Following engineer Aurelio Lampredi’s departure from Ferrari in 1955, a new engineering team was formed for 1956. These highly skilled men soon came up with a new 2-liter sports racing car: the 500 TR. This was the first Ferrari designated with the now-legendary name “Testa Rossa.” The 4-cylinder-engined Type 500 TR was introduced in 1956 and was the successor to the 500 Mondial. Seventeen examples were built, and they became favorite sports racers for privateers the world over.

Half a year later, the FIA issued new regulations. The 500 TR was outlawed, the windscreen now had to be symmetrical over the axis of the car with a height of at least 5.9 inches, a soft top was required, and the gas tank capacity was to be 31.7 gallons. A passenger door was mandated as well.

Engineers, mechanics and designers began a race against the clock. By the end of 1956, Ferrari announced the 500 TRC, a new model which adhered to all of the new FIA regulations. Pininfarina designed an entirely new body for the car, which was built by Scaglietti, and it is rightly regarded as one of the most beautiful Ferrari racing spiders ever built.

The Ferrari factory sold the TRC to private customers all over the world as a winning weapon for sports car racing. The small group of 19 cars was produced within one year. Less than twelve months after its introduction, however, the 500 TRC was replaced by the 12-cylinder 250 Testa Rossa. As Ferrari’s last 4-cylinder sports racing car, the 500 TRC truly marked the end of an era.

The car on offer today is the sixth of these 19 total cars. It has been owned by a succession of enthusiasts, the first two of which actively raced the car in period. The third owner and his family owned the car for more than three decades.

The 500 TRC, with its clean and elegant lines, is regarded as one of the most beautiful sports racing Ferraris ever built. Chassis 0670MDTR is a matching-numbers car and totally authentic. Its entire history is known and has been very carefully researched and documented by marque experts. Moreover, it is eligible for almost every historic event in the world, be it an open road, closed race course or manicured show field.

Some Ferraris may have achieved greater notoriety, but to the connoisseurs, none of the front-engined cars are more important and prestigious than the highly sophisticated 4-cylinder 500 TRCs, which combine perfect aesthetics with tremendous driving pleasure.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1957 Ferrari 500 TRC Spider by Scaglietti
Years Produced:1957
Number Produced:19 (17 500 TRCs and two 625 TRCs)
Original List Price:$10,000
Tune Up Cost:$3,000
Chassis Number Location:On front cross member
Engine Number Location:Center left crankcase above water inlet
Club Info:Ferrari Club of America, P.O. Box 720597, Atlanta, GA 30358

This car, Lot 132, sold for $3,986,360, including buyer’s premium, at the RM Villa d’Este auction on May 21, 2011.
Long before Porsche had a removable top panel “Targa” model, the word meant something different in the automotive world. Targa was the short name for the Targa Florio, which was one of the most difficult and important sports car races ever staged. It ran over multiple 43-mile laps of Sicilian countryside, and each lap included terrifying mountain roads and a gut-check 3.7-mile straight. The route’s elevation changes often meant adapting to different weather conditions, but the most nerve-wracking section had to be the high-speed passes through small towns packed with spectators standing inches from your path.

The Targa Florio was eventually canceled after a fatal accident, and a former lap record holder called the race “totally insane.” Porsche named their new removable-panel 911 model the Targa after several Targa Florio victories.

It is likely that the celebrated race was also the motivation for the purchase of our subject car. The original owner lived in Sicily, and the car competed in the Targa Florio five times. The car was used in other competition events, but it was surely the desire to do well in the Targa Florio that influenced the purchase.

An engine like a watch

The 4-cylinder Ferraris have a very thin market. The engines are thought to be somewhat fragile, and the number of guys who really know what makes them tick can be counted on your fingers. Four-cylinder parts are nearly nonexistent, and their performance lags the 12-cylinder cars. On the other hand, the 4-cylinder engine is like a fine watch, the castings are jewelry and the internals are so complicated they are a marvel to study. When running, the sound of the gears and mechanicals whirling and whining is like nothing else in the automotive world.

There is a group of hardcore followers that know everything there is to know about every 4-cylinder Ferrari. These fanatics often can’t afford the cars, but they get enough converts to keep the market interesting.

Calculating a price

So, how do you put a value on a car when there were only 19 of them ever made, and they almost never come to market? You start with what it’s not worth.
There were roughly 125 4-cylinder Ferraris built. Figuring that the TRC is the premium car of the 4-cylinder models, you search for any 4-cylinder sales and use them to set a bottom. Next, you look for recent sales of more desirable cars, like a 250 Testa Rossa, and use those to set the top bracket. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a small spread where the buyer and seller can find the sweet spot.

Fortunately, there were price points to work with on this car. RM previously sold this very car at their 2006 Monterey auction for $2,282,500. Gooding & Company offered the car again at their 2008 Monterey auction, but the seller turned down the $3,200,000 high bid. That helps figure how the seller might value the car today.

The auction estimate was roughly $3,700,000 to $4,700,000, and the sale came in at a respectable $3,986,360. Ignoring all expenses, the 2008 to 2011 return was 73%. The Italian venue appears to have been the correct choice for a sale, as in euros the sale was only up 57% from 2006. The return was further enhanced by maybe $100,000, as a spare engine and miscellaneous parts package included in the 2006 sale were not offered this time. It was reported that the car had a United States title, which could add 19% to the price for a European buyer.

The best of a small bunch

This car may be the best of the 500 TRCs. It has an exceptional provenance with history from new. It had an extensive racing history, but it is free from any notable damage. It has been maintained by the right people and is not in need of any significant work. The buyer was lucky to put out just enough money to get the car bought without overpaying. The seller got a nice return and some personal time with one of the great cars of the automotive world.
All told, both parties had a good day at Villa d’Este.

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Auctions.)

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