This adventure began in 1951, when the Grant Piston Ring company enquired of the possibility of acquiring a couple of second-hand Grand Prix cars for use in the following year’s Indy 500.
Ferrari were so excited by the idea, that they offered to design a car specially for the job. Grant’s were impressed and ordered three. The Italians were now so pleased with themselves that they decided to build and enter a fourth car in their own name.
The ensuing 4.5 Litre, V/12 engined device was tested in some minor European events, and declared to be just the thing. Unfortunately though, just-the-thing on a European Grand Prix circuit proved to be not-at-all-the-thing for Indianapolis. And when qualifying began, the Ferraris were soon in trouble. All three of the Grant’s cars failed to qualify, even though they had the 1950 winner Johnnie Parsons on the driving strength, and the works entered car would just scrape in by the skin of its teeth.
The driver of the factory car looks suspiciously like Chevy Chase, which may have gone someway towards explaining the lack of performance. But it was in fact, Ferrari’s legendary star-turn, Alberto Ascari. World Champion of 1952 and 1953 (the last time to date, that an Italian ever won the World Championship), and a fully paid-up member of the All-Time-Greats Club.
On race day, Alberto was immediately up against it. He was the only driver in the race who found it necessary to use his gearbox in order to keep the thing on the road through the corners, and within a few laps, he, one of the finest drivers of his generation, found himself struggling to keep a grip on last place!
On the bright side though, the nastiness would eventually play itself out. After forty laps, one of the rear wheels collapsed. Alberto gratefully parked the monster at the side of the track, and they all went home.
Ferrari have been connected with a number of other Indy 500 projects over the years, and have always supported their intentions with a great deal of old chat. But so far, none of these schemes have ever come to fruition. And in fifty-nine years, Ferrari have never been back.
Well…They were rubbish!