Monte Carlo – Ferrari’s first sports car, the 125 S of 1947, was powered by a jewel-like 1.5-litre V12, producing 87kW at a heady 6800rpm.
Since then, the company has gone on to create a series of howling V12s and V8s, incredible five-litre flat 12s and even, for the Dino, a V6 with six crank throws instead of three and a 65 degree angle between the cylinder banks – but never a conventional inline four.
Except for this one.
In the early 1950s, the regulations for Formula 2 series prescribed naturally aspirated two-litre engines of no more than four cylinders, and the 1952 and 1953 Formula One championships were run to these rules because there just weren’t enough 4.5-litre Grand Prix cars around to make up a decent field.
So Enzo Ferrari commissioned genius designer Aurelio Lampredi to build him the smallest, lightest two-litre four he could. The result was the 500, which weighed just 560kg ready to go, had its compact engine mounted entirely behind the front axle for perfect handling, and took Alberto Ascari to victory in every Grand Prix that year bar one – which he missed because he was away, competing in the Indianapolis 500.
Formula One was reinstated for 1954 with a 2.5-litre limit; as a stop gap, Lampredi bored and stroked the ultra-reliable 500 engine to create the 625, which actually won two Grands Prix against the direct-injection straight-eight Mercedes W196 and straight-six Maserati 250F, despite their decisive power and speed advantage.
But even before that, three of the 164kW 625 engines had been fitted in racing sports-car chassis to create the light, superbly agile and very quick 625 Targa Florio.
The three cars were originally bodied by Vinale as aerodynamic coupés, but Il Commendatore was unimpressed and had them rebuilt as roadsters, later sending this one to Scaglietti to have the body modified again and fitted with a smaller grille.
The Scaglietti-modified 625 TF was raced in events such as the Grand Prix dell’Autodromo at Monza and the Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti by noted drivers Mike Hawthorn (who would become Britain’s first F1 champion) and Umberto Maglioli (winner of the 1954 Carrera Panamericana), always performing well but never winning a major sports-car race.
It was replaced for 1954 by the three-litre 750 Monza and sold into private hands, passing through the hands of several owners in Italy and South America and going missing for more than a decade until it was found in a scrapyard in Naples in 1974 – the only survivor of the three.
Restored to its original condition, the 625 TF has even competed again in historic racing events, but has now come up for auction at the Villa La Vigie in Monaco Beach on 11 May, where it’s expected to fetch about €4.5-6.5 million (R67-97 million).