Ferrari 412MI Mystery!   Solved!
I took this photo of Skip Hudson driving the 412MI during practice for the 1961 Riverside Grand Prix.

Note the Burgundy colored paint and the script of the numerals forming #90.

John McCann, builder/driver of the "Teakettle" Special and co-creator of the "Santee" sports car, took the photo on the left.

Same car, same event.  But how could the 412MI be Ferrari Racing Red in McCann's photo?  I was there... The car was Burgundy colored, as shown in my photo!  Also, note how different the script forming #90 looks in McCann's photo.

How could this possibly be the same car at the same event?  For the answer, I looked again at McCann's photo.  Below is an uncropped, unedited rescan.

Note the three blurs in the background.  Those three cars are:  Chuck Parsons in his Maserati Type 61 "Birdcage";  either Augie Pabst or Walt Hansgen in one of the Cunningham-entered Maserati Type 63 mid-engined "Birdcages",  and Ricardo Rodriguez in the NART-entered Ferrari TRI/61 #0794.

The only time these four cars could ever have been on the same track at the same time was, indeed...  PRACTICE FOR THE 1961 RIVERSIDE GRAND PRIX!

So the camera (or the photo lab) can lie.  Same car, same event.  What strange photographic effect could change Burgundy to bright Red?  And, how to explain the differing script of the numbers?

Matthew Trebelhorn contributed his analysis of the photos: 

"I think I can shed some light (pardon the photo-geek pun) on the Ferrari Mystery.  As to the difference in color between the two photos, there are a number of factors.  First, it is fairly common for different films to have different color balance.

Second, color can be altered in the printing process.  If I were printing a roll of film, and noticed that the Ferraris all looked burgundy instead of Rosso Corsa, I could slightly change the settings (increase the cyan, probably) of the enlarger, and get a redder tone to the print.

Third, different lenses transmit light differently.  This is especially true in older lenses.  Different lenses have different numbers of elements, different thickness and qualities of glass.  In the last 30 years or so, quality has in general improved, and sophisticated coatings on the glass have reduced color distortion.

Fourth, photo materials age, and discolor, in varying ways.  Different photo papers, different storage methods, temperatures, humidities -- to say nothing of the effects of visible and u/v light -- can cause drastically different aging effects.  These two photos may have looked alike when they came from the photo processor in 1961.

Any one of these four reasons could have been enough to explain away the color difference between the two pictures; the color difference didn't bother me much. 

What took me a minute was the difference between the two numbers 90.

Tam's picture is of the shaded side of the car, and John's photograph is of the sunny side.  Tam's photograph does a pretty good job of showing the actual shape of the numbers.  However, in John's photograph, the white of the background is overexposed (it got more than enough light to turn it pure white) and "bled" over the black of the numbers.

Look at the Scuderia Ferrari badge on the fender -- it suffers a similar fate.  The black prancing horse is clearly visible in Tam's picture; in John's, the horse is a small, undefined blob.  Also, look at the bottom of the number 9 in John's picture.  The line is wider here than it  is at the top of the number.  Why?  Because the curve of the side of the car begins to shade the bottom of the number, the white is less overexposed, and it "bleeds" less.

Does any of this make sense?  I hope it helps to explain the apparent contradictions between the two photographs.  Feel free to ask me for further clarification if this is less than adequate."

Matt (Matthew Trebelhorn) 

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All photographs and text are the property of Tam McPartland and are protected under United States and international copyright laws.  All rights are reserved and the images and/or text may not be digitized, reproduced, stored, manipulated, and/or incorporated into other works without the written permission of the photographer, Tam McPartland.