Ferrari is the most successful constructor in Formula One's history, but it all started rather humbly. Despite being an elite, high-profile automaker and racing team, Ferrari performed rather unobtrusively in Formula One's first season. Success rarely comes overnight, but the waiting period is dramatically shortened when you have already designed a dominant product in which to take and build off. Enzo Ferrari and Gioacchino Colombo both came into being after helping Alfa Romeo ascend to the top of the grand prix world. This knowledge and experience would help Ferrari be immediately competitive in grand prix racing, but still not enough to break the grip the Alfa 158's had in 1950. Though Ferrari performed well in Formula One's first season, the dominance and the records would have to wait. Ferrari used 1950 to tweak their designs to break Alfa Romeo's hold on the championship and to begin the Ferrari/Formula One legacy.
Ferrari would turn to its model 125 for Formula One's first season. Designed in 1949, the 125 was Ferrari's first single-seater designed specifically for grand prix racing. However, much of the internals of the car had been taken from the 125S sports racer which was designed and built in 1948. The 125F1, as it became known, closely resembled one of Colombo's chassis designs—the Alfa Romeo 158. Of course, the 158 had already proven itself and obviously would have made a good basis for any team looking to be competitive right away and with aspirations for more.
There were only two engine options the FIA allowed. Either a team chose a supercharged engine with a maximum displacement of 1.5 liters, or, the team would have to choose a normally aspirated engine that had a maximum of 4.5 liters. Ferrari decided to go the route of Alfa Romeo and used a twin-stage Roots-type supercharger to boost the power of their 1.5 liter V12 engine. Designed similar to an aircraft fuselage, the 125 consisted of a tube-frame chassis with longitudinal and cross members to help with strength while not gaining too much weight. The wide upside-down U-shaped nose was ever so slightly angled back and gently sloping. Of course, the nose was dominated by the radiator inlet to provide cooling for the 1.5 liter V12 that was hidden in the long, rounded nose. Just aft of the radiator inlet was a shapely scoop that protruded into the airstream through which air would pass and would be able to enter the supercharger. The addition of the supercharger would boost the engine's horsepower from what was around 118hp in the 125S to somewhere around 230hp. By 1949, another revision to the engine happened that boosted power up to around 280hp. This was still short from where the Alfa Romeo 158s were by close to 100hp. Still, this boost is what made Ferrari competitive straight-away. And though not alone, at the time, Ferrari used a five-speed gearbox to match their higher-revving V12. Most teams were utilizing only four-speed gearboxes.
On either side of the chassis low and behind the front tire there were two cut-outs where the six exhaust pipes exited and blended into single pipes that ran back the length of the car, underneath the rear suspension and out under the rear of the car. As with the Formula One cars of today, the Ferrari 125 sported many shark-like gills all over the engine cowling. These gills went to help expel the heat generated by the big V12 by the onward-rushing air creating a vacuum, pulling out the heat built up inside the cowling as the air rushed over the gills.
The Ferrari 125 utilized a double wishbone suspension for the front tires, with a transverse leaf spring to help with stability at the front of the chassis. Heading back from the nose, the shape of the chassis begins to change but in a gentle manner. The chassis begins to shift from the upside-down U-shaped body and begins to, in essence, stand up a little. The design shifts ever-so-slightly to more of a triangular shape to help counter, aerodynamically, the driver sitting up in the airflow. Of course this would only help so much. Between the driver and the little windshield, the airflow in this region was quite disturbed.
The cockpit itself was rather tight with deep channeled out sides for the driver's arms. As with the day, the driver sat greatly exposed. Directly behind the driver sat the large, rounded fuel tank. The rear suspension on the 125 consisted of longitudinal struts that attached up near the cockpit and traveled back to the rear axle. Along with the struts, the rear suspension utilized a torsion bar style rear axle and shock absorbers for driver comfort and the all-important stability at the rear of the car. Besides all this, the main brake system used in those days, though not the greatest, but nonetheless employed on the 125F1, was drum brakes.
As the season went on the 125 was refined and continually improved upon, but more so to influence next designs. Alberto Ascari was able to guide his 125 to a second place finish in Monaco. So it was obvious Enzo and Gioacchino were heading the right direction. Later on in the season the 125 was again updated and refined. The 125 was shortened and the rear suspension modified. The de Dion tube suspension was the latest technology of the day, and so, was incorporated, along with a leaf spring, into the 125's suspension. This package made Ferrari very competitive, but not enough to beat Alfa Romeo.
