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Guest Editorial

Ferrari Serial Number 0600MDTR, The Testa Rossa Prototype Part II

Ed McDonough
Photos Copyright Peter Collins

After Le Mans, 0600 returned to the USA and later in the year was sold to Chinetti at NART who then resold it to the CAMORADI team. Lucky Casner came in 2nd at a New Smyrna Beach race in late February, and won a minor race at Opa-locka,FL, on March 1. A week later he won his class at Boca Raton, FL, with 0600 returning to form in winning short races. Casner entered 0600 for the Sebring 12 Hours on March 21 for himself and Jim Hunt, and practiced it and his second car, a 250 TR Ferrari, though 0600 had been the very first CAMORADI Team car. In heavy rain, repairs to collision damage to the left front delayed the pair.

The car was running with cooling vents for the rear brakes, and was acquitting itself well aside from the delay. They finished 3rd in class and 13th overall, which was not bad considering the car was in its 4th season of international racing.

0600 still had one more fling left in it, and after remaining dormant for most of 1959, it was entered by CAMORADI in the 1960 Cuban Grand Prix in Havana. This was the only major motor race to take place in Cuba during the Castro era, and CAMORADI had entered two Maserati Birdcages for Stirling Moss and Carroll Shelby. When one of them failed to appear, it was decided that 0600 would serve as their practice car, rather than wear out the other Birdcage. American Allan Markelson was then lent 0600 for the race but it was pretty tired by then, and the engine let go after 17 laps, becoming the race's first retirement. This was a sad end to a long and reasonably distinguished career.

Exactly when 0600 left CAMORADI is uncertain, but it was sold to Tiny Gould in the 1960s, to Robert E. Rich of Buffalo, N.Y. in 1967, then to Paul Pappalardo in Greenwich, CT in the late '60s or early '70s. Then it went on to Greg Miller in Texas in 1977 in exchange for a 330P chassis number 0820, to D. Ghose in CT in 1999, and finally to Bill Binnie in whose care it was refurbished by Paul Lanzante. It retained the Scaglietti pontoon-fendered body but had been returned to a red finish for the Cuban race in 1960, and is now in superb Ferrari red as it appeared at Le Mans in 1958.

It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the history of this little Ferrari with that entire Moss, Rodriguez, Shelby, Rodriguez, Frere, Casner, Bianchi, and Swaters provenance. It is not the same shape as the better-known 250 TR, though the differences are fairly subtle. Overall, it is slightly smaller, with less flare to the Scaglietti body then the 250, though somehow this has as much elegance, with a very pronounced nose housing two auxiliary lamps.

The bonnet carries the original bulge for the raised cams, a slightly flattened double bulge, fortunately retained when the new body was put on the chassis before Le Mans in 1958. It has the characteristic fared in headlamps of the 250 TR, the Le Mans spec windscreen (which I found easier to look over rather than through), tidy vents to bring cool air to the rear brakes, and that impressive looking and sounding four-into-one exhaust system on the passenger side. Under the bonnet resides one of the best pieces of automotive sculpture you will ever see, that crown of Ferrari engine-work, the bright redheaded Testa Rossa engine.

This one, it has to be admitted, lacks twelve cylinder wail, but takes the Mondial 2-liter a significant step forward in performance and torque. It has the four-cylinder grunt that rapidly turns to a much more threatening tone as the revs rise. The rev counter reads to 10,000 rpm, though we were carefully sticking to the redlined 7000. The twin Weber carbs and efficient gear box result in good low end acceleration, and the short race results of this car must mean that it was effective in that department in the period. However, this is really a car for long distance racing, happiest in medium and high-speed bends. Even on a cold day at Silverstone, the skinny tires generated enough grip to be exciting in the second gear slow bends, and to allow enough give to just start to drift through the top gear turns. Up and down the gearbox, the engine sings that glorious old Ferrari music.

Behind the three-spoked Ferrari wheel, everything happens efficiently and predictably. The gear lever is in the center, a lovely chromed affair with a lockout for reverse. Two period style leather racing seats make up the interior, and they do the job. The cockpit is comfortable and easy to work in, but emphasizes the feeling that the car is diminutive. The rev counter sits behind the wheel, with two ancillary gauges each side. They all remain steady and reliable, and there is no distraction from the pleasure of driving. Using an empty part of the Silverstone runways means that the lines can be changed and tightened and opened at will, with the chance to either surge out of a corner in 3rd or slide through it flat in 4th and catch the tail on the exit, holding the revs and giving the brakes a rest until we come to something sharper. Braking is all smooth and progressive, and undramatic, just what you want in a long distance machine.

According to the surviving record, 0600 MDTR had its gearbox assembly completed on Jan. 11, 1956, the chassis frame finished on January 31, the complete engine assembly done on February 18 when the body was painted yellow. It was ready for its delivery to Jacques Swaters who had ordered it for the Ecurie National Belge. Swaters wanted the car ready for the Grand Prix of Senegal at Dakar in Africa on March 11, where he duly won his class, came 8th overall and recorded the first race win for a Ferrari Testa Rossa before the new model had even been launched at the New York Motor Show.

Many thanks are due Bill Binnie for the loan of his car for this test as well as the superb history he has amassed. Thanks also to Paul Lanzante and his team, and the HGPCA.

Read Part I: Ferrari Serial Number 0600MDTR, The Testa Rossa Prototype Part I

This article courtesy of Veloce Today and the author and photographer.

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