Ferrari 250 MM

The Ferrari 250 MM was the product of an extraordinary time in which a conduit was open between designs for road and for track, when sports cars intended for all-out competition were beautiful objects in and of themselves.

The Ferrari 250 MM was built for Italy’s 1000-mile race, the Mille Miglia.
The Ferrari 250 MM was built for Italy’s 1000-mile race, the Mille Miglia.
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Such was the case with a trio of Ferraris from 1953. Built to run in long-distance races, the aptly named Ferrari 250 MM and 340 MM were intended for such events as Italy’s famed 1,000-mile enduro, the Mille Miglia.

The Ferrari 250 MM was introduced at 1953’s Geneva Motor Show. It was derived from the Ferrari 250 S and used the same basic chassis and underpinnings: tubular frame with 94.5-inch (2400mm) wheelbase, independent suspension in front, rigid axle and leaf springs at the rear. Its 2953cc V-12 was modified to give another 10 horsepower, bumping output to 240.

The Ferrari 250 MM was the premier road and track car of 1953.
The Ferrari 250 MM was the premier road and track car of 1953.

The Ferrari 340 MM’s chassis and suspension basically mimicked the Ferrari 250 MM’s, but wheelbase was 98.4 inches (2500mm) and front track was 52.1 inches (1325mm) versus 51.1 (1300mm). Under its hood was a 4101cc V-12 nearly identical to the roadgoing Ferrari 340 America’s, but with new magneto-type ignition and other modifications to boost power by some 80 horses, to an even 300.

The Ferrari 166 MM Series II was aimed at the popular under-2-liter racing class. Its tubular chassis continued the earlier Ferrari 166 MM’s 88.5-inch (2250mm) wheelbase, but the 1995cc V-12 had a higher compression ratio and different carburetors to boost output to 160 horsepower.

What all these cars had in common was their orientation toward competition and their use of Touring, Vignale, and Pinin Farina bodies.

For the most part, Touring’s coachwork simply continued the landmark design of the Ferrari 340 MM, properly enlarged to fit over the larger chassis and engines.

Vignale was at its creative zenith here, and Giovanni Michelotti’s open-air design for a number of Ferrari 250 MMs continued the lovely long-hood/short-rear-deck approach taken with the Ferrari 225 S.

In May 1954, Road & Track tested one such Ferrari 250 MM (chassis 0260 MM) owned by future world champion Phil Hill. The magazine recorded 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds, 0-100 in 13.7. “Never before have I accelerated so rapidly, traveled so fast, or decelerated so suddenly,” marvelled R&T’s tech editor.

Hill won both the 1953 Pebble Beach and Stead Air Force Base races in that car. But such on-track prowess didn’t stop Road & Track from postulating that “… the addition of a complete windshield and fiberglass top might make this car a completely acceptable dual purpose vehicle.” It would not be the last 250 to be so at home in both competition and touring.

A number of other Ferrari 250 MM and 340 MMs enjoyed yet another, even more splendid, Vignale design. This voluptuous body had rounded curves that followed the lead of Touring’s Barchetta, but with a uniquely Michelotti flair that employed both exposed and covered headlights. Count Giannino Marzotto drove one such Ferrari 340 MM (chassis 0280 AM) in 1953 to his second Mille Miglia victory.

The Ferrari 166 Series II was built to qualify in the under-2-liter class.
The Ferrari 166 Series II was built to qualify in the under-2-liter class.

The Ferrari 166 Series II, Ferrari 250 MM, and Ferrari 340 MM are also noteworthy for their use of Pinin Farina coachwork. To now, the famed carrozzeria had done just a handful of conservative designs for the Ferrari 212 Inter road car. That changed in the fourth quarter of 1952, when the company used a Ferrari 340 MM (chassis 0236 MM) as the basis for its first competition berlinetta. The design would influence the shape of Ferrari’s racing coupes for years to come.

Company founder Battista Pinin Farina and his men had begun experimenting in the 1930s with the fastback theme in search of better aerodynamics. His radical Lancia Aprilia Berlinetta Aerodinamica of 1935 stunned everyone.

“I was aiming for essentiality,” “Pinin” wrote in his autobiography, Born with the Automobile. “[W]hat you take off counts for more than what you put on … I had drawn the Aprilia’s shape to be like an airplane wing.”

World War II delayed Pinin's creative experimentation for several years, but it all came together in his first postwar masterpiece, the Ferrari Cisitalia 202. That landmark berlinetta proved so influential in defining post-World War II automotive styling that one was prominently displayed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art; in its famous 1951 exhibit, “Eight Automobiles.”

The Cisitalia’s form and proportions inspired Pinin’s first competition 340 MM, which in turn evolved into a small series of Ferrari 250 MM berlinettas with a lower roofline and shorter tail.

The successful shape also continued on several more Pinin Farina-bodied Ferrari 340 MMs. These had a wheelbase of 98.4 inches (2600mm), split windscreen, and larger air intake over the rear wheel for cooling the brakes. One of three entered in 1953’s Le Mans, and driven by Giannino Marzotto and his brother Paolo, finished fifth and was the only Ferrari to complete the 24 hours.

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

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