SCUDERIA FERRARI FROM SILVERSTONE TO MONACO | LIFE MAGAZINE, MAY 1956

The 1956 Formula One Ferrari’s were truly modified Lancia D50’s.  The D50 debuted at the tail-end of the ’54 Formula One season, placed in the capable hands of Italy’s two-time and reigning World Champion, Alberto Ascari. He took both pole position in qualifying and fastest race lap in the D50’s very first event. On May 26th, 1955, Alberto Ascari was in Monza to watch friend and fellow driver Eugenio Castellotti test out the Ferrari 750 Monza, which they were to race together in the Supercortemaggiore 1000. About to go home for lunch with his wife, and dressed only in a simple shirt and trousers, Ascari decided to throw on Castellotti’s helmet and try out the new Ferrari. While coming out of a curve on the third lap he lost control– the Monza violently skidded, turned on its nose and somersaulted into the air. Ascari was ejected and thrown onto the track and died on the scene. After the death of their star driver, Lancia fell on hard times and sold to Scuderia Ferrari. Ferrari modified the D50, removing many of designer Vittorio Jano’s innovations. It was rebadged as the Lancia-Ferrari D50, and then simply the Ferrari D50. Juan Manuel Fangio won the 1956 World Championship of Drivers with the Ferrari modified D50. During its competitive run, the D50 raced in 14 Formula One Grands Prix, winning five of them.

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An incredible photo essay by LIFE photographer Thomas McAvoy, chronicling the Scuderia Ferrari racing team’s return trip from the 1956 BRDC International Trophy of Silverstone, to the Ferrari facilities where technicians wrenched the cars in preparation for the Monaco Grand Prix– and then off to Monaco where you see shots of the legendary drivers Peter Collins, Eugenio Castellotti, and the master, Juan Manuel Fangio (1956 was his only year with Ferrari)– who over his career won five World Championships for four different makers– Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati.

McAvoy’s images capture a time when Ferrari is simultaneously on the dusk & dawn of tragedy and great loss.  On June 30th, 1956, Dino Ferrari (Enzo’s only son, and heir apparent to the Ferrari legacy) was taken by Muscular Dystrophy– less than two months after these photographs were taken. Enzo remained forever heartbroken. “The Old Man” began wearing his signature dark sunglasses as a sign of his mourning, and in remembrance of Dino’s death.  His marriage soon failed under the stress of Dino’s passing, and Enzo lived out the rest of his years in a tiny apartment at the Ferrari factory, where he worked tirelessly to propel Ferrari forward until his own death at the age of 90 on August 14, 1988.

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Eugenio Castellotti driving for Scuderia Ferrari at the Monaco Grand Prix, 1956 — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine.  On March 14th, 1957, Ferrari’s young star driver, Eugenio Castellotti was killed at only 26 years old. While testing a new Ferrari for the 1957 racing season at the Modena Autodrome, he crashed against a curve and was thrown 100 yards, dying instantly. He was attempting to accelerate his average speed to 85 miles per hour when he lost control of the Ferrari. Not even two years ago, he was pallbearer at Aleberto Ascari’s funeral, who had died behind the wheel of Castellotti’s Ferrari– wearing Castellotti’s helmet.  The irony and agony is gut-wrenching.

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Peter Collins driving for Scuderia Ferrari at the Monaco Grand Prix, 1956 — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine.  On August 3rd, 1958, Ferrari’s Peter Collins (who looks like he’s on cloud nine in McAvoy’s Monaco pictures with his beautiful soon-to-be-wife, American actress Louise Cordier on his arm) would die in a crash at the ’58 German Grand Prix–  at just 27 years old Collins had already won three Grands Prix, and had a helluva career ahead of him before his tragic passing.

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The Scuderia Ferrari racing team unloading the D50 race cars from the nose of the cargo plane upon returning from the 1956 BRDC International Trophy of Silverstone. They are headed to the Ferrari facilities where technicians will in prepare them for the 1956 Monaco Grand Prix. — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine. via 
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A great shot showing Scuderia Ferrari racing team unloading the D50 race cars from the cargo plane onto the transport trucks upon returning from the 1956 BRDC International Trophy of Silverstone. D50 #2, ch.number 0001, is raced by Peter Collins.  They are headed with the d50’s to Ferrari’s facilities where technicians will in prepare them for the 1956 Monaco Grand Prix. — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine. via 

