1955 Ferrari 500 Mondial Series II Offered by Gooding
The story of the Admiral’s Ferrari Mondial, chassis 0556 (0446)/MD, begins with the car being delivered new to famed privateer racer François Picard. Picard requested the Scaglietti coachwork be painted a light blue, the customary national racing color of France. He then raced 0556 (0446)/MD at the 24 Heures Grand Prix de Paris at Montlhéry, France. From there, the Ferrari was raced by Gino Munaron in several prominent Italian circuit races and hill climbs.
Gino Munaron transferred ownership of 0556 (0446)/MD back to Scuderia Ferrari in October 1955. Enzo Ferrari was offered free transportation of his racecars to the inaugural Grand Prix of Venezuela, which took place on November 6, 1955 in Proceres, Caracas. Since the Series II Mondial was not being campaigned at the time, it was one of three cars selected by Enzo Ferrari to compete in the Grand Prix. The Grand Prix featured six clienti Ferraris and three works Ferraris backed by the factory. The Ferrari was initially driven by Harry Schell at the Grand Prix of Venezuela, but halfway through the race he was replaced by Eugenio Castellotti, after the drivetrain in Castellotti’s Ferrari 857 failed. Castellotti dominated in 0556 (0446)/MD, and his driving prowess earned him fifth overall and first in class. The Admiral’s Ferrari Mondial was the only Series II Mondial campaigned by the Scuderia Ferrari factory team at the Grand Prix of Venezuela and was the only time the Ferrari factory campaigned a car that was not painted in the customary red livery.
Shortly after the Grand Prix of Venezuela, Dominican diplomat and international playboy Porfirio Rubirosa purchased this Mondial from Scuderia Ferrari. Rubirosa campaigned the car, earning class wins at the 1955 Governor’s Trophy in Nassau and the 1956 12 Hours of Sebring before selling the car to an new owner, who also passed it on.
In the spring of 1960, a young Naval officer named Robert Phillips went on a quest to find this Ferrari, having heard about it in passing from fellow automotive enthusiasts. Phillips went to the Rambler dealership expecting to see the prized Ferrari displayed prominently. Not finding it, he recalls that he was told by a salesperson, “I think there may be one out in the shop. Go ahead and look.” Phillips scanned the shop, seeking the treasure. Something in the corner, perched on jack stands with no wheels in sight, caught his eye. He grabbed a rag and wiped off the mud-covered valve cover to reveal the name: FERRARI.
The young officer negotiated a purchase price and convinced the auto shop manager at the Naval Air Station in Oakland, California to allow him to store and work on his newly discovered Ferrari on the base. The following nine months proved to be quite an education in Ferrari mechanics for Phillips, as he repaired the engine, transaxle, and bodywork. He began racing the car at events throughout California, until the Navy transferred him to Turkey and then to New Jersey. Refusing to part with his beloved Mondial, he flew back out to Oakland and drove the car across the country to his new post in New Jersey.
About 10 years ago, the Admiral’s Mondial completed an eight-year full restoration with conservation in mind by renowned marque specialist David Carte. Admiral Phillips, now considered one of the foremost experts on four-cylinder Ferraris, had completed an enormous amount of research prior to restoration. The body was repainted in its original French Racing Blue, just as it raced at the first Grand Prix of Venezuela. Following the restoration, 0556 (0446)/MD was displayed at the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and won First in Class honors, as well as the Enzo Ferrari Trophy for the Best Ferrari on the Field. The Mondial has also gone on to win several awards at the Palm Beach Cavallino Classic Concorso d’Eleganza, which included the Scuderia Ferrari Cup for the Best of Show.
Information from Gooding & Co, and images by James Lipman.
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