While the 1956 Ferrari 500 TR had many noteworthy attributes, its name might just be the most important. After all, this was the first car to use the famous “Testa Rossa” name. It mattered not that the car sported a small 4-cylinder engine – the car’s performance more than made up for any deficiencies in the cylinder count. As the replacement for the 500 Mondial, the 500 TR was built with the World Sportscar Championship in mind, but it would never race for Ferrari.
Construction and Design
With the goal of competing against the Maserati 4-cylinder cars of its era, the Ferrari 500 TR received a 2.0-litre inline 4. This was the same engine used in the 500 Mondial, only made more powerful and reliable. To that end, Ferrari employed a Maserati engineer called Massimo to ensure their engine design would hold up to the cars from that other Italian automaker.
The Lampredi-designed engine produced an impressive 180bhp, giving the 680kg (1500-lb) car plenty of power. Perhaps more notable than the engine specs was the fact that the heads were painted red, lending the “TR,” or Testa Rossa, name to the car (Testa Rossa means “redhead” in Italian).
There were other notable differences between the TR and the Mondial. One was the new-for-Ferrari coil-spring suspension, replacing the previous car’s leaf spring setup. The gearbox was also revised for smoother shifts.
Legacy and Racing
As was mentioned earlier, the 500 TR never raced for Ferrari. This means that, even for all of its ground-breaking design elements, the Ferrari 500 TR lives on as nothing more than an evolutionary step in the design of the Monza line of vehicles. In a way, though, we do know how well the 500 TR did on the track. A slightly modified version of the 500 TR, dubbed the 500 TRC, would wind up taking first place at the 1957 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as the 1958 Targa Florio.