Films: This Is The Admiral’s Ferrari 500 Mondial

This Is The Admiral’s Ferrari 500 Mondial

“Most folks think of Ferraris as 8- or 12- cylinder cars. A 4-cylinder Ferrari is kinda strange to most people. They also don’t realize that the first two Formula 1 World Championships were won with 4-cylinder cars,” says Rear Admiral Robert A. Phillips, USN (Ret.). “There are so few of them…there are three left with the right motors…”

Bought after its racing career had drawn to a close, Admiral Robert Phillips bought the unwanted 1955 Ferrari 500 Mondial Series II by Scaglietti in 1960 for the princely sum of $2,225, or as he puts it, “two-and-a-half MGAs”.

Happiest on-track, these were Ferrari’s early series of privateer cars. It was sent originally to Venezuela, then to the U.S. where it was competitive on its debut at Sebring. By 1959, it had been relocated to a Rambler Dealership, with a seized differential! As it happens, the decision to wipe some dust off of the valve covers would change his life forever.

“Ah, Ferrari—I’ve got to save it!” and with that, Admiral Robert Phillips had spent 2/3 of his salary on a broken Ferrari racing car. And then proceeded to fix it himself, and race, with the car accompanying the Navy family on its many moves over the years. Now, he’s a world-renown expert on the 500/750 Mondial models, after years of research and collecting factory Assembly Data Sheets.

“You can do practically anything you put your mind to with your own hands,” he says. “Going through and overhauling this son-of-a-1954-Formula 1 motor to the point where it runs as happily as it does today gives me a great sense of satisfaction.”

“Frankly, when you put the last cover on it and you can’t see all the beautiful innards, it’s almost a disappointment.”

After restoring the car with little outside help from 2000 to 2008, the car won Best In Class for Ferrari Competition Cars at Pebble Beach, and the Enzo Trophy for best Ferrari overall—selected by Piero Ferrari and Jean Todt.

But don’t get the impression this car is merely a showpiece. The Admiral’s son, Bryan Philips says, “Dad uses the opportunity at Ferrari Club of America National Meets to track the car as much as possible…he tells my mother that he is only going 7/10s, but the rest of us know better.”

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24 Comments on "This Is The Admiral’s Ferrari 500 Mondial"

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Felix Trzetrzelewska
Felix Trzetrzelewska

Wishing you fair winds and a following sea, Admiral. What a great film and a beautiful reflection of your hobby (and your family for embracing it). Hope to see it one day around Santa Fe. The only down side was wondering how you found it in yourself to put two screws into the stern, err, rear panel for that silly license plate.

Boxy02
Boxy02

I love the car and the owner’s automotive philosophy that these cars must be driven, not collecting dust in a museum somewhere. Didn’t know they raced with four cylinders, that was neat to hear! Drive on, Admiral!

Amil Eoj
Amil Eoj

What a magnificent car–with a magnificent caretaker to match. Thanks to the Admiral for preserving and restoring and, not least, continuing to drive this beautiful machine. Your evident love for and pleasure in it is utterly infectious. And thanks to Petrolicious for sharing all of that with all of us. Bravo!

darinschnabel
darinschnabel

Awesome !

A Dias
A Dias

Fabulous car! Great story and owner.

Adam
Adam

What a car, what an inspiration this chap really is….simply defines petrolicious. Keep up the fantastic work guys, beautiful short film. An absolutely pleasure viewing….

Henrik Hammarvid
Henrik Hammarvid

Amazing story, car and character. Excellent production value. One of the best on the forum.
Thanks to all involved

Juan Escalante
Juan Escalante
El Almirante Phillips! Your amazing car won its class at the ’55 Venezuelan GP and I remember my father telling me all about the three GP (’55-’56-”57) held in our native Caracas, Venezuela. It was certainly the golden age for motor racing and car enthusiasts in the country. I want to thank your family for supporting your love and passion for such beautiful car. Ohhh the twinkle in your eye for #8 is evident from the moment you unhook the straps inside the trailer to later tightening the wheel spindle to finally sitting behind the wheel and carefully checking the… Read more »
Aaron McKenzie
Aaron McKenzie

Juan – Thank [b]you[/b][i][/i] from Petrolicious for helping us trace the origins of the archival images featured in this video. Suffice it to say, without your help I never would have found my way to an 85 year-old man living in Spain! I hope you enjoy this video all the more knowing that you had a hand in making it possible.

Looking forward to seeing your own “El Hemi” atop this page soon!

Redvers Arnold
Redvers Arnold

Wonderful story, loved the Senior Citizen comment. Keep on enjoying it sir.

Kirneh
Kirneh

The fact that this specific vehicle has been owned by Porfirio Rubirosa!!
The man who lived every mans dream and still lives on in Paris in the fact that the big dark pepper mills in restaurants are called Rubirosas…
A Ferrari driven and owned by the man who bedded women such as Jane Mansfield, Ava Gardner, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Barbara Hutton and who died by crashing his Ferrari in Bois de Bologne, Paris.
If you’re curious of an interesting life story, please do read (oh, beautiful car by the way..;)):

https://www.thrillist.com/vice/porfirio-rubirosa-the-most-interesting-man-in-the-world

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2156698/The-playboy-called-Mr-Ever-Ready-Despite-short-violent-high-society-beauties-Monroe-Ava-Gardner-jumped-bed-Porfirio-Rubirosa.html

Shooter Stu
Shooter Stu

What a hero. Thanks for the links.

Lee King
Lee King

I don’t think a car could be any more perfect. Just beautifuly.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
Apologies for being the sole voice of descent but in all honesty this one left me a little … flat . Both the car .. the owner .. the video .. and especially the ( cough ) background music all coming together into what I’d call a fairly reasonable albeit mediocre effort . Not that any of it is bad mind you . Its just not what I’d consider good either . Especially in comparison to the standard by which all should be compared to here . I’m speaking of course of the Novo Garage video . Hmmn ………..
Robert Chave
Robert Chave
For me, personally, the remarkable thing is that someone is able to find the time and the funding to make these videos at all, documenting the rich engineering, social and architectural history of these kinds of cars. Before this video, I didn’t know a thing about a four cylinder Ferrari. Yet, in someways, this car, the Mondial, is kind of a lodestone, pointing towards so much that will follow. And the primary reason that the car exists, in this form, is that this man made the radical decision to spend 2/3’s of a years salary on a car with a… Read more »
Jonathan WC Mills
Jonathan WC Mills

Fantastic story and owner – once again proving that great cars deserve to be kinetic sculpture. Not static.

GibsonSG
GibsonSG

“It was born to be driven”. Amen to that. Another classic story

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

Fabulous film and an even better story.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay

To answer the question: I would absolutely buy and fix a racing car myself. In my opinion, this is the only way to fly.

I will look forward to watching this film later this evening with my father and my son. It surely promises to be a magnificent story.

Can hardly wait… Thanks for sharing. 🙂

Mario Baroz
Mario Baroz

As stated by you guys already, great story, great car. I just wondered, in the part where he talks about the next owner, I wonder why his son wouldn’t inherit it if it was such a part of the family? Perhaps it would but they way he was saying what he was saying, it sounded like it wouldn’t.

Marc
Marc

Saw it in person at Santa Fe concourso and met the admiral. Beautiful car and lovely color at that. Great story.

Nate
Nate

Amazing car, even better story.

Phil K
Phil K

What a great car! Amazing!

Bill Bowdish
Bill Bowdish

A great story, tastefully presented by Sean and Jeremy. Well done!

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