luxury and lifestyle of classic automobile collectors.


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