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The History of the Ferrari 250 GTO

Ferrari 250 GTO

Ferrari made the decision to produce a racer that would meet with the requirements for being classified as street legal in the early 1960s. They titled the homologated Group 3 Grand Touring Car, the 250 GTO. This model was produced from 1962 through 1964 in a limited edition run for each year of production. Highly lauded as one of the top sports cars of its era, here is a brief history of the Ferrari 250 GTO.

The predecessors

The first prototype of the 250 GTO was derived from a previous model of the 250 GT Berlinetta SWB. Work began in 1961 on the development with the chassis of the inspiration that was converted to meet the new design standards and specs of the concept model of what would become a valuable and exclusive production car. Ferrari created two prototypes of the 250 GTO with variations. The initial car was known as the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Le Mans Berlinetta Sperimentale which was designed and engineered with competition specifications including a competition gearbox, a reinforced chassis, and a fully tuned Tipo 3.0-liter engine cranking 300 bhp. The body of the prototype was a Pininfarina design with a lightweight aluminum alloy construction for the body. It was entered into the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans competition but was unable to complete the race because of engine failure along with several other issues that were identified for improvement. They took it back to the factory where it underwent the necessary improvements before running the Daytona Continental 3 hours race and took 4th place in 1962.

The second prototype

Ferrari 250 GTO side

The net prototype has not been so easy to trace back. Some say that it was crafted from a 1960 240 GT SWB chassis while others venture it was from a 1959 250 GT SWH, or possibly a 250 GT Boano. The racing department at Ferrari worked on the chassis and body under the direction of Giotto Bizzarrini with significant modifications. Of particular interest is the fact that the team used unfinished aluminum with a rough finish and the aesthetic of the prototype was so rough that it was nicknamed "the monster." It was tested in September of 1961 at Monza and although it made a fair show with fast laps, the same stability issues at high speeds were still problematic. As it turned out, the experimental body that had been designed for the prototypes was discarded.

Moving forward with a new design team for the 250 GTO

Giotto Bizzarrini served as the chief engineer and head of development for the 1962 GTO. This rendition was designed for Group 3 GT racing competition. Enzo Ferrari and Bizzarrini didn't see eye to eye and after a dispute, he and the majority of the other Ferrari engineers were handed their pink slips. Enzo brought Mauro Forghieri onboard and together with Scaglietti, development for the body of the 250 GTO commenced. The development of the body of the car took an entire team of engineers working together and according to the history records, there was no single person who could take credit for the design. Enzo Ferrari was not about to leave anything to chance this time. He had his eye on the prize and after spending a lifetime chasing after perfection in his super-racecars, his tolerance for enduring argumentative opinions that went against his notions of progress was slim to none.

Racing history

Ferrari 250 GTO exterior

The first race that the 1962 250 GTO entered was 12 Hours of Sebring and it was driven by Olivier Gendebien of Belgium and Formula One driver Phil Hill. Racing as a prototype the car took second but was beat by a Testa Rossa. Still, it made an impressive run of it. ( car went on to compete in several more high profile competitions from 1963 to 1964 taking several titles before it was removed from the racing scene in 1967. Some of the original 250 GTOs were used in rally racing and others were converted to street-legal road cars.

Production models

Ferrari built a total of 39 250 GTO models in 1962. 33 of them were built with standard features for the model with three variants that were made with the 330 engine, a four-liter. These have frequently been referred to as a 330 GTO. Three of them were identified as a Type 64 variant because of revisions in the body. Due to homologation regulations, Enzo Ferrari was required to produce 100 of these, but he found a few legal loopholes which allowed him to include other 250 models to receive the proper homologation paperwork to proceed.

A solid history of collectibility

Ferrari 250 GTO back

When all was said and done, the total number of collectible Ferrari 250 GTO models shook out to 36. The limited production run of just 36 resulted in an extremely rare and valuable car as time rolled on. This model that ranges between 1962 and 1964 has become one of the most desirable and valuable models in history. What is perhaps even more amazing is that of the 36, each can be accounted for and are either in circulation at auctions or in the possession of private collectors. The going price for a Ferrari 250 GTO in 1962 was around $18,000, and not just anyone was allowed to make the purchase at that time. Each owner of this unique model was personally approved by the master-builder, Enzo Ferrari. When the 1962 250 GTO was 7 years old , the going price was around $5,400 in a private sale.

