That Ferrari’s 1957 250 Testa Rossa enjoyed the amazing success it did is a testament both to the company’s forward thinking and its considerable luck. You see, in the late 1950’s, race organizers were starting to realize that more regulations were needed in order to keep drivers safe. After the horrific accidents that took place at the 1957 Mille Miglia and 1955 Le Mans races, car racing was quickly becoming too dangerous for its own good. Among the restrictions put in place was an engine-displacement cap of 3.0 litres instituted in 1958 by the Commissione Sportiva Internazionale, meant to reduce top speeds achieved on the track.
Well, what do you know? Ferrari already had a powerful, Colombo-designed 3.0-litre V12 in use at the time. Using high-compression pistons and aggressive camshafts, this Tipo 128 engine produced a remarkable 300 bhp matched against a kerb weight of just 784 kgs. By using this engine in its new 250 Testa Rossa, Ferrari had quickly put a weapon in its arsenal that few other auto makers could compete with. Just a sample of the new car’s victories include the 24 Hours of Le Mans in ’58, ’60, and ’61, as well as Sebring 12 Hours in ’58, ’59, and ’61. Meant for use by both Scuderia and private racers, the Testa Rossa would go on to secure Ferrari the 1958 Manufacturer’s Championship after picking up a win at the Nϋrburgring 1000 kms. Racing successes would begin to wane as other manufacturers began catching up after Ferrari’s head start.
The name, “Red Head” in English, was derived from the red paint used on the V12’s camshaft covers. This naming convention would be repeated on the famous 80’s Testarossa supercar. Early examples are notable for the large cut-out behind the front wheels, a design put in place by Scaglietti. This F1-inspured design cue wouldn’t last long, however, with Pininfarina and Touring being commissioned to come up with a more traditional aesthetic for a more traditional look. Regardless of the design, all 250 Testa Rossas look absolutely stunning to this day, an attribute that no doubt has contributed to the car’s extreme collectability. Add in the car’s rarity, with only 34 models ever built, and in 2014, a black 250 sold for £24 million in the UK, making it one of the most expensive vehicles ever sold.