Memories Of A Father And Racer Abound From Innes Ireland’s Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Recreation
Photography by Will Broadhead
Motorcars are emotive objects, beautiful to gaze upon and glorious to listen to and watch in motion. They are motorsport champions, design classics, record holders, or just something we lust after for no other reason than love at first sight. Then there are those that have additional sentiments attached, a personal story that propels them into becoming something more than the sum of their parts.
The fabulous thing about this automotive hobby we all indulge in, is that people share these stories and allow us a little glimpse of why a certain vehicle is so extraordinary to them. That of course, is something we all appreciate and, I believe, reciprocate at events and meets across the globe. Sometimes though, we are gifted an audience with someone who’s personal attachment to a car runs deeper than an aesthetics or performance.
The car in question is an evocative beast all on its own. It bears the badge of the Prancing Horse and has a figure one can’t help but fall for. Its curves are both flirtatious and elegant, yet it has a stance that communicates speed and a purity of purpose. The bell mouths protruding from the bonnet, housed under an arch of Perspex, offer up a teasing hint to the V12 beneath and the intention of this machine. It is a Ferrari 250 TR, Testa Rossa; “the red head.” That name evokes memories of Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien winning at Le Mans as the late 1950s became the ‘60s. Indeed, as a sports car it was fabulously successful, earning multiple Le Mans triumphs, plus wins at Sebring, the Targa Florio, and Buenos Aires which landed the design, originally drafted by Scaglietti, three world sports car championships in ’58, ’60 and ’61. In this particular case though, the stats are irrelevant, the subject of today’s affections has another story to tell.
In large part because this particular 250 TR isn’t really a TR at all, at least not originally, but then for my money this is where the story starts to become unique. This Ferrari recreation was built by Jim Rose, on an original 330GT, with stunning hand-beaten aluminum bodywork by Les Monk. It has the requisite V12 mated to Weber carbs and shares very close DNA to the original and exceptionally rare 250TRs. More than that though, it was built for Grand Prix and sports car legend Innes Ireland. His daughter, Christianne, remembers it very well. “I remember the first time I saw it in Dad’s workshop,” she recalls, “It looked a bit of a mess and ran extremely rough. Indeed, when he fired it up flames spat from the carburetors and I remember thinking what have you bought?” This is the first time Christianne has seen her father’s car for many years, as it was sold shortly after Innes’ untimely death in 1993. Today the car currently resides at Cotswold Collector Cars and through the efforts of Ben Stinson of the Classic Motor Hub, Christianne and her fathers “mistress,” as she refers to the beautiful red Ferrari, are being reunited for a morning’s fun in the sun-soaked countryside of the Cotswolds.
Speaking about this particular machine as just another “car” seems almost disrespectful, I can see instantly from Christianne’s eyes that it is so much more than that. She chats freely and easily about her memories of this special motor car and about her dad, all the while with her gaze running over the lines of the machine that clearly gave her and her father so many good times together. Innes Ireland’s career may never have reached the promise offered by his natural ability behind the wheel of a racing car, but he is someone who through his actions and attitude to life became a tremendously endearing and popular figure, as well as someone who was true to himself and his principles. The stories and folklore associated with Ireland are out there to read, whether it be climbing Swiss clocktowers somewhat under the influence, or giving Lotus their first grand prix win, there are so many tales associated with this brilliant man I couldn’t possibly attempt to paraphrase them all into this short article. Nor would I want to, as I couldn’t tell them any better than Ireland himself does, in his acclaimed autobiography.
Christianne can tell us stories though, and Ben and I are both there to listen, enthralled as she speaks of her father, of his life and of the long list of racing royalty encountered along the way, these types of anecdotes were part and parcel of being the daughter of a man such as Innes. There were other cars as well of course, like the large three-liter Bentley that Ireland began his racing career in that was supposed to become Christianne’s on her 21st birthday. Of course, like any young girl, such a monster of a car wasn’t really in-keeping with the fashion of the time, nor practical, and Christianne recalls that she would much rather have had a Mini!
With Innes Ireland as your father though, one would assume that it would be impossible not to have petrol running through your veins and the smile upon Christianne’s face as the big Ferrari is fired up reflects her affection for all things automotive. She tells Ben and I that as a child she went everywhere with her dad, and the noise of the red beast in front of us brings it all back. She sums up the feeling best in her own words:
“Dad used to wedge me into the front seat of either the 250 GTO or an E-Type. I grew up smelling the leather, the hot oil and the fuel. The sounds I also absorbed. So yes! There is an immediate hot wire into my father and memories the moment that I get into one of his cars! Or when I’m around the race tracks!”
This isn’t really a story about a beautiful car, or about the history of one of Grand Prix racing’s more colorful characters—the type of which is sorely lacking from modern Formula 1—it runs deeper than that. This is about the love and the bond between a father and his daughter, the car just happens to be a special part of that link and a catalyst for some fabulous and raucous anecdotes. The real story though is narrated by the expressions on Christianne’s face, the emotion in her eyes and what must be a somewhat bittersweet reunion with a motor car that signifies so much of hers and her father’s life. I believe this is something we can all relate to, but to meet someone who is so generous with personal stories and accounts was both a pleasure and a privilege. Thank you Christianne, I hope you enjoyed the reunion with your father’s car as much as I did.