The Ferrari 121 LM began as the Ferrari 118 LM, before having its engine replaced.
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The Ferrari 121 LM was evidence that not every Ferrari race car was a winner.
Ferrari’s foray into four-cylinder engines yielded success with several models that by the end of 1954 had contributed to two Constructors Sports World Championships, as well as wins in Formulas 1 and 2.
That good fortune didn’t accompany his six-cylinder sports-racing cars. They were very fast, but did not prove reliable enough for the crucible of the day’s endurance races, grueling battles contested on a cruel mix of racetracks and come-what-may public roads.
The Ferrari 118 LM had a 3747cc inline-six based on the Lampredi four-cylinder design. It featured two plugs per cylinder, mag-neto type ignition, and three Weber carburetors. Unlike the four-cylinder’s double overhead cams, however, the six made do with a single overhead cam. Final output was 280 horsepower, and four Ferrari 118 LMs were made.
These same four cars, fitted with an enlarged version of the engine, became the Ferrari 121 LM. Bore increased 12mm to 102mm while stroke remained at 90mm. Power bumped to 330 horses.
The Ferrari LM’s underpinnings were similar to Ferrari’s four-cylinder endurance-racers. The tubular chassis was lengthened to accommodate the longer engine, and the front suspension was independent with wishbones and coil springs. The rear had a De Dion tube.
Sergio Scaglietti’s coachwork developed themes seen on the Ferrari 500 Mondial and Monzas. The front end -- longer, lower, and with covered headlights -- was now sleeker, though the rear continued the ubiquitous headrest fairing.
Scaglietti’s shop was getting more work from Ferrari, and had increased in size as a result. But his coachbuilding techniques were those he learned before the war.
“We formed the lines of the cars by placing a thin metal tubing over the chassis to get an idea of what the body would look like,” Scaglietti recalled. “Ferrari left the design up to me and we never did a drawing. Instead we relied on this wire ‘maquette,’ which normally took about three days to make. Once completed, we constructed the body panels.”
Ferrari had hoped the 118 LM and 121 LM would help him contest a wider range of sports-car races, including those that didn’t hinge on V-12-style high speed. Plus, the Mercedes-Benz SLRs were applying unrelenting pressure that his four-cylinders couldn’t always handle.
As it turned out, the six-cylinder sports-racers weren’t up to the task. Their best finish was a respectable third overall at 1955’s Mille Miglia, though in the handful of other championship events in which they competed, the cars failed to finish.
The Ferrari 121 LM's best race result was a third-place finish in the Mille Miglia.
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