Ask any young boy to name his favourite race car, and it would almost certainly be Ferrari. Its name conjures images of beauty, elegance and raw power. The pure magnetism of the Ferrari name has been achieved as a result of countless motor sport victories around the world. Despite stiff opposition and often against every odd.
In the 1950s and 60s Enzo Ferrari’s only interest was in winning races. Always thinking ahead, he was often quoted as saying that his best car was his next one. Sadly there is insufficient space in this blog to discuss how he amassed his record of wins, or how it was that his cars always looked so much more streamlined and downright ‘gorgeous’ than the opposition’s did, but the record books bear testament to this.
Between 1959 and 1961 the 250 GT short-wheelbase (SWB) Ferrari was the dominant car in the Grand Touring Class around the world. But when Jaguar’s E-type was launched in 1961, Enzo was worried. He admired the styling of the E-type and felt that in this car, Jaguar had a winner to threaten his stable.
As a result, he immediately instructed his engineers to come up with a better car. And in order to satisfy the racing organisers (the FIA), he based the new car on the already successful 250 SWB. However, this time they added a 5-speed gearbox and a better carburettor setup. And so the Ferrari 250 GTO – which stands for ‘Gran Turismo Omologato’ – was born. And although this car looked nothing like the model it replaced, it satisfied the authorities from a technical perspective. To say that the GTO was successful is to do this race car a serious injustice, because it raised the bar yet again, and was dominant as only a Ferrari knew how to be, winning the Manufacturer’s Title in 1962, 1963 and 1964.
Ferrari only made 36 of the famous GTOs, but added to the number of SWB cars made, this combined figure rendered the GTO eligible for competition. This way Enzo could avoid the expensive business of building a whole new car from scratch, while still being able to benefit from the use of the Colombo-designed V12 engine, which he knew to be the car’s main strength. The GTO’s body was first ‘knocked up’ in-house by Giotto Bizzarrini, but he was fired halfway through the project, so it was completed by Mauro Forghieri.
Normally, Enzo would have his bodywork designed by Pinin Farina (now ‘Pininfarina’ as of 1961) and then made up by Scaglietti – a formidable pairing of skill and craftsmanship responsible for almost all of Ferrari’s other creations. But on this one occasion, it was an in-house job that was the driving force behind what has become the most sought-after race-car on the planet.
With only three dozen of these cars in existence, and with such an enviable record behind them, there is little wonder why it has become numero uno on the collector’s market. Earlier in 2013, one particular example changed hands in a private deal for $52 million, and more recently in 2014, another example set an auction record of $38 million. It is clear that the higher end Ferrari cars are driven by market forces that simply do not apply anywhere else in the classic car world.
But if these sorts of figures are a little out of your reach, fear not, for you can have your very own model of a 250 GTO to view and enjoy on the mantelpiece for a fraction of the price. Revell of Germany produce high quality 1:24 scale models of this beautiful car for those of you who don’t really feel like making a trip to the bank manager. If this sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll find most good toy and model retailers stock Revell’s model kits. Their Twitter and Facebook pages are also full of useful and interesting content.
And of course, no well-made model would be complete without a copy of Haynes’ latest Ferrari 250 GTO Owners’ Workshop Manual (2014). This well-researched book explains what lies beneath the skin of the GTO, giving an in-depth explanation of its design and development, as well as a listing of the chassis and ownership history of each car. It’s received excellent reviews, and is well illustrated with both period racing images and detailed photos of a 250 GTO in a dismantled state – a rare occurrence – during its recent winter overhaul.
Part of my research for this book included a passenger ride in the GTO, around the country lanes of Gloucestershire. It was a warm midsummer’s day – perfect for a blast through the countryside – and the heady smell of petrol fumes, mingled with the heat from the exhaust directly below my feet, still linger with me to this day. The raw power, the pure beauty and the raucous sound of the exhausts made you feel very much alive. It truly is an awesome classic!
Written by: Glen Smale