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The Scuderia Ferrari racing team unloading their D50 race cars onto the Fiat 642 transport truck (by Bartoletti) upon returning from the 1956 BRDC International Trophy of Silverstone. They are headed to the Ferrari facilities where technicians will in prepare them for the 1956 Monaco Grand Prix. — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine. via 

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Scuderia Ferrari racing team unloading the D50 race cars upon returning from the 1956 BRDC International Trophy of Silverstone. D50 #1 (loaded top/front), ch.number 0007, raced by Juan Manuel Fangio. They are headed to the Ferrari facilities where technicians will in prepare them for the 1956 Monaco Grand Prix. The man in the military uniform under the plane’s wing is an agent of the Italian “Guardia di Finanza” (Taxes and customs police) overseeing the landing operation. — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine. via

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Scuderia Ferrari racing team with their D50 race cars loaded on the Fiat 642 transport truck (by Bartoletti) upon returning from the 1956 BRDC International Trophy of Silverstone. They are headed to the Ferrari facilities where technicians will prepare them for the 1956 Monaco Grand Prix. — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine. via 

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Scuderia Ferrari racing team with their D50 race cars loaded on the Fiat 642 transport truck (by Bartoletti) upon returning from the 1956 BRDC International Trophy of Silverstone. They are headed on the Via Emilia toward Maranello to the Ferrari facilities, where technicians will prepare them for the 1956 Monaco Grand Prix. — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine. via

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1956 — Lancia/Ferrari D50’s awaiting unloaded in Maranello and awaiting preparation of the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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1956 — Lancia/Ferrari D50’s at the Ferrari facilities at Maranello preparation for the Monaco Grand Prix race — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine
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1956 — Lancia/Ferrari D50’s at the Ferrari facilities at Maranello in preparation for the Monaco Grand Prix race — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — Ferrari mechanics and technicians at Maranello prepare the Lancia/Ferrari D50’s for the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — A Lancia/Ferrari D50 at Maranello is prepared for competition in the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine
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May, 1956 — Ferrari mechanics and technicians at Maranello prepare the Lancia/Ferrari D50’s for the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — Ferrari mechanics and technicians at Maranello prepare the Lancia/Ferrari D50’s for the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — Ferrari mechanics and technicians at Maranello prepare the Lancia/Ferrari D50’s for the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine
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May, 1956 — Ferrari technician at Maranello is hand-fabricating a body panel for a Lancia/Ferrari D50 headed to the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine
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May, 1956 — Ferrari mechanics and technicians at Maranello prepare the Lancia/Ferrari D50’s for the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — Racing fans swarm a Lancia/Ferrari D50 at the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — The legendary Formula One driver Juan Manuel Fangio at the Monaco Grand Prix race — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — Ferrari racing in the  Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

May, 1956 — The Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — The Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 – Juan Manuel Fangio in his #20 Lancia/Ferrari D50 race car at the Monaco Grand Prix. Ferrari would have to retire this D50 from the race after Fangio smacked it into a wall  – Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — Luigi Musso’s Lancia/Ferrari D50 crashed into the straw bales at the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — The crushed nose of Fangio’s Lancia/Ferrari D50 — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE

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May, 1956 — Juan Manuel Fangio’s Lancia/Ferrari D50 that he crashed into the wall at the Monaco Grand Prix, you can see the damage on the car’s nose — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine
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May, 1956 — Juan Manuel Fangio signing autographs at the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — Lancia/Ferrari D50 race car at the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — Driver Eugnio Callotti with the Scuderia Ferrari pit crew at the Monaco Grand Prix race — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — Eugenio Castellotti standing over his Lancia/Ferrari D50 at the Monaco Grand Prix race — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — Fellow Ferrari drivers Juan Manuel Fangio and Eugenio Castellotti share words at the Monaco Grand Prix. — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine. The fiery Castellotti had a gorgeous girlfriend, actress Delia Scalato, to match his own good looks and suave style. His racing talent and bank account were also not lacking– he was a silver spooner who had inherited a substantial family fortune. At 21 yrs old, he bought himself a Ferrari 166S, and pursued racing. His looks, aggression and skill quickly thrust him into the limelight– as he became one of Italy’s top drivers with an ever-growing and adoring entourage. via

