Ferrari 500 TRC

ferrari 500 trc
The Ferrari 500 TRC was named for its engine's red valve heads, or "testa rossa."
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The Ferrari legend has many ingredients: The cars’ shape and the engines’ sound, the race-winning ways and the rich and beautiful buyers. Not to be underestimated are the provocative model names.

“TR” stands for “testa rossa,” red head in Italian. Red was the color of the valve covers on a new Ferrari four-cylinder engine introduced for 1956. The car in which it made its debut was christened the Ferrari 500 TR. It brought to the world what would become a classic Ferrari model name.

Like a number of Ferrari’s other four-cylinder engines, this 1984cc unit was based on Aurelio Lampredi’s 500 F2 powerplant. The great engineer left Ferrari in 1955 to join Fiat, so development was carried out by Andrea Fraschetti and Vittorio Bellentani, two stalwart engineers who had worked with Enzo Ferrari for years.

The 180-horsepower Ferrari Testa Rossa engine used the same 90mm bore and 78mm stroke as Lampredi’s 500 Mondials, but the bottom end was strengthened and new connecting rods were used. The Weber carburetors were also changed, and distributors replaced magnetos.

Bodywork continued Scaglietti’s basic racing-spyder form, though Touring built some 500 TRs distinguished by pontoon fender-style front-wheel openings. Most had more orthodox shapes by Scaglietti.

From Monza to California, Carroll Shelby, Peter Collins, Mike Hawthorn, and Phil Hill all drove Ferrari 500 TRs to race wins in 1956. The car also was the basis for Ferrari’s entry in that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, but with a larger displacement to fit new rules.

Reeling from the 1955 Le Mans tragedy in which Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes 300 SLR went off course and into the crowd, killing 80 spectators, race organizers in effect limited low-production cars like Ferrari’s sports-racers to 2.5-liters displacement.

So Modena created a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder for a model it called the Ferrari 625 LM. This engine did not have the red heads, so the 625 was no TR. Bore remained 90mm while stroke was lengthened to 94mm. Compression increased slightly and horsepower jumped to 225.

Touring did the bodies for three of the 625 LMs, and one of these placed third overall at Le Mans with works drivers Olivier Gendebien and Maurice Trintignant. It was the only Ferrari to finish in the top ten in a race that went to Jaguar’s D-Type, which was able to run a 3.4-liter engine by virtue of its higher production numbers.

For 1957, the FIA revised dictates governing sports-racer bodywork. These so-called Appendix C regulations resulted in Ferrari offering the 500 TRC for clients. Engine and chassis were essentially those of the Ferrari 500 TR, but Scaglietti updated the body to include a full-width windscreen. Along with slightly rounded contours, it was among the prettiest competition Ferraris.

It was also a most-capable performer. The Ferrari 500 TRC was especially effective in the U.S., scoring a class victory at Sebring and dominating the Sports Car Club of America’s Class E Modified division.

ferrari 500 trc
The Ferrari 500 TRC was a slightly-modified version of the Ferrari 500 TR.

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