Reprinted by permission of the Ferrari Market Letter
Roush Publications, Inc.
Legend has it
that is was the exploits of a certain Stirling Moss, racing in 1950 and 1951 with an HWM
Formula 2 powered by an Alta 4-cylinder engine against Ferraris V-12 formula 2 cars,
that first alerted the folks at Maranello to the beneficial characteristics inherent in
the 4-cylinder layout. As was customary at Ferrari a promising innovation was to be tried
first in a monoposto race car, and by the end of 1951 Ferrari had a 2-liter 4-cylinder
(i.e. 500cc per cylinder) Formula 2 car ready. When Formula 2 took Formula1s World
Championship status for the 1952 season the 500 Formula 2 Ferrari was virtually
invincible, easily winning the championship.
It should come as no surprise that an attempt was made to transplant this success into
the sports cars. The first two such cars made their public debut on June 29, 1953 at the
6th Gran Premio dellAutodromo at Monza. this event was for sports cars of no more
than 3,000 cc displacement. Among the Ferraris entered were two 4-cylinder prototypes - a
735 S, displacing 2,940 cc for the reigning World Champion Alberto Ascari; and a 625 TF,
displacing 2,500 cc for the promising Englishman Mike Hawthorn.
Both cars had engines that were developments of the very successful Formula 2
powerplant, and retained that engines basic architecture. Being prototypes exact
details are sketchy. Dual overhead camshafts, driven by a train of gears rather than using
the V-12s chain drive, actuated two valves per cylinder. As with the "long
block" Lampredi-designed V-12 the cylinder liners screwed into the cylinder heads,
eliminating the head gasket. The solid-billet crankshaft used five main bearings of the
Vandervell thin-wall design, as were the rod bearings.
Lubrication was by a dry sump system; the ignition system used two plugs per cylinder
fired by dual magnetos (some sources say distributors); and two twin-choke sidedraft
carburetor supplied the fuel mixture (various sources cite various sizes). Both engines
had a 90 mm stroke, with the smaller one having a 94 mm bore and the larger on a 102 mm
bore. Both are usually claimed to have 9:1 compression ratio, and to have produced 220 to
The confusion concerning engine specifications seems rather tame compared to chassis
details. Most sources dismiss the cars has having been, basically, either contemporary 250
MM or 166 MM/53 chassis into which 4-cylinder engines were dropped. But wheelbase
dimensions have been given as 2160 mm; 2250 mm; and 2400 mm.
Probably both chassis were constructed in the fashion characteristic of Ferrari at the
time -- two large longitudinal tubes connected by tow main cross members and various other
tubes of smaller diameter. Front suspension would have been independent, using unequal
length A-arms and a transverse leaf spring. At the rear a de Dion axle was probably used,
likewise with a transverse leaf spring. The gearbox would typically have been a transaxle
unit, mounted at the rear and fitted with four forward speeds plus reverse. Large finned
drum brakes and Houdaille lever-actions shocks would complete the package.
The 735 S is shrouded in even more mystery. The bodywork was quite unusual, and is
generally attributed to a design by Aurelio Lampredi as executed by Carrozzeria Autodromo
of Modena. But there are those who insist that the body was actually fabricated in
Ferraris own workshops. Two Ferraris given similar bodywork were both V-12 166
MM/53s, S/N 0264 M and 0272 M. No 4-cylinder car with this style body is known to
exist today, and the S.N of the 735 S is not known. 0428 and 0444 have been proposed. But
these two numbers do not seem to fit chronologically, and both cars were later known to
have Scaglietti spyder bodywork!
The 625 TF Bodywork is not quite so mysterious. The car entered for Hawthorn at Monza
was fitted with a Vignale spyder body similar to that being used at the time on the 250 MM
and 166 MM/53 V-12s. Two of these spyders are known to have been built, S/N 0304 TF
and 0306 TF; which one was Hawthorns car is not known. It is also speculated that
the TF suffix indicated the type was initially intended to compete in the Targa Florio,
held the month before the race at Monza.
735 S was clearly the class of the field at the Gran Premio dellAutodromo. It
started the first heat from the pole position and was handily in the lead when, on the
13th lap, it crashed after colliding with a slower car being lapped. Luigi Villoresi, in a
250 MM Pininfarina Berlinetta, won both heats and took 1st overall. Hawthorn, in the
smaller displacement 4-cylinder car, too 4th place overall.
The 735 S next appeared August 9, 1953 at the Circuito di Senigallia-- a race attended
by Enzo Ferrari -- driven by Umberto Maglioli (some sources state there was a second
4-cylinder Ferrari present for Pietro Carini). It was holding its own against the 4.1 and
4.5 liter V-12 Ferraris when it threw a rod.
The final appearance of a 4-cylinder prototype as a factory team car was at the first
running of the Nurburgring 1000 Kilometers on for August 30 1953. Ferrari entered three
cars, one of them being a 4-cylinder - either a 2. or 3.0 liter, the references differ on
their identification! But after problems during practice only one team Ferrari, one of the
large displacement V-12s made it to the starting line. Fortunately it also won the
As already indicated the subsequent history of the 735 S is not known. A third 625 TF
was made, S/N 0302 TF, and it received a Vignale Berlinetta body. Nothing is known of any
racing career for this car. Supposedly it was later destroyed and parts of its bodywork
found their way onto another Ferrari chassis.
Both 625 TF Vignale spyders found their way to Argentina where they continued their
competition career. The disposition of 0306 TF is not known. 0304 TF would eventually make
it back to Italy, rather decrepit condition. It has subsequently been restored, and is
today the only survivor of Ferraris first attempts to build a 4-cylinder sports car.
But there is one final mystery. The Factory Assembly Data Sheets for 0302 TF indicate
it was, in 1954, fitted with a 735 engine!