This four-cylinder Ferrari 500 TRC won at Le Mans in 1957

26th September 2019
Laura Thomson

A pair of Le Mans class wins, separated by half a century, is an almost unheard-of feat in the world of motorsport. But it’s one achieved by the 500 TRC of David and James Cottingham, with the striking yellow Ferrari first taking a class win (and a seventh place overall) as an Ecurie Francochamps team car at the Le Mans 24 Hours back in 1957.

Admittedly, the second class win, which came in 2007, was of the Le Mans Legends, an hour-long prelude to the 24 hour meeting featuring cars that would have raced at Circuit de la Sarthe from 1956 to 1968... But still, shared by the father and son duo, it stormed to victory in its respective class.


Following its debut season as an Ecurie Francochamps team car, the 500 TRC was returned to the factory, refreshed and sold to a Sicilian Prince, who raced it twice at the Targa Florio, before a crash in the 1959 edition ruled the end of its racing career.

Fast-forward to the late 1970s and the Ferrari found itself in the hands of David Cottingham, whose Prancing Horse restoration business DK Engineering was then in its infancy. Over the course of 15-years, Cottingham took the car from a damaged, dismantled wreck to concourse condition. But it wasn’t always plain sailing, his son James told me, when we met at the Revival.


“It was dismantled, and it was damaged, because it had been crashed, but it wasn’t beyond repair, obviously,” he explained.

“There were a few parts missing and the body was beyond repair so that was renewed. But in the late '80s/early '90s we restored about three or four of these so it was good to have reference to get the bits and pieces that were missing or weren’t right on it absolutely correct. But otherwise, the chassis and suspension are all original and there are lots and lot and lots of original parts."


An impressive 19 of the 20 original 500 TRCs built remain, David noted, a true testament to the quality of Enzo Ferrari’s engineering.

“That’s the beauty of Ferraris – they were so well made and so well manufactured that generally the parts are restorable as opposed to being replaced, but like any race car it’s had a life and it’s had a history so certain parts have worn out and been replaced.”

“We’ve raced and maintained it for the last 30 years and it’s always been a consistent, reliable car and we’ve had lots and lots of fun with it." 


The Cottinghams returned the car to its original ’57 yellow, the striking yellow and black stripe that we see today. Over its racing lifetime, the 500 TRC has also competed clad in yellow with a green stripe and in red. And while the car is impressively original, they have an accurate replica racing engine, constructed mostly of period parts, so as not to risk the original engine, David admitted.


He reckons the 2.0-litre Lampredi inline-four with dual overhead cams makes about 180hp, and about the same in lb-ft of torque.

“It doesn’t have immense outright power,” he admitted. “But because the engine’s very light, it has incredible balance, so especially around a fast-flowing circuit like this it is really capable in keeping up with much more powerful-engined cars – it’s like the little Lotus in that it’s very lightweight and delicate and balanced.

“If you had a 250 Testarossa  - which is effectively the same chassis, slightly longer, but with a V12 in it – it would understeer like a pig and be just nothing like as nice to drive as this.”

The one thing that holds the 680kg car back, he adds, are the drum brakes, meaning the car can’t stop as quickly as its disc-braked counterparts. Annoyingly, the TRC just missed out on discs, with Ferrari introducing them the following year.


But, despite being over 60 years of age, not much else holds the little yellow rocket back, with the Cottinghams regularly racing it across the globe.

“These days we mainly race at the Goodwood events,” David said. “It’s been to pretty much every Goodwood Revival I think, probably bar a couple of times where there wasn’t a race that it was eligible for.

“I took it to America last year and raced it at Laguna Seca, which was quite cool, and we’ve done a few rallies with it. I sometimes race it at the Silverstone Classic and we do a few of the Duncan Wiltshire Motor Racing legends races, but it sort of really is reserved for blue ribbon events.”

And plans for the future, I asked? “We’ll keep it in the family forever, and just savour it I guess.”

Photography by Joe Harding.

  • Revival

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