All the experimenting on the 3 litre engine resulted in two new sportscar powerplants; the 3.7 litre Type 118 and the 4.4 litre Type 121. The engines were installed in a chassis similar to that of the 750 Monza. Bodied by Scaglietti the new cars were officially known as the 376 S and 446 S respectively, but the names were changed to 118 LM and 121 LM. Three of both were constructed, but halfway through the 1955 season one of the 118 LMs was upgraded by the factory to 121 LM specifications.
The first serious race for the new cars was the Buenos Aires 1000 km race, where a single 118 LM was entered by the works backed up by seven privateers. It looked like a debut victory for the six cylinder car in its first World Championship race, but it was disqualified after it took a wrong exit into the pits. Two locals secured a Ferrari one-two finish, saving the day for the Italian manufacturer. Next up was the Mille Miglia where a single 118 LM and three 121 LMs were fielded against very strong competition from Stirling Moss in his Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.
The Anglo-German combination had taken an early lead, but the powerful Ferraris quickly gained on Moss and eventually overtook him. Unfortunately the high pace required to reel the 300 SLR in, proved too much for the tires and all of the big sixes crashed out. Moss' co-driver journalist Dennis Jenkinson reported in his epic article about the race that they had literally seen pieces of rubber come off the Ferraris' tires. The less powerful 118 LM was more kind on its tires and managed to finish third behind the victorious Moss; the SLR's finest victory.
Ferrari came to the Le Mans 24 Hours race as the defending champions, and were very eager to take revenge on the silver arrows. The Scuderia's intentions were underlined on the test day where Eugenio Castellotti set the fastest time in his 121 LM. The race was completely overshadowed by the worst accident in motorsport, which saw one of the SLRs fly into a grandstand killing 77 spectators and injuring many more. The race continued to enable the authorities free access to and from the track. The race was won by a Jaguar D-Type and the 121 LM was forced to retire from third position.
At the end of the season Ferrari was just one point short of securing the World Championship, but this was mainly due to the points scored by privateers with the more reliable four and twelve cylinder racers. All six cylinder works cars were sold at the end of the season, and under guidance of new technical director Vittorio Jano Ferrari returned to the V12 engine for their big sports racers. There was definitely potential in the six cylinder cars, but lack of development and changes in the staff cut the life short of the only straight six engined cars Ferrari ever constructed.
© 2011 Wouter Melissen
|Country of origin||Italy|
|Chassis number||0484 LM|
|Produced from||1954 - 1955|
|Configuration||Type 121 Straight 6|
|Location||Front, longitudinally mounted|
|Construction||aluminium block and head|
|Displacement||4.41 liter / 269.1 cu in|
|Bore / Stroke||102.0 mm (4 in) / 90.0 mm (3.5 in)|
|Valvetrain||2 valves / cylinder, DOHC|
|Fuel feed||3 Weber 50 DCOA 3 Carburettors|
|Power||330 bhp / 246 KW @ 6000 rpm|
|BHP/Liter||75 bhp / liter|
|Chassis||aluminium body on steel tubular frame|
|Front suspension||double wishbones, coil springs|
|Rear suspension||DeDion axle, transverse leaf spring, Houdaille hydraulic dampers|
|Brakes||hydraulic drums, all-round|
|Gearbox||5 speed Manual|
|Drive||Rear wheel drive|
|Weight||850 kilo / 1873.9 lbs|
|Wheelbase / Track (fr/r)||2400 mm (94.5 in) / 1278 mm (50.3 in) / 1284 mm (50.6 in)|
|Power to weight||0.39 bhp / kg|
|Top Speed||290 km/h (180 mph)|