The Alfa Romeo 158 had one Achilles heal and it was shared by Ferrari's 125—it was too thirsty. The benefit of the power gained for the amount of fuel needed to do so was too high. Though not certain, it is likely Enzo was inspired by the performances of the Talbot-Lago T26C, which used its superior gas mileage as a competitive edge. Though down well over 100hp, they were there at the end because they didn't have to stop for fuel. Ferrari had to find an answer.
Enter the 275. Ferrari too faced the problem of poor gas mileage with their supercharged 1.5 liter engine, and thus dropped it. Instead, the team turned to Aurelio Lampredi. Lampredi designed and built an engine for the all-new 275 chassis. Lampredi built a 3.3 liter normally aspirated engine that was first employed in his experimental 275S. The same engine was then taken and employed into the new 275F1 chassis.
The 275 chassis was also redesigned from that of the 125. The nose was totally changed and was more rounded and bulb-like. Instead of a nose that sloped back ever-so-slightly from the vertical like the nose on the 125, the nose on the 275 was more rounded, protruding forward. The rest of the chassis, forward of the cockpit, went through some refining, and yet, still had some similarities to the 125. The most noticeable changes made near the rear of the car included the longitudinal struts that were lengthened and extended further forward near the cockpit, but also, the shape of the bodywork that covered the fuel tank was changed. Instead of a more dramatic curve of the bodywork, the rear was extended further back; creating more of a torpedo shaped rear end.
The 275, with its 3.3 liter engine, debuted at Spa Francorchamps and the Grand Prix of Belgium. The single overhead camshaft design was capable of producing around 300hp and Alberto Ascari was able to drive the car to a fifth place finish. Despite the new engine, it seemed the team took a step backward. The performance was just not there, or at least not to level the team was seeking. And so, by the time of the race at Monza, Ferrari changed chassis designs two more times.
At the Grand Prix of Nations at Geneva, Switzerland, which did not count toward the championship, Ferrari unveiled its next design…the 340. By this time, Lampredi had designed a 4.1 liter V12. This engine was capable of producing around 335hp, enough to stay with the Alfa Romeos. Also, to make the car more stable, and thus comfortable for the drivers to take out to the edge of limits, a series of changes were employed. Enzo and Colombo made the overall length of the chassis longer. This helped to distribute weight and provide greater balance. To provide better stability, Ferrari employed the de Dion tube rear suspension once again. Ferrari also changed from the five-speed gearbox to a four-speed manual gearbox.
The chassis, overall, was refined, made into a more flowing racing machine. The nose was rounded even more than the 275 but the angle of slope remained similar. The wheelbase remained wider than that of the 125. Much more of an emphasis was placed upon aerodynamics which can be seen from the front wheels back. The air scoop on top of the engine cowling was reduced in size and made more shapely. Instead of a windshield attached to the top of the chassis, appearing more like an afterthought, the windshield was incorporated into the shape and flow of the chassis on the 340.
Driving the 340, Ascari was able to race with Fangio in his 158. It appeared Ferrari had found its contender in the 340. However, as the race bore on, the engine developed problems that led to Ascari's retirement. Despite having a good car that could challenge Alfa Romeo, Ferrari wanted a car that would absolutely break Alfa's dominance. Besides, Lampredi had his next engine ready to go. Therefore, Ferrari was done with the 340 and moved on.
Come September of 1950, Ferrari had their challenger—the 375F1. In a quest to defeat the Alfa Romeo 158, the Ferrari team never rested, always looking to tweak certain areas to make a more competitive race car. While rather happy with the 340 chassis, Ferrari, specifically Aurelio Lampredi, kept working on specifics, especially the engine, trying to find that balance between power, reliability and efficiency. He was able to produce a 4.5 liter version (the maximum Formula One would allow) of his V12 engine. And while the engine produced only slightly more power than its 4.1 liter predecessor, Lampredi had been able to work and produce an engine that balanced out better when it came to reliability and that mystical marriage between engine and chassis. The 375F1 simply worked, or at least it showed promise. It was, then, just some small details that had to be addressed and its first race at Monza proved that fact.
