Ferrari 250LM by Mike Sells
A Cavallino of a Different Colour
I like red; I really do. Red is bright and cheery and uplifting and most cars look great in red, especially racing Ferraris. In fact, my son, obviously warped in early childhood by undue parental influence, still maintains that the only acceptable color for any Ferrari is bright red. But one can only paint so many red Ferraris without wishing to try something a little different. Fortunately, many full size racing teams felt the same way and modelers have a number of un-red Ferrari racers from which to choose. English privateer David Piper's 250 GTO, 275LM, P2 and P4 were all a bright medium green, which, while not to everyone's taste, is certainly not red. For a more traditional look, England's official Ferrari dealer Maranello Concessionaires '64 GTO, 275LM, 206 Dino and P2 were painted red but had wide Cambridge blue stripes, nose and tail panels. Ecurie Francorchamps, the Belgian Ferrari distributor, raced Ferraris in bright fly yellow with narrow red ID flashes and there were other un-red color schemes as well, which brings us to the model featured here. Incidentally, what we now think of as Ferrari red was called China red by the factory - go figure.
John Mecom, a wealthy young man from Houston, first fielded a very professional private racing team in the early '60's, running a wide variety of sports and prototype cars from a Lotus 19 to the one-off custom built Hussein Can Am car. At one point, Mecom's operation was chosen to develop and race the Corvette GS cars after the parent factory shamefully disavowed them. Simultaneously, Mecom was racing the Scarab mid-engine sports racer, the only Lola GT Mk6 to escape from Ford's clutches (powered by a Chevy) and a distinctly non-red Ferrari 275LM. The Mecom racing team's official color was 1959 Cadillac Pelham Blue; a metallic blue represented on this model by Duplicolor GM dark metallic blue. The final color may in fact be a little too dark but it does match the color photos in "Corvette Grand Sport" fairly well. Numbers and sponsor decals are as close as possible to the way the car was raced at Nassau in 1964.
Maybe we should solve the nomenclature issue right up front. '60's Ferrari model numbers usually reflect the engine size expressed in cc's per cylinder; hence a GTO is a 250 (3000 cc divided by 12 cyl. = 250). The Ferrari 250 LM is a mid engine Berlinetta powered by a V-12 displacing 3 liters (250 x 12 = 3000). Well, almost .... Only the engine in the first prototype was in fact a 250 although that was the form in which it was submitted for "Homogulation" or certification as a production GT car. 100 examples were required for certification but the FIA refused to certify the LM following the discovery that only 39 of the required 100 GTO's had actually been constructed, despite Ferrari's promises, and nowhere near that number of 250 LMs were under construction either. Ferrari never did build all 100 of the 250 LM's and as the cars came off the assembly tables the engine size was enlarged to provide more power: the original 250 became a 275 (3.3 litre V-12) and eventually a 330 (4.0 litres). Because the cars were never homogulated as true GT racers they were not campaigned by the factory but instead were raced by the various Ferrari distributors or private owners with a fair degree of success in long distance events. Reliability was their biggest asset; the chassis was simple and rugged, the engines efficient and by 1965, nearly bulletproof.
1/24 scale modelers are fortunate enough to have three very attractive Ferrari 250 LM's to choose from: the Revell and Burago diecast versions and a very well done curbside plastic kit by Minicraft. The Minicraft kit contains markings for both the Marranello Concessionaires and Ecurie Francorchamps '65 Le Mans entries and it builds up beautifully. There are many 1/43 scale 275 LM models and kits available in many different color schemes; my personal favorite is by Box but any could be detailed as described here.
In 1/32, my scale of choice, the selection is larger but the quality not so good. Lindberg's snap 250LM is really only useable for the very poor body and then only as a last resort. Airfix (MPC in the U.S.) released a 250LM that is a fair representation after chopping the top 1/16". This particular kit has recently been reissued and is also the only kit available with any sort of accurate chassis or interior detailing. Eldon's mid '60's "Concours" Ferrari 275LM slot body is very well done but extremely rare while the Monogram 275LM slot racing body is the best of all but almost impossible to find. John Bacon in Australia casts a fiberglass clone of the Monogram body for slot racing use so that option exists as well. The 1/32 Mecom 275 LM modeled here is a Monogram body fitted with an Airfix chassis and interior assembly. Wire wheels and tires are Monogram 275P static kit items. While most of the kits and diecasts available in 1/24 and 1/43 will have acceptable interior and body detailing, this is not always true in 1/32. The following construction notes are specific to the Airfix kit but may apply to any model chosen.
