Look, we understand if the less cultured among you only associate the words "Tour de France" with the likes of Eddy Merckx, the Belgian wonder who won bicycling's most famous race five times between 1969 and 1974. Those steeped in the history of electronic music may immediately think of pioneering German group Kraftwerk's bicycle-themed 1983 single, which appeared in the seminal hip-hop film Breakin'-a flick that also featured a young Jean-Claude Van Damme as an extra. But, please, let us set aside Belgium's two most famous sons and discuss the automotive Tour de France, and more specifically, the 250 variant that carried its name.
The model saw its genesis in a Pinin Farina design called the 250 Europa, the first roadgoing Ferrari to wear the 250 badge, which made its debut alongside the 250 Export at the 1953 Paris auto show. And although the Europa’s engine, like all 250s, displaced 3.0 liters, the first Europas were powered by a version of the Aurelio Lampredi–designed V-12, rather than the Gioacchino Colombo–engineered unit that would come to dominate the 250’s destiny. A Colombo-powered Europa GT followed in 1954 and served as the basis for a series of 250 competizione models, cars that also drew influence from the Lampredi-powered 375MM Berlinettas. The Pininfarina firm, overwhelmed with orders for , passed its designs on to Scaglietti, leaving that concern to ultimately come up with what would become known as the Tour de France variant.
By 1958, when Wolfgang Seidel took delivery of this particular 250TdF, the design had been modified with covered headlights. Seidel’s car was technically of 1957 specification, the 15th of 17 cars built, with triple louvers on the sail panel and the aforementioned streamlined lamps. He often raced with Wolfgang von Trips, who sometimes drove Seidel’s earlier TdF and who ultimately crashed that car at the Nürburgring in May of ’57. Seidel often kept von Trips away from the new car, which proved to be a good call for preservation’s sake, though perhaps not quite as good for the automobile’s provenance. Campaigned in 22 races, this car never suffered a shunt. Seidel notched 11 class and overall victories in minor races and managed second overall at Spa in ’58, fourth at the 12 Hours of Reims (with von Trips co-driving), and third at the Grand Prix de Paris in 1959.
Between 1964 and 1973, the car passed through a series of owners before landing in the hands of Swede Christer Mellin, who spent the next 20 years undertaking a well-documented restoration with a focus on originality. The car still wears its original upholstery, and, uncommonly for a competition machine, the engine, transmission, and rear axle are all original to the car. The paint, however, was taken down to bare metal and reapplied, complete with a dashing black hood stripe to match the one Seidel had put on in 1959.
Twenty-one years ago, Mellin sold the TdF to its current owner, and it has been entered in a number of events since, including the 1999 Mille Miglia Storica. Now , at the RM Sotheby’s Monaco auction, to be held on May 12. And while some might find a heavily documented numbers-matching Ferrari 250 piloted by a noted driver from the golden era of motorsports to be an irresistible proposition, we’re featuring it simply because it’s about as striking a TdF as we’ve ever seen. And isn’t that visceral punch in the gut the reason we all fell for Enzo’s creations in the first place?