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LONDON.- Headlining an exceptional roster of Ferraris consigned to RM’s 2011 Monterey sale (early entries include no less than 20 examples from the Modenese prancing horse) is the extraordinary, matching-numbers 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Scaglietti Spider, s/n 0492M. The eighth of just 35 examples built, 0492M began its illustrious career on the Ferrari stand at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1955. One of the first cars with the improved coil spring front suspension, it was delivered to importer Jacques Swaters with a startling snakeskin interior, photographs of which still exist. The car was later exported to the US where it was successfully campaigned on the West Coast racing circuit.

With the likes of such noted drivers as famed Ferrari importer and racing driver John von Neumann, future Formula One Champion Phil Hill, and Harrison Evans behind the wheel, 0492M competed in a total of 22 events during the 1955-56 season, claiming 11 podium finishes. Beyond its strong racing performance, 0492M played a starring role in the Hollywood thriller On the Beach starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire. The recipient of a recent, well-documented restoration, it is offered in Monterey from one of America’s most respected sports car collections. Noted Ferrari expert Brooke Betz declares 0492M is “on content alone, the best 750 Monza I have ever seen.”

Notwithstanding its extraordinary movie career, this Ferrari 750 Monza is one of the finest examples built and, according to Ferrari authority Brooke Betz, the best example he has ever seen, on content alone.

In its professional racing career, 750 Monza s/n 0492M entered 22 West Coast races in an intense period in 1955-56, driven by famed Ferrari importer and racing driver John von Neumann, future Formula One World Champion Phil Hill, and Harrison Evans. In that time it won twice, scored seven 2nd place finishes, was 3rd twice and 4th four times. It also won the 1959 Australian Grand Prix, driven by Fred Astaire, but we’ll get to that.

The origins of the 750 Monza can be traced back to the end of 1950, when attendance at Formula One races was declining due to Alfa Romeo’s dominance. Formula One encompassed 1.5 liters supercharged or 4.5 liters un-supercharged formulae. Ferrari had both ends of that scale covered, with the 166MM and the 375MM, but a 1951 meeting proposed that the Federation Internationale d’Automobile adopt 750 cc supercharged and 2.5 liters un-supercharged for Formula One in 1954.

Ferrari’s chief engineer Aurelio Lampredi proposed a four-cylinder DOHC motor, which he reasoned would be lighter and have more torque. Ferrari directed him to produce it for the 2.5 liter, 1954 season, and an early version – the 625 S – was tested in an F2 car at Bari in September 1951.

The 1952 season was quite eventful, when Alfa dropped out, and the World Championship was switched to Formula 2, which meant that Lampredi’s two-liter, four-cylinder 500 F2 engine was in the catbird seat. The car won 17 of 19 races in the next two years, and Alberto Ascari became World Champion in 1952 and 1953.

In the sports car world, Enzo Ferrari was faced with having engines that were too big and heavy or smaller and not powerful enough. He directed Lampredi to build a three-liter four-cylinder engine based on the 625, and the Tipo 735 S engine was built. It was a narrow-angle, DOHC four-cylinder, and it was quite successful in 1953 in the hands of Mike Hawthorn and Alberto Ascari, at Monza, in the Dolomite Cup and at Senigallia. But Ferrari was convinced he was on the right track, and Lampredi tweaked the design further.

The new engine was called the 750, as the bore was increased to 103 mm. The narrow-valve angle cylinder head was replaced with a wide-angle 80-degree head, with bigger valves and enormous 58 DCOA3 Weber carburetors. The engine was installed in a wider Tipo 501 GP chassis, and the 750 appeared at the Monza Supercortemaggiore 100-km race on June 27, 1954. Umberto Maglioli and Mike Hawthorn won, and Froilan Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignant took second, giving the new Ferrari its name – the Monza.

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