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May, 1956 — Ferrari driver Eugenio Castellotti with entourage (actress Delia Scalato?) on the streets of Monace during the Monaco Grand Prix — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine
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May, 1956 — Ferrari driver, Peter Collins enjoying a drink with an unknown beautiful young lady, some say she was a French model… On February 4th 1957 he met American actress Louise Cordier King and the couple married one week later. They were the golden couple of the time, living on a yacht in Monaco harbor. — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine. via
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May, 1956 — Ferrari driver, Peter Collins enjoying a stroll with an unknown beautiful young lady, some say she was a French model… Just look at her tiny little waist. In February of 1957 he married the American actress Louise Cordier (“Seven Year Itch”). – Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine
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peter collins formula one F1 1956 Monaco

May, 1956 — Ferrari driver, Peter Collins enjoying a stroll with an unknown beautiful young lady, some say she was a French model. Just look at her tiny little waist! And checkout that bumper sticker! ‘I LIKE GIRLS!” — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine

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May, 1956 — Ferrari driver Peter Collins (just 23 yrs old at the time) standing next to his Lancia/Ferrari d50 race car with an unknown beautiful young lady, some say she was a French model… In February of 1957 he married the American actress Louise Cordier King (“Seven Year Itch”) at the Monaco Grand Prix. They had just six short months together as husband & wife before Peter was killed driving in the ’58 German Grand Prix where she was by his side. — Photo by Thomas McAvoy for LIFE magazine.

Under the wing of the well-seasoned Juan Manuel Fangio, Peter Collins’ driving skills flourished incredibly.  He won at both Spa-Francorchamps and Reims, and went on to the Monza finale with a chance of taking the title. What followed has become legend (if not always accurately reported).

When Fangio retired with steering failure, it was clear that taking the win and extra point for fastest lap could deliver Peter Collins the Championship. By lap 30 of 50, he was solidly in second place, and while Moss’ Maserati was some way ahead, Collins still had a chance to take the lead. On lap 45, Moss ran out of fuel, and his team-mate Piotti came up from behind and pushed him to the pits. Fangio, meanwhile was expected to take over Luigi Musso’s car, to seek the one point that would retain his title– but Musso boldly ignored all instructions to hand over his car. When Collins came in on lap 35 for a tire check, he spotted Fangio on the pit wall, and voluntarily offered his car– giving up any chance to win the title himself, and handing the World Championship to Fangio.  Collins was a true class act for that selfless gesture of sportsmanship. via

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10 thoughts on “SCUDERIA FERRARI FROM SILVERSTONE TO MONACO | LIFE MAGAZINE, MAY 1956

  1. Those are some of the best photograps I’ve yet to see from F 1 in the 50’s. The shots away from the cars with the drivers not posing are really good. Will there be a book with this collection?

    James Deady

  2. Excellent. Thank you for this. Love the paddock shots. The history of the D50 is quite a story in itself. I like to say my favorite Ferrari is a Lancia! Discovered this site about a month ago, been looking at it every day since. Way too much cool stuff. Keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks for putting up this great story from LIFE magazine . Amazing that they covered F1 to this extent back in the day .

    But your History on Enzo is a bit off . It wasn’t the death of Dino that put a cramp into Enzo’s marriage , it was his ongoing affair with Piero’s mother . So the myth of Enzo living the life of a Hermit while dealing with the company is …. a myth . The Old Man was rockin and rollin with both his Mistress and his wife for many a year . Bouncing between households and women constantly . The Apartment was his refuge to get away from them both .

    A Monk Enzo was not .

  4. more style and soul than the 80’s and 90’s combined. Fantastic shots. Want to see Italy at its best then go to a car or bike race at Monza. Cool beyond words.

  5. To experience events as people did then…the shot of the crowd right up on the open cockpit Ferrari, smelling the leather, feeling the body contours, autographs and interactions with the most famous drivers in the world, Monaco in all its beauty…I went to Sebring last year and was disappointed at the carnival atmosphere. I guess some things will just never be as they once were. There’s a certain nostalgia, a loss of innocence, a yearning, I’m sure, in most who love these pics to have such experiences…

  6. Awesome stuff; especially for those of us that are a little too young to remember stuff from the 50’s.

  7. Much of Ferrari’s success in late 50s Formula 1 was predicated by Mercedes-Benz’s withdrawal. Racing prior to Jackie Stewart’s push for safety in the early 70s was dangerous for drivers and spectators alike (cf. LeMans 1955).

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