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.”