Long before Carroll Shelby became a famed sports-car constructor he was a successful racing driver. The car he called “the best Ferrari I ever drove” was the none other than the Ferrari 410 S.
The Ferrari 410 S was a tour de force from both Ferrari and body builder Sergio Scaglietti. As with most of Enzo’s competition cars, the Ferrari 410 S used the best of lessons already learned. The chassis and underpinnings started with the Le Mans-winning 375 Plus, but the frame was strengthened and the wheelbase reduced for better handling. The front suspension replaced leaf springs with coils.
The mighty V-12 was derived from the 410 Superamerica’s and was Ferrari’s largest yet, at 4962cc. It had a twin-ignition system with four distributors for the two-plugs-per-cylinder heads. Output hit the 400-horsepower mark, and was transmitted to the rear wheels via a five-speed gearbox.
By 1955, Sergio Scaglietti’s design themes had matured so that the Ferrari 410 S was truly rolling art. Its proportions were superb, having the right curves to give it an almost feminine shape. Yet, it was extremely aggressive, thanks in part to the large air intake necessary to cover the engine’s three 46 DCF/3 Webers.
The Ferrari 410 S caught the eye of legendary American car-builder Carroll Shelby.
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The model first appeared in January 1956 at the 1,000 km of Buenos Aires. Two competed, and one set a new lap record, but both retired with broken transaxles.
That type of performance potential caught the eye of John Edgar, one of Ferrari’s most active American clients. He wound up with one of the two Buenos Aires cars and went on to win 1956’s SCCA Championship with Carroll Shelby driving.
“It was the best Ferrari I ever drove,” Shelby told Edgar’s son, William, in FORZA magazine. “We never even changed the plugs that came in it, not for about the first seven or eight races! The car had a different timing system. It didn’t even sound like other Ferraris.”
While the Ferrari 410 S may not have made much of an impact in Europe, it helped cement Ferrari’s reputation as the machine to beat in U.S. endurance sports-car racing.
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