While Ferrari is famous for its sonorous and potent V-12s, a number of the company’s most intriguing models were powered by engines of a different design. Following two world championships for Alberto Ascari in the 500 F2 single-seater in 1952 and 1953, Enzo Ferrari aimed to further capitalize on the broad range of torque and the light weight of the Lampredi-designed four-cylinder powerplant.
A sports racing car, to be named the 500 Mondial, was designed and fitted with a detuned version of the grand prix engine, sharing the same two-liter displacement, but making a rather-more-reliable 155 hp in initial specification. Retaining dry sump lubrication, gear-driven dual overhead camshafts and twin-magneto ignition, the Tipo 110, as it was called internally, shared the basic design as the Grand Prix engine, but was importantly fitted with flat-top pistons to lower the compression ratio, increase longevity, and allow use of lower-grade fuels. Output would rise to 170 hp with the addition of new Weber 40 DCOA/3 carburetors for later cars.
The 500 Mondials were successful immediately, and while racing in the under-two-liter class, competed for overall victories at hill climbs, circuit races, and even achieved a 2nd Overall finish in the 1954 Mille Miglia at the hands of Vittorio Marzotto.
While the majority of the first series of 500 Mondials were bodied by Pininfarina in a style reminiscent of the larger 375 MM, many received bodywork penned by Dino Ferrari and built by a young Modena coachbuilder, Sergio Scaglietti. Just 30 examples of the 500 Mondial were built in two series before the three-liter 750 Monza supplanted the model as Ferrari’s four-cylinder offering.