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Ferrari 156 (Sharknose)

History of the actual car

The Ferrari 156 of 1961 was a straightforward decision by Ferrari to build a car with a suitable engine for the up-coming regulation change in the formula, namely a reduction from 2.5 litre to 1.5 litre engines. In this, Ferrari was prepared in both having a successful Formula Two car quietly developed during 1960 for the 1961 season, the rule changes having been announced as long ago as late 1958. Meanwhile, the British teams were expressing outrage about the rule change as their view was that the unspectacular Formula Two cars were to be favoured instead of continuing the greater powered Formula One cars. Therefore, while they fought against the unmovable CSI, their cause lost substance and vital development time and they were caught out as the 1960 season ended. Ferrari brought out the 156 and was immediately competitive against the unprepared British opposition, soon showing general superiority after their disappointing 1960 front-engined car. The twin nostrilled Ferrari 156, nicknamed the ‘sharknose’ from its side profile, started with the 60 degree engine and later ran a more powerful 120 degree engine. The Ferrari power and reliability resulted in five out of eight wins and Phil Hill of America and Germany’s Wolfgang von Trips headed the title race, Phil Hill winning the Championship by one point after von Trips’ fatal accident at Monza. The Ferrari ethos was ‘onward to victory with next year’s car, therefore previous models were scrapped and cannibalised for the next season’s car. In 1962, new versions of the 156 required the old cars stripped for parts and no Ferrari 156 cars existed beyond the end of these two season’s racing. This fuelled  a legend and helped maintain a certain mystique about the sharknose, making it one of the most well known Formula One cars of the post-war period.


The Model

I have long held a desire to build a sharknose Ferrari and kept an eye out for models in various scales. At the 2001 Goodwood Festival of Speed event, I started on a quest of researching the car, where Chris Rea’s recreation of the 156 first came to light, impressing a visiting Phil Hill. This opportunity was a catalyst in my desire to build a sharknose in 1/12 scale for at about that time, a 1/12 model became available from Model Plus in Italy. This was rather expensive and later that year, I acquired one from a friend who no longer wanted the kit he had bought. This was because it was somewhat inaccurate in overall appearance, however I was happy to compromise and be inspired.

Thereafter starting in late 2001, followed four visits to a Ferrari restoration firm who was looking after the Chris Rea car, now sold on to a new owner. During these visits, I worked on producing drawings and subsequently the spaceframe model, initially as per Chris Rea’s car (for I had no reason to believe this was anything other than quite accurate). Later, it became clear how rather inaccurate this was and so Mk II modifications to the drawings and model of the spaceframe were made. Later in 2004, I met Mike M of JWS who have subsequently made the most accurate ever, recreation of a 60 degree 156 which now appears at many events. Having been invited to see the work in progress, I was able to further modify my drawings (Mk III) and update the model of the spaceframe further.

At this time, the model of the sharknose exists as a spaceframe only, with suspension pick-up points being accurately referenced for horizontal and longitudinal axial planes. The spaceframe is a model in itself and I have to accept it may never be further worked on. However, with my interest in this car persisting and my long term desire to produce as good a sharknose in 1/12 scale as I possibly can, there is a reasonable chance this work will one day re-commence. CMC have produced a very nice 1/12 scale version of the car, but from the point of view of certain internal details, I still would like to improve on even this remarkable mass produced, handbuilt limited edition, wonderful as it is.

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