The Ferrari 250 S prototype marked the humble beginnings of what would become an illustrious line of vehicles. The year was 1952, and while Ferrari had enjoyed many successes, it had yet to dominate the world of racing. The 250 series of cars changed all that. This series of racing cars proved that the little Italian manufacturer was not messing about. The model name was derived from the engine’s unitary displacement, as is the case for so many Ferrari models.
Vignale and Touring were given coachwork duties for the 250 S. Underneath those elegant body panels was a fairly conventional vehicle design for the period. Of course, there were drum brakes at all corners, as well as a 5-speed manual gearbox and worm-and-sector steering. In contrast to the rather conventional chassis and components, however, the engine was quite special.
True, the Colombo-designed 3.0-litre V12 made a very respectable 230bhp. That engine was notable for more than just its power, however. It also happened to be lighter than just about anything else it was put up against. The famous Jaguar XK6 straight-sixes, for example, weighed roughly twice as much as this compact V12. Shedding weight is always a good thing on the track, and the engine’s lack of mass would pay off handsomely once the car was entered in its first race.
The car’s first test came at the 1952 Mille Miglia. Because its engine was so much smaller and lighter than the powerplants employed by rivals, the Ferrari 250 S had to be pushed hard in the curves to make up ground lost on the straights. This method of racing worked well in that race, with the Ferrari taking home first place. The 250 S would later be tested at Le Mans, where it turned in the fastest lap of the day, but a faulty clutch led to a DNF.
Fine tuning throughout the Ferrari 250 S’ career led to the creation of some of the most well-known models in Ferrari history, such as the 250 Testa Rossa and 250 GTO. Three years after the 250 S debuted on the track, Ferrari introduced a line of road-going “250” GT cars that would be sold up until 1964.