1953 Ferrari 625TF Barchetta

The designation Ferrari 625 usually conjures up visions of the four-cylinder 2 1/2-liter Grand Prix car designed in 1951, the number 625 indicating the capacity of one cylinder. The victorious 12-cylinder Formula 1 and Formula 2 cars had by then begun to lose their competitive edge and Lampredi had joined Ferrari as Chief Engineer to replace Colombo who deserted to Maserati.

It was Lampredi’s conviction that a four-cylinder engine would not only be lighter, but also more efficient and reliable, with less mechanical friction and far fewer moving parts. Initially the intention was for Lampredi’s engine to be of two litres and that it should replace the 12-cylinder two-liter for Formula 2, which it did very successfully, eventually winning the World Championship titles for Alberto Ascari in 1952 and 1953. However the power output of the new engine and its torque was such that Ferrari, who foresaw the likelihood of a future Formula 1 being limited to 2 1/2-liter unsupercharged, decided on a 2 1/2-liter version of the engine as well. When the 2 1/2-liter unsupercharged Formula 1 duly came into force in 1954, Ferrari was clearly well placed.

Ferrari was, of course, not only active on the Grand Prix front and fitted the same 2 1/2-liter GP engine into a sports racing Barchetta. This became the 625 TF, for “Tipo Formula.” Three examples were built, all three bodied by Vignale who had become a major coachwork supplier to Ferrari superseding Touring. The first one was a coupe (SN0306TF, destroyed in a fire in Italy – ED.). The other to were barchettas, of which the one pictured here is the sole known survivor. (The other, SN0305TF was last seen in a 500 mile race in Argentina in 1955. Its whereabouts are unknown at the present time. – ED.)

This model is thus the first four-cylinder sports racing car built and raced by Ferrari, leading the way to the 500 Mondial in 1954, the 750 in 1955 and finally the 860 Monza which contributed to Ferrari’s victory in the 1956 World Sports Car Championship. This historical significance of the 625TF speaks for itself.

In those days, chassis numbers were not recorded. Period photographs provide precious help when the history of a particular car needs to be traced, and Jean-Jacques Frei is to be thanked for having put his important photographic archive at Christie’s disposal to research 0304TF. Vignale involuntarily assisted, as he built in a few small differences in the body (mostly air outlets on the lower part of the body, behind the front wheels) still present today, which enable to differentiate it from the sister car and to follow it thorugh its racing career.

0304TF made its first outing as a works entry in the 6th Gran Premio dell’Autodromo at Monza on 29 June 1953, driven by Mike Hawthorn, who was to become World Champion with Ferrari in 1958. It was one of a dozen Ferraris lined up at the start, to compete against the three official three-litre Lancias driven by Bonetto, Gonzales, and Manzon, as well as a few Gordinis. Luigi Villoresi won, driving a works 250 MM, beating Bonettos’ Lancia and Farina’s V12. Hawthorn, in the “little” Ferrari, finished 4th, followed by eight other V12s. This was a significant result. The car was then entered in the Coppa d’Oro Dolomiti where it finished 3rd with Umberto Maglioli.

At the end of that year, the car was shipped to South America and led an active life for almost ten years. After some appearances in Brazil with local ace Chico Landi, 0305TF went to Argentina where it participated in no less than four times in the World Championship event, the Buenos Aires 1000 Kilometer Race, between 1954 and 1958 coming 5th and 8th in the first two events. Driven by Luis Milan, Alvaro Pinao, Nestor Salmeo, Cesar Reyes, and Cesar Rivero it was to be raced until 1962 with consistent results in the top five. 0304TF was later discovered by a knowledgeable Italian collector who re-imported it into Italy where it was rebuilt by the mechanics of the reputed workshop of Gianni Diena in Modena. The body was probably resprayed at the same time. It was occasionally seen in a few historic events like the 1000 Miglia.

Today, this apparently sole surviving 625TF is still in very original condition. The Vignale body, crafted in aluminum, is well preserved. The engine bites in an absolutely ferocious way and the cams a pure delight to drive, being so small, light and powerful. It will be a welcome entry in all major historic events and has already been extended an invitation be Ferrari to participate in the festivities for the commemoration of the marque’s 50th anniversary later this year.