The 290 MM was produced as a factory competition car in a transition period for Ferrari. Designed for the 1956 Mille Miglia and as a replacement for the 860 Monza, the 290MM was mounted with a V12 engine with dual ignition and dry sump derived from the 4.5-litre Grand Prix car.
Purpose-built Ferraris were dominant at events like the Mille Miglia and the 1956 edition was won outright by Eugenio Castellotti in 290 MM chassis 0616. His red Ferrari with a bright yellow nose was being chased down by a pair of 860 Monzas and the Ferrari 290MM of Juan Manuel Fangio.
In 1955 little victory was achieved with the new inline-4 and inline-6 powered cars coming from designer Aurelio Lampredi. Ferrari had also purchased the entirety of the Lancia Grand Prix team which and with it, the engineering talents of Vittorio Jano and Andrea Fraschetti.
Jano and Fraschetti brought V12 back to Ferrari. Their 130S engine was first used in the 290MM. It combined elements of the earlier Lampredi and Columbo V12s. With an SOHC roller/rocker valvetrain, twin spark ignition, and three Weber 40DCF carburetors the power output was good for 320 bhp at 7300.
The chassis of the 290MM was remarkably similar to the type used in the Ferrari 250. During production of 290, many 250 Berlinettas were successfully competing in events such as the Tour de France.
In 1956, a talented driver, Eugenio Castellotti would achieve his best year with Ferrari. The highlight of his career came at the 1956 Mille Miglia. In appalling weather, 290MMs driven by Castellotti and Fangio were matched with twin, four-pot 860 Monzas. Through the conditions Castellotti prevailed on won in the event with 290MM chassis 0616.
After 1956, Jano and Fraschetti introduced a DOHC setup for their V12 and through the years enlarged the capacity. This means histories of the 290MM, 290S, 315S and 335S intertwine as specific cars were updated.