Begin by grinding a large horizontal oval opening in each interior door panel. Widen the front opening for more legroom and add new foot well side and front panels to the underside of the dash. Make a new forward floor panel to match the new foot well and add the kit pedals. A square shift linkage tunnel goes between the seats, tapering from an 1/8" or so height at the firewall to the floor just forward of the joint under the dash. The Airfix seats are really poor; the seats used on this model are from an MPC/AMT Porsche 935 snap kit but any similar units will work as well. The shifter is a square gated cast metal assembly with a fairly tall chrome shift lever and ball mounted above the tunnel. Racing interior colors vary from bare aluminum or grey to black. This one is pale grey with a dark grey floor and flat black dash for better visibility. Seats were nearly always a medium blue cloth cover over an aluminum or black frame. After painting, glue a black door lock release cable (carpet thread) from the front edge to the upper rear corner of the door panel opening on the outside of the panel. Don't forget to paint the inside surface of the body as it is visible through the door panel holes! Three round gauges mounted on a horizontal black panel appear on the fender well to the right of the steering wheel. Start preparing the body by extending the lower front pan under the grille all the way back to the forward edge of the front wheel opening. The three radiator vents in the panel under the grille look very much like the three vents on the top side of a Ferrari 250 GTO nose. The easiest way to accomplish this is with Evergreen styrene tubing. The inside diameter of the tubing becomes the visible part of the vent, so choose the tubing on that basis. Cut three "U" shaped holes in the lower valance in the correct positions and open them up with a half round file until the tubing is a close fit. You may find that the tubing walls become the panel between the vents but that's OK. Cut three overlong lengths of tubing, square up one end and glue into the valance openings. Let dry, cut off any excess tubing and blend the tubing into the surrounding panel. Fill any gaps and three identical half round vents to the radiator should result. Open the brake scoops on each side of the grille and any other body openings as desired. All of the screened openings on this model have been opened including the one above the engine under the extended roof. Remove mold lines, sand and prime as usual.
The chassis can be assembled from the Airfix kit making sure that the wheelbase matches the body, or more detail can be added as was done here. First, fit the chassis to the front and rear body valances as required. The rear deck splits at the cast joint below the tail panel and the lower rear body valance is attached to the chassis on the 1:1 vehicle. This can be done on a model as well but was not on this example because the body was by one manufacturer and the chassis by another. The 275LM tube frame chassis is visible below the floor paneling. Using a 1/24 scale Minicraft kit as a pattern, the visible part of the frame was built from Evergreen 1/16" styrene rod glued together on a sheet of wax paper. When dry, the frame was sanded on one side until the tubes were only half round. Evergreen has released half round rod in a variety of sizes that will make this process much easier. The kit chassis framing around the engine was trimmed to match the tube frame. Airfix oil pan and lower transaxle case parts were trimmed to approximately 1/8" high and glued to sheet styrene, filling the engine opening in the chassis plate. Paint all the parts, then assemble the suspension to the chassis and add the engine plate and tube frame. Exhaust pipes and mufflers are styrene rod, strip and aluminum tubing constructions.
(The previous paragraph can be ignored if you intend the model to be a slot racer; the chassis combination is up to you. The MRRC 275P body is identical in wheelbase and track dimensions to the Monogram 275 LM so those parts should work very well. The Airfix body is close enough to use them too. At least one of the private racers used five spoke cast wheels; FLY's 512S front wheels should be perfect.)
The Monogram rear deck is a separate panel under the long overhanging roof attached to the interior plate used for slot racing. This separate panel is a feature of most of the kits of this car and result from the difficulty of casting under the roof overhang. Cut the interior plate from the engine cover panel and fit to the interior bucket. There is no way to install the panel before painting and still get a good finish under the roof. My solution was to paint the panel as a separate piece, add the decal stripe and screen insert, then assemble it to the rest of the body. There is still a visible seam between the main body and the panel. Was I to do it again, I would paint and polish the panel as before, add the screen and install the panel before adding the stripe to minimize the seam. Another solution might be to paint and detail the panel, add to the body, mask as much of the panel under the roof as possible, then fill the seam and paint the rest of the body.
Paint the body and polish as desired. I prefer decal film stripes because I've never mastered masking but that's a personal choice depending on one's skills. The body openings are filled with brass screen cut to the exact size of the opening, then painted aluminum or body color. Cut black vinyl tape oversize and install behind each opening. Push the precut screen onto the sticky surface of the tape in the opening. The silver screen shows up very well against the flat black tape.
Now it is just a matter of finding the correct decals and final detailing. The single windscreen wiper is from a 1/24 scale Porsche kit, gently bent to fit the glass. Head & tail lights and filler caps are Airfix kit items while the clear cockpit air intake covers on the nose are from a 1/25 scale Ferrari GTO kit, the Gunze Sangyo version as I recall. Mecom team logos and "Zerex Special" decals are from an IMC 1/25 scale Lola T-70 sheet hoarded these many years waiting for exactly the right project, but the Fred Cady Design sheet #107 "Mecom Racing Team" should have everything required. The small sponsor decals can be found on various UMi Modelwerks decal (now Ricambi) sheets in several sizes. I hope your "horse" of a different color turns out as well as this one.
Photo references: "Ferrari Portfolio No. 2" by Sergio Massaro
Mecom Racer: "Corvette Grand Sport" by Paddock & Friedman
Both available from Classic Motorbooks, Osseola, Wisconsin