Ferrari is not a company that often reuses names, or revives dead nameplates. This is partly because so many of the names of the cars are alphanumeric, but also because Ferrari wants to present each car as new and advanced, and that’s a lot harder to do when you’re recycling names. So when a name does get recycled, it has to be a pretty special one. So even though today the name Testarossa is most closely associated with Ferrari’s flat-12-powered grand tourer from the ’80s and early ’90s, but the name actually goes all of the way back to 1957, with one of the greatest race cars in Ferrari history.

It actually has to be said that the names aren’t actually identical. The racer was named “Testa Rossa” (two words) and the more recent car was the “Testarossa” (one word). This is important because the meaning is slightly different. The words “testa rossa” mean “red head,” and the original 250 TR got the name from its red valve covers. But just as “redhead” as one word in English means a woman with red hair, the Italian name was given to the ’80s car both as a tribute and also with an implied wink.

Continue reading to learn more about the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Prototype.

  • 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Prototype
  • Year:
    1957
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V12
  • Displacement:
    3000 L
  • car segment:

Exterior

1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Prototype Exterior
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1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Prototype Exterior
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1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Prototype Exterior
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By the time the 250 Testa Rossa came into existence, the norm at Ferrari was to have cars styled by Pininfarina and actually built by Scaglietti this made things easier for Ferrari because Scaglietti’s factory was located just across the street from Ferrari’s. But Ferrari went with an even easier option for race cars that didn’t need Pininfarina’s eye to customer-oriented aesthetics, and just had Scaglietti design the car as well as build it. This sounds like something Ferrari did because the way that the car looked wasn’t quite so important, but in fact, the Testa Rossa body ended up being one of the most iconic Ferraris of all time, and is still considered Scaglietti’s greatest design.

The pontoon-fendered 250 TR design was, by Sergio Scaglietti’s own admission, not very aerodynamic. But he went with the design because more because he liked the way it looked, and that was a perfectly normal thing for an Italian designer to do at that time. Probably a good part of the reason why Italy has produced so many iconic cars. It should be noted that it is only the early 250 Testa Rossas that have the iconic body, and in 1961 the car got a complete redesign that made it look a lot more like the road-going 250s.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 2,350 MM (92.51 Inches)
Front track 1,308 MM (51.49 Inches)
Rear track 1,300 MM (51.18 Inches)
Weight 800 KG (1,763.7 LBS)

Interior

While you might find the occasional race car with a full interior, this is not one of them. Though technically road legal, this being an era when rules for this kind of thing were pretty loose, the Testa Rossa is pure race car. That means that there isn’t so much as a roof, and the interior contains nothing that isn’t necessary. Still, high quality materials were used, and the seats were usually covered in leather and the steering wheel was wood.

Drivetrain

1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Prototype Drivetrain
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When Ferrari started developing the 250 Testa Rossa in 1957, Jaguar was the king of Le Mans, and in 1957, the mighty D-Type would take another overall win. But rule change was in the works that would limit engine displacement to 3.0 liters, thus disqualifying the Jaguars and their big inline-6 engines. This was the perfect opportunity for Ferrari and its 2953cc version of the Colombo V-12. A few other engines were actually considered for the Testa Rossa, but the SOHC engine out of the Tour de France car ended up being picked. And considering how many races the Tour de France car was winning, this makes a lot of sense. The engine was given 6 two-barrel Weber carburetors, and compression was up to an impressive 9.8:1. The resulting 300 horsepower was plenty for the 1,750-pound car. The 250 Testa Rossa took overall wins at Le Mans in 1958, 1960 and 1961, as well as most other European endurance races at the time.

The Testa Rossa, as well as most other Ferrari race cars during this period, was best on European tracks. The car would race in the U.S. too, but American tracks tended to be shorter and with more twists and turns. Cars with bigger V-8s usually had more horsepower and low-end torque to help them power out of turns, and these kinds cars had a natural advantage on these sorts of tracks.

