1955 Ferrari 410 Sport Berlinetta

Broad Ferrari histories often give short shrift to some of the marque’s most fascinating early sports racers, many of which occupy truly unique cross-sections of Maranello design and competition history. Such is the case with the 410 Sport, of which only four examples were built in 1955, with the specific intent of winning the notorious Carrera Panamericana road race. Initiated in 1950, in demonstration of Mexico’s recently completed section of the Pan-American Highway, the Carrera quickly gained a reputation for danger, as the rugged terrain left little room for error and resulted in numerous crashes and driver fatalities.

As the final contest in the inaugural season of the Sportscar World Championship, the 1953 Carrera Panamericana was embraced by European manufacturers like Ferrari, who quickly recognized the opportunity to market to American clientele, which the Texas-to-Chiapas race offered. After a dominating defeat by Lancia in 1953, and quite satisfied with its recent one-two-three finish at the 1954 Le Mans with the 375 Plus model, Ferrari declined to enter a factory-sponsored car in the 1954 Carrera. At least two of the winning 375 Plus cars were entered in the Mexican race by private teams, however, the sponsorships were arranged by Luigi Chinetti, and their divergent fates were emblematic of the challenges posed by the Panamericana. While Scuderia racer Umberto Maglioli drove one 375 Plus to victory in the 1954 Carrera, Jack McAfee crashed the actual Le Mans-winning car, which had since been purchased by John Edgar, in an accident that proved to be fatal to co-driver Ford Robinson.

Recognizing that the Carrera’s uneven road surfaces were intrinsically problematic for its sports racer designs to this point, Ferrari sought to devise a car that could specifically neutralize the Panamericana’s more daunting elements. Though the 375 Plus’s Formula One-derived, 60-degree long-block Lampredi V-12 was deemed to be a good starting point for the powertrain, an all-new chassis was required to replace the 375’s high center of gravity and narrow track. The resulting Tipo 519C chassis significantly departed from previous convention, with a shorter wheelbase and a low-profile tubular space-frame of unusual width. Sergio Scaglietti designed and built the coachwork, which provided the first glimpse of the general shape that would soon evolve into his vaunted Testa Rossa.

The bore and stroke of the Lampredi V-12 were increased to displace 4,962 cubic centimeters, resulting in the now revered 4.9-liter Tipo 126 engine that debuted in the Superamerica chassis displayed at the Paris Motor Show in October 1955. For use in the 410 S, the motor was dubbed the Tipo 126C to designate competition use and received an F1-style twin-plug ignition that contributed to developing 380 hp, unprecedented power for a Ferrari sports racer. This ignition configuration helped guarantee even combustion, a factor that was particularly important given the impure fuel that was provided during the Carrera Panamericana’s grueling five-day course.

With such specific intent to win the Mexican road race, it is little surprise that Ferrari designated the 410 S chassis numbers with CM (standing for Carrera Messicana), the four cars being numbered 0592 CM, 0594 CM, 0596 CM, and 0598 CM. Ironically, despite its unique design brief to win the Carrera Panamericana, the 410 S never actually campaigned in the race, as the tragedy of the 1955 Le Mans, as well as the Carrera’s mounting casualty record, led to the race’s prolonged cancellation in 1955.


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