Meet the 4-cylinder Ferrari 500 Mondial
Does Ferrari really need 12 cylinders to be a proper Ferrari?
Imagine a car with a 4-cylinder 2000cc engine with 160 HP…Did you do it? Now, I’m guessing you did not have a Pracning Horse in your mind, did you?
Well, do not let the numbers mess with your brain. They may not seem impressive, but this little engine was borrowed from the Ferrari 500 F2, a car that brought Ferrari their first F1 championship, with the legendary Alberto Ascari behind the wheel.
Alberto Ascari. Credit: BBC.co.uk
Why the sudden change?
In the first seasons of racing, Ferrari was using 1.5-litre V12 engines. But, the FIA changed the rules in 1953., now requiring for all cars to have a 2.0-litre engines. So, instead of just increasing the capacity of their current fragile V12, engine, Ferrari’s engine designer Aurelio Lampredi decided to make a new and more durable engine.
Mondial 500 by Pininfarina. Credit: FavCars.com
Enzo Ferrari did not really care what kind of engine his cars had, as long as they cross the finish line first. And so, the new 500 Mondial came to life with a 2.0-litre V4 engine. The name “Mondial” was used to mark the F1 championships won by Ascari, and the number 500 indicated that it had 500cc per cylinder.
The car was designed by none other than Enzo’s son, Dino Ferrari. And the bodies were made by two very famous coach builders: Scaglietti and Pininfarina. Scaglietti made 19 units, while Pininfarina made “only” 13. But, if you look at both versions, you can clearly see the differences: Scaglietti’s version (pictured below on the left) was more of a racing-type and very similar to 750 Monza, while Pininfarina (pictured below on the right) put more passion into their creation and made it look like a road cruiser rather than a racer.
The 500 Mondial made its debut at the 1953. 12 Hours of Casablanca race with Ascari and Luigi Villoresi behind the wheel. Later, the Mondial won the races in Agadir (driven by Francois Picard) and 2 Hours of Dakar (driven by Maurice Trintignant), which led to some harsh comments that the car should be renamed to Ferrari 500 “Africa”. But, the most notable race for this car was the 1954. Mille Miglia, when Vittorio Marzotto and this Prancing Horse finished 2nd, right behind a 3.0-litre Lancia D24.
Marzotto's 500 Mondial getting ready for Mille Miglia. Credit: BrunoDaytona67Canalblog.com
But, in 1955., when Maserati presented their new 200S, the Mondial’s days were over. The car had a short, but successful life. Ferrari later developed a new 4-cylinder engine which was used for the famous Testa Rossa, but that is a story for another article.
The beautiful 4-cylinder Lampredi engine. Credit: RMSotheby's
The moral of this story is to show that “a Ferrari needs a V12” is just a myth. Enzo was a sucker for V12 engines, but he would leave them aside the moment he saw a better alternative.
The name Mondial was later resurrected in the 1980s, but it could not even hold the candle for the original Mondial. Today, the 500 Mondial would set you back about $4 million, which is still a bargain compared to its V12 siblings from the same era.