A Barn Find

An example of the 1962 250 GTO was found rusting in a field and it was determined to be Chassis 3987. The restoration process was not completed for 15 years after the find, but thankfully, this kept the whereabouts of each of the 36 produced on record and accounted for. This particular chassis was sold to Ralph Lauren who paid the price of $650,000 for it. The remains were fully restored and sold for a price of $1 million, which set a record in 1986. The same vehicle sold two years later for a new record of $4.2 million.

Prices in 2012

Ferrari 250 GTO interior

We can see a steady upward progression in the value of the Ferrari 250 GTO through the years. In May of 2012, a billionaire in the tech industry Craig McCaw purchased a 1962 model for $35 million, setting yet another record. This, however, was a distinguished example that was originally owned by legendary racecar driver Stirling Moss.

August 2014 Auction

A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO was auctioned in August of 2014. It sold to the high bidder for a whopping price of $38. 1 million. The sale took place at the yearly Quail Lodge auction put on by Bonham. The winning bidder was Brazilian philanthropist Lily Safra's son Carlos Monteverde. This was followed by a second 1962 that was identified and verified as the third example built at the factory, offered at an RM Sotheby's auction to be offered for a presale estimated going price of $45 million. The peculiar thing about these highly collectible cars is that each has its own unique identifying factors such as the production number along with the chassis number.

The value continued to escalate

Ferrari 250 GTO interior 1

In June of 2018, David MacNeil who is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of WeatherTech bought a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO in a private purchase for $70 million which set an all-time record. These were the most noteworthy sales. Others have also been recorded in this model's impressive history.

Notable controversy

The most notable controversy that has occurred after the sale of a priceless Ferrari 250 GTO happened in 2017 after Gregor Fisken, former racecar driver and classic car trader from Britain purchased a 1962 model from Bernard Carl. It was discovered that the gearbox of the car was not the original, and it has been alleged that Fisken had agreed to give him the original component at the time of the sale. As it turns out, Fisken claimed that there would be a fee of $25,000 due to the United States auto dealer who has possession of the part. Neither of the men was willing to pay the fee to have the part retrieved. Fisken and Carl are embroiled in a legal fight about this glaring factor that affects the overall value of the collectible car. The plaintiff is claiming some $500,000 in damages over the affair. The seller happens to be a lawyer practicing in the Washington DC area. Although Fisken has since sold the car to another collector, the case is still pending in a court of law.

What is it that makes the Ferrari 250 GTO so special?

Ferrari 250 GTO 1

First, we begin with the fact that this is a vintage Ferrari. Enzo Ferrari himself took a personal interest in the development of the vehicle and went through a few design and engineering teams in the process. He followed his habit of refusing to settle for anything short of perfection, and there are those who would argue that he achieved that objective in the 250 GTO. This has been a successful car on the track and when modified for the road, it's been nothing short of exceptional. This is a vehicle that was built for speed and the name of the brand with its prestigious badging stands as a symbol of the finest Italian supercar built for the track and modified for the road. It's the stuff that dreams are made of for Italian race car enthusiasts and collectors. The Ferrari 250 GTO has been referred to as "The Holy Grail" of racecars.

As a collector's item

The Ferrari 250 GTO has come a long way since its inception. It started at a selling price of $18,000 with a decline a few years down the road to as low as under $6,000, but that was before it became a vintage collector's piece. The limited number of just 36 examples ever made for distribution throughout the entire world has made it somewhat of a rarity, which has served to increase the value over time. For collectors who have a passion for the sublime, it fits the bill. This is an exquisite model that reflects a segment in the history of the Ferrari brand, but also in racing history, and when you get right down to it, in the history of automaking overall. It has often been said that the true value of a thing is reflected in what someone is willing to pay for it. In the case of the 250 GTO, it's valued as high as $70 million, and who knows what the next auction price may bring.


Ferrari 250 GTO 2

The Ferrari 250 GTO is a car that took a collaborative effort of the teams at the automaker to bring into reality. From the two concept cars that served as the testers, to the finished product that emerged when the unsuccessful features were scrapped and exchanged for more reliable designs. This was a labor of passion for Enzo Ferrari. He was determined to built the finest racecar of the era. The design and engineering teams at Ferrari worked out the issues, sometimes painstakingly after testing at the 24 Hours at LeMans proved a disappointment in the engine and the stability of the prototype. Enzo Ferrari spared no expense nor did he settle for mediocrity in his pursuit to achieve perfection. The Ferrari 250 GTO with all 36 of the rare examples accounted for stands as a testament to the pride in design and workmanship, and to the enduring value of these magnificent machines. Proof of our infatuation exists in the ever-increasing value and insane level of desirability of the Ferrari 250 GTO.

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Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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