Despite the only real difference between the 340 and the 375 being the 4.5 liter engine, the combination just worked better. Ferrari just missed the pole in its first race with the 375 and actually was leading a good majority of the race until another engine failure gave up the win to the Alfa Romeo SpA team. Despite the loss of the win, Ferrari still had a solid second-place finish in the race and signaled to the team they had turned the corner and the tables. Alfa Romeo's days of dominance were coming to an end…it was just a matter of when.
At the end of the season Ferrari ended up fifth in the driver's championship. The finish, however, didn't reveal how poised Ferrari was for the future. Formula One cars today undergo many changes throughout the season, no doubt inspired by Ferrari's 'always improving' mindset as displayed in the 1950 season, from the 125 right on up to the 375. Ferrari debuted four combinations of engines and chassis. Each model contributed to Ferrari's search for dominance and would help to shape Ferrari's legacy in racing and, especially Formula One. The Ferrari team perhaps best understood they weren't designing a chassis to be dominant, but in fact were pursuing building dominance. This meant continually improving, never settling or believing in one thing, or design, to hold the key. Dominance determined the chassis and the engine. It was the team's job to find out what that all looked liked. The models of the 1950 season stand as a testament to the Ferrari team's desire to always improve, to continue in the search for dominance. For Ferrari, it all started with these chassis designs and each subsequent design built upon the successes and failures of the previous. Never was it believed that one chassis had it all because each year presented the challenge of pushing the edge a little further back. The Ferrari team: Enzo, Gioacchino, Aurelio and the many others understood this. And the fact of Ferrari's legacy and records proves that drive, that focus, has never left.By Jeremy McMullen
The Ferrari 375 was introduced at the Paris Salon in 1953. During its production run which lasted until May of 1954, less than 45 examples of the 375 America were produced. The car was constructed for Ferrari's clientele who had the means to afford one of these beautiful creations. Since they were produced in limited numbers, the production took far longer than volume models.
Gioacchino Colombo started out being the primary builder of Ferrari's engines in the late in 1940's and a major contributor to the success of Ferrari. Aurelio Lambredi became his assistant in 1947. Lambredi soon became convinced that a large engine that was naturally aspirated would have better fuel economy and provide more power. Colombo was of the belief that smaller engine compiled with a supercharger would produce the better results. Ferrari tested Lambredi's idea and proved it to be successful. Lambredi was promoted to chief design engineer and Colombo returned to Alfa Romeo. The Lambredi engines were used in the ladder part of the 1950's.
Power was provided by a 4.5-liter Lampredi designed V-12 engine with either three twin choke Weber 40 DCZ or DCF downdraughts, resulting in 300 horsepower. On all four corners were drum brakes, Borrani wire wheels accented the exterior of the vehicle, and a leaf spring suspension was used in the front and the rear. With the four-speed manual gearbox, the car could achieve a top speed of 150 mph and could race from zero to sixty in less than seven seconds.
Most Ferrari's were custom built cars. They were not mass-produced. Ferrari provided the engine and chassis while Italian coach builders provided the body. This meant the specifications varied. Engines also varied in horsepower rating, torque, and displacement.
In regards to the 375, Pinin Farina was tasked with building the bodywork for many of the models. The Pinin Farina design shared a similarity with the 250 Europa's. The dimensions of several automobiles were similar but their interiors, wings, bumpers and detailing were all unique.
The 375 MM was given its name after the famous 1000 mile race, the Mille Miglia. This limited production series was constructed in 1953 and 1954. The car was outfitted with a 4522 cc powerplant, a small increase in performance over the 4494 cc road-going version. The four-speed manual gearbox was fully synchronized and mounted to the engine. The front suspension was independent by parallel unequal length A-arms with a transverse leaf spring. The rear was sold with semi-elliptic springs and parallel trailing arms. This combination made the 375 MM perfect for high speed circuits and the open road. In total only 26 375 MM's had bodywork provided by Pinin Farina in either spyder or berlinetta configuration. One example received bodywork courteous of Ghia.
In 1954, a 375 Plus was entered in the grueling 24 Hours of LeMans. Powered by a 4.9 liter engine, it captured the overall victory.
Production of the 375 continued until 1955. Produced in limited numbers, their exclusivity in modern times is guaranteed. These wonderfully designed unique creations powered by the coveted Lampredi engines are a true time-tested testament of the work inspired by Enzo Ferrari and fostered by Italian ingenuity.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2007