Drivetrain Specifications

Type front, longitudinal 60° V12
Bore/stroke 73 x 58.8 mm
Unitary displacement 246.10 cc
Total displacement 2953.21 cc
Compression ratio 9.8 : 1
Maximum power 300 HP @ 7,200 RPM
Power per liter 102 hp/l
Valve actuation twin overhead camshafts per bank, two valves per cylinder
Fuel feed six Weber 38 DCN carburettors
Ignition single spark plug per cylinder, two coils

Prices

1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Prototype Exterior
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The 250 Testa Rossa is currently the second most valuable Ferrari ever made, making it also pretty high up on the list of most valuable cars of all time. The most ever paid for one at auction was $16.39 million, back in 2011. Rumors of more having been paid in private sales exist, but can’t be verified. Nonetheless, should the rumors of an unrestored 1957 250 Testa Rossa selling for $39.8 million in 2014 be true, it would mean the car is potentially much more valuable than even the huge price it already commands at auction. Only 34 units of the car were ever made, but it’s the 19 units of the original body style that are the really valuable ones. Of those, the two Ferrari works cars are worth more still. But even the least valuable 250 TR will be probably sell for no less than $8 million.

Competition

Aston Martin DBR1

1956 - 1959 Aston Martin DBR1 High Resolution Exterior
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You might have noticed a gap in the years where the 250 won at Le Mans. There was no overall win for Ferrari in 1959 because of the Aston Martin DBR1 and a certain driver by the name of Carroll Shelby. It also took wins at Spa and the Nurburgring, and was generally considered to be the 250’s biggest rival. A slightly larger version of the car’s engine would go into the DB4, and that’s why that car was always as awesome as it was.

Read our full review on the Aston Martin DBR1 here.

AC Ace

AC was a small British sports car maker that kept just missing out on podium finishes in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Ferrari must have taken special notice because the Ace’s styling was very similar to that of the Ferrari 166 Barchetta from the late ’40s. The cars were light and handled well, but they just couldn’t match the power of the newer Ferraris. With a little help from Shelby, the Ace’s successor, the Cobra, would turn out to be a major threat to the prancing horse, but that wouldn’t be for a few years.

Conclusion

1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Prototype Exterior
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The 250 Testa Rossa is an easy car to love. The combination of unusual styling and a winning racing record is how classics are made. The Testa Rossa also has that charm of being a race car that was designed to look good, and aerodynamics be damned. It was the starting point of Ferrari dominance of Le Mans, and is tremendously historically significant. Whether or not that makes it worth the tremendous amounts of money that change hands when one is sold is very possibly a different question, but it isn’t surprising.

  • Leave it
    • * A bit pricey
    • * Still somehow less valuable than a 250 GTO
    • * No interior
What do you think?
Show Comments

12 comments:

  (714) posted on 01.27.2012

WOW! This is really a legendary car of Ferrari. This car will break the record of bidding in Ferrari car because of its history written in its body.

  (378) posted on 01.4.2012

Wow! $16.4M! That was really a piece of a fortune! Well, as for myself I will also take time and my money to own this car. This is vintage!

  (374) posted on 12.14.2011

I wish I could see a vintage vehicle like this in person! smiley Anyway, I must say that I really love the classic and unique appearance of this racing prototype. Moreover, it’s a good thing that it still has a powerful engine.

  (517) posted on 12.8.2011

I love this classic sports car of Ferrari and good thing that it has an impressive engine! Well, I would really love to try driving this racing prototype, but I bet it will surely be too expensive on its market production.

  (600) posted on 11.28.2011

Wow! What a unique racing prototype! smiley Anyway, I’m so amazed with its market price, which cost a $12.4 million! Well, that is really a huge amount and only true rich people could afford this one.

  (502) posted on 10.21.2011

This is the kind of sports track I am talking about. It maybe vintage, old or classic but it runs in good condition. And sports car like this never disappoint its owner in having the trophy. It runs pretty fast before and I could say, even nowsdays.

  (677) posted on 09.26.2011

This car is really worth for a car racer to have. Definitely good for collection item car. And look at how it was being restored totally amazing that until now it still has the consistency of how the car was before and now.

  (459) posted on 09.1.2011

Wow! This car is super thin and it’s a type of kiddo car? hehehe. BTW, The style of engine is great. Nice style of engine and i think this car is so
fast.

  (397) posted on 08.24.2011

I really love seeing this kind of vehicle for it reflects on how awesome it was. I was impressed with the specs of the vehicle.

  (383) posted on 08.24.2011

As expected from vintage vehicle. The styling is kind of awesome. I bet this car will cost in million.

  (518) posted on 08.4.2011

If I could remember clearly, Ferrari had already sold one of this vehicle before? Well, since the car is original no wonder why it cost that much. I bet its owner had spent over a million dollar just to restore and maintain this car! 

  (359) posted on 08.4.2011

Wow! This car would be one of the iconic vehicle that was built by the legendary Ferrari! This vehicle is enrich with history. Well, having this car is a great honor. However, it seems that only folks can afford to buy this car, and I have heard that the competition is kind of tough. 

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