The Ferrari 196/246 SP was produced from 1961 though 1963 with less than ten examples being created. The design was very untraditional for Enzo Ferrari, and against his strongest belief that the horse should come before the cart, meaning the engine should be placed in the front. Another departure from the traditional Ferrari was the use of a Vittorio Jano designed V-6 engine. The six-cylinder engines were more compact, lightweight, and more fuel efficient when compared to the traditional Colombo designed 12-cylinder engines.
With the engine mounted longitudinally mid-ship, optimal weight distribution and handling was achieved. The chassis was the traditional tubular frame supported by wishbone suspension. A five-speed manual gearbox provided power to the rear wheels. The body design was simple, yet elegant and effective. This combination was good enough to capture overall victories at Targa Florio and the Nurburgring 1000 km. At Le Mans in 1963, Ferrari captured the first mid-engined victory with a 250 P, a close sibling of the 246 SP.
The first 246 SP chassis constructed was #0790. In 1961, it was successfully campaigned at Targa Florio. A year later it scored victories at the Nurburgring 1000 km. It was later converted into a 196 SP. In modern times, it has been raced at the Cavallino Classic.
From 1961 through 1963, engine modifications were made and inserted into existing and new chassis. Because of this, specifications vary. Four chassis were constructed between 1962 and 1963.
Even though a limited number were produced, their accomplishments are legendary and their design was revolutionary. The knowledge achieved through the design and development was used in future Ferrari projects and their continued domination at races such as LeMans.By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2010