Ferrari’s fortunes in the early 1950s were rising along with those of Europe. The continent was just regaining its economic health after the devastation of World War II. For Ferrari, that meant a surge in demand for its competition cars by both professional drivers and gentlemen racers.

The Ferrari 500 Mondial was a four-cylinder, 2-liter champion.
The Ferrari 500 Mondial was a four-cylinder,
2-liter champion. See more Ferrari images.

The Ferrari 500 Mondial was born during the formative stages of this yeasty period. Ferrari was already well-known for its V-12s, but Enzo and chief engineer Aurelio Lampredi were cognizant of the success other manufacturers were having with four-cylinder engines.

A four-cylinder could furnish better low-end torque than a 12, allowing for more acceleration out of corners. Its lighter weight could help a car handle better, too. For its new four-cylinder sports-racing car, Ferrari tapped the development it had done on the four-cylinder engine for its 500 F2. That open-wheel monoposto dominated Grand Prix racing in 1952 and 1953.

The resulting Ferrari 500 Mondial was an extremely well-balanced machine. This was illustrated in its first race, the 12 Hours of Casablanca, in December 1953. Factory drivers Alberto Ascari and Luigi (Gigi) Villoresi finished first in class and second overall behind one of Ferrari’s considerably more powerful 375 MMs.

There were two series of the Ferrari 500 Mondial, and both were popular with factory drivers and privateers alike. All had a jewel of an all-alloy 2.0-liter based on Ferrari’s F2 engines. First-series cars had mostly Pinin Farina coachwork and resembled the coachbuilder’s voluptuous Ferrari 375 MM berlinettas and spyders.

A handful of the first-series cars, and all of the second series used Scaglietti coachwork. The Modena designer and body maker had done a number of “rebodies” on Ferrari chassis for clients in the early 1950s. “Enzo Ferrari liked what he saw on those cars,” Sergio Scaglietti recalled, “so he began sending me rolling chassis.”

Ferrari also appreciated Scaglietti’s relationship with his son, Dino. Accounts over the years credited Dino with the basic Scaglietti design for the Ferrari 500 Mondial. But Scaglietti, a modest man who preferred to give credit to others, told this author that this was untrue. He said Dino, who had muscular dystrophy and thus spent the majority of his days at Scaglietti’s rather than trying to keep up with his energetic father, was responsible only for the headrests used on the Mondial and other competition Ferraris.

The Ferrari 500 Mondial played an integral role in Ferrari winning its second Sports World Championship in 1954. That type of success caused Enzo to funnel even more work toward Sergio Scaglietti, the talented, and humble, coachbuilder.

Learn about these other great Ferrari Sports Racing Cars:

166 Sport Corsa

250 GT Tour de France

330 P4

166 MM Racecar

335 S

350 Can Am

225 S

250 Testa Rossa

212 E Montagna

340 Mexico

250 GT Spyder California

512 S

250 MM

250 GT SWB Berlinetta

312 PB

375 MM Racecar

196 SP

365 GTB/4 Competition

500 Mondial

250 GTO

512 BB LM

750 Monza

330 LMB

F40 LM

121 LM

250 P

333 SP

410 S

250 LM

575 GTC

500 TRC

275 GTB/C

360 GT

290 MM

Dino 206 S

Enzo FXX

For more fantastic Ferrari information, check out: