Home | Motoring in Australia | 1950s | Ford Anglia - 1959

Motoring: Ferrari 250 Series - 1952

The 250 Series was one of the most significant cars in the history of Ferrari. The first car built in large (for Ferrari) numbers, it included in its numerous variants the first production Ferrari with disc brakes, the first four-seat Ferrari, the first commercially available mid-engined Ferrari, numerous race and championship winners and of course, the classic 250 GTO.

Most 250 road cars share the same two wheelbases, 2,400 mm (94.5 in) for short wheelbase (SWB) and 2,600 mm (102.4 in) for long wheelbase (LWB). Most convertibles used the SWB type. Nearly all 250s share the same Colombo Tipo 125 V12 engine. At 2,953 cc (180 cu in), it was notable for its light weight and impressive output of up to 300 PS (221 kW; 296 hp) in the Testa Rossa and GTO. The V12 weighed hundreds of pounds less than its chief competitors  for example, it was nearly half the weight of the Jaguar XK straight-6. Ferrari uses the displacement of a single cylinder as the model designation. The front suspension was independent with double wishbones and coil springs, whilst at the rear there was a live axle. All the cars had drum brakes at the beginning, with discs being introduced gradually later. Unless otherwise noted the engine was a 2953cc V12 with two valves per cylinder, a single overhead camshaft for each bank of cylinders and dimensions of 73mm x 58.8mm (bore x stroke). The first cars with the designation '250' appeared in 1952, the last were produced in 1964. The 250 design was successful both on the road and on the track. A number of GT models were built in varying states of road or racing trim.

Ferrari 250 Europa GT

The first road car to use Colombo's 250 V12 was the 250 Europa GT, introduced at the 1954 Paris Motor Show. Pinin Farina's sober Paris coupe was just one of many shapes for the 250 GT model line, with coachbuilt production extending through 1956 before the 250 line became more standardized. The original 250 Europa GT used a 2,600 mm (102.4 in) wheelbase on a conventional chassis, with Pirelli Cinturato 185VR16 tyres (CA67). The dry sump V12 was tuned to 220 PS (162 kW; 217 hp), with three Weber 36DCZ3 carburettors. Echoing Vignale's 250 Europa, Pinin Farina added now-familiar vents to the front fenders, a standard styling cue for many of the 250 GTs that followed.

Ferrari 250 GTO

The GT Omologato first appeared in 1962. Developed by Giotto Bizzarini and a small team of engineers during 1961 they built a single prototype which used parts from a variety of then current production cars, as well as a 500TR engine. Some limitations were imposed by the need to homologate the car as a variant of the SWB. A total of 39 were built, including three which were fitted with the 4-litre engine. In 1963 three 'second series' cars were built with an all new body (plus four first series cars which were converted).

The normal engine was a 2953cc V12 unit with a single cam in each bank, two valves per cylinder, an alloy block and heads and is fed by six Weber 38DCN twin carburettors. It produced 290bhp @ 7,400rpm, although various levels of race trim gave various results. It was positioned lower, thanks to a dry sump, and further back than in the SWB, a fact which enabled the GTO to have a lower and considerably more aerodynamic nose. The suspension, supposedly for homologation reasons, retained the live rear axle of the SWB whilst the front used an independent wishbone setup.

With the GTO, Ferrari won the World Championship in 1962, 63 and 64, with most famous races falling prey to the GTO including the Sebring 12 hours in all three years, the Le Mans 24 hours in 62 and 63, the Tour de France in 1964, the Targa Florio in all three years, the Nurburgring 1000km in 63 and 64 and so on.

1959 California Spyder LWB

250 GT California Spyder LWB

Designed for export to North America, the 1957 250 GT California Spyder was Scaglietti's interpretation of an open-top 250 GT. Aluminium was used for the hood, doors, and trunk lid, with steel elsewhere for most models. Several aluminium-bodied racing versions were also built. The engine was the same as in the 250 Tour de France racing car with up to 240 PS (177 kW; 237 hp). All used the long 2,600 mm (102.4 in) chassis, and Pirelli Cinturato 185VR16 tyres (CA67) were standard. A total of fifty LWBs were made before the SWB version superseded them in 1960. One example sold at auction on August 18, 2007 in Monterey, California for $4.9 million. In 2004, Sports Car International placed the 250 GT SWB seventh on a list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960s, and Motor Trend Classic placed it fifth on a list of the ten "Greatest Ferraris of all time".

Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta SWB

Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta SWB

One of the most notable GT racers of its time, the 1959 250 GT Berlinetta SWB used a short (2,400 mm (94.5 in)) wheelbase for better handling. Of the 176 examples built, both steel and aluminum bodies were used in various road ("lusso") and racing trims. Engine output ranged from 240 PS (177 kW; 237 hp) to 280 PS (206 kW; 276 hp). The "lusso" road car version was originally fitted with 185VR15 Pirelli Cinturato (CA67). Development of the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta was handled by Giotto Bizzarrini, Carlo Chiti, and young Mauro Forghieri, the same team that later produced the 250 GTO.

In 1959 Ferrari gave the 250 GT Berlinetta sharper handling, reducing its wheelbase from 2,600 mm to 2,400 mm. In 1960 Scaglietti revealed the 250 GT California Spyder SWB at Geneva, its body pulled more tautly over this updated chassis. Like the 250 GT Berlinetta SWB on which it was based, the revised Spyder also received disc brakes and a 280 PS (206 kW; 276 hp) version of the three-litre V12. It was fitted with 185VR15 Pirelli Cinturato tyres (CA67). About 55 were built.

250 GT Coupe Pininfarina, 1958

250 GT Coupe Pininfarina

Needing series production to stabilize his company's finances, Enzo Ferrari asked Pininfarina to design a simple and classic 250 GT coupe. After the 250 GT Boano/Ellena, Pininfarina's Grugliasco plant expanded and now had the capacity to produce the new 250 GT Coupe Pininfarina. It was introduced at Milan in 1958, and 335 near-identical examples were built by 1960. Buyers included Prince Bertil of Sweden. The GT Coupe eschewed the fender vents for simple, clean lines and a notchback look with panoramic rear window. The oval grille was replaced by a more traditional long narrow look with protruding headlights. Telescopic shock absorbers were also fitted instead of the Houdailles on previous 250s, and disc brakes were added in 1960. The original 165R400 Pirelli Cinturato tyres (CA67) were later changed to 185VR16. The final 250 GT Coupe had a Superfast tail and was shown at the 1961 London Motor Show.

250 GT/E, 1963

250 GT/E

The LWB 250 GT theme was expanded with the 2+2 model 250 GT/E, the first large-production four-seat Ferrari (earlier four-seaters were made in very small numbers). Interior space was increased by moving the engine forward in the chassis. The rear seats were suitable for children but small for adults. Pirelli Cinturato 185VR15 tyres (CA67) were original equipment. Engine output was listed at 240 PS (177 kW; 237 hp). Almost 1,000 GT/Es were constructed by Pininfarina with prototypes starting in 1959 and continuing through three series until 1963. The model was followed by the visually similar 330 Americas. The large production run of the GT/E was a major contributor to Ferrari's financial well-being in the early 1960s. A 250 GT/E can be seen in The Wrong Arm of the Law, a film starring Peter Sellers.

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta

Of all the models in Ferrari's legendary 250 Series, the last incarnation of it - The 250 GT Pininfarina Berlinetta Lusso, is seen by many as the ultimate classic grand touring car Ferrari has ever made. The Lusso Berlinetta is widely regarded as Ferrari's most beautiful car. Some would go as far as describing in at the most beautiful sports car ever made. Its long fluid flowing lines were wonderfully designed by Pininfarina and built by Scaglietti. The chrome work is subtle with a small front bumper and nudge bars just below the sidelights. The Lusso was described by Car & Driver in May 1964 "...its proportions approach perfection."

The full title of the gorgeous Lusso is 250 GT Pininfarina Berlinetta, but the name 'Lusso,' which means 'luxury' stuck. The Lusso Berlinetta is widely regarded as Ferrari's most beautiful car. Some would go as far as describing in at the most beautiful sports car ever made. Its long fluid flowing lines were wonderfully designed by Pininfarina and built by Scaglietti. The chrome work is subtle with a small front bumper and nudge bars just below the sidelights. The Lusso was described by Car & Driver in May 1964 "...its proportions approach perfection."

Not only did it look amazing, but the Lusso had a top speed of around 240 km/hr, with a 0-100 km/hr time of 8.0 seconds and 0-160 km/hr in 19.5 seconds. The external design may be a classic but the dashboard layout is certainly not. The all important speedometer and tachometer are in the center of the dash, out of the driver's direct line of sight. Having said that, the dash is simple and clean, although it does have a row of unidentified switches.

The Lusso premiered at the Paris Motor Show in October 1962. It may seem strange today but when the Ferrari 250 GT/L Berlinetta Lusso had its premiere, it evoked little comment. Neither its styling nor any of its technical features were singled out for more than just a passing comment. Some publications did not even mention it. It took close to a year after its debut before automotive editors began to take notice of the Lusso's exceptional and timeless styling.

By late 1963 the Lusso began to reap its share of praise and honors. In 1975, it was singled out once when it was included in a carefully selected display of significant automotive designs. The Newport Harbor Art Museum in California exhibited nearly 60 cars built from 1903 to 1975. The exacting jury of industrial designers, automobile stylists and art experts chose the 60 cars from virtually all that were built through those years. To include the Lusso was probably one of their easier choices.

The Lusso had a relatively short production life even by Ferrari standards, with cars being consigned from January 1963 to about August 1964. During this time a mere 350 cars were produced, with each unit taking approximately three months to build. With 350 cars having been constructed, this works out to a rate of about one Lusso per day. According to Peter Coltrin, an American Ferrari expert of long-standing living in Modena, the gestation period of a Lusso from start to consignment was about three months. For example, the first production car was delivered in January 1963; meaning that construction must have started shortly after the Pininfarina prototype's Paris debut. Sufficient information has not yet been received to make positive identification but it appears that the first production Lusso was S/N 4103GT. The last one was S/N 5955GT.

The chassis is tubular and strengthened by two longerons while the body is mainly steel with aluminum panels for the doors, hood and trunk. The gearbox is front mounted; rear gearboxes were not fitted in Ferraris until the 275GTB. The front suspension is wishbone and coil, and the rear semi-elliptic leaf springs with parallel trailing arms and Watt's linkage.

Internally the Lusso is light and airy, its thin pillars and big windows allow the driver a barely interrupted view in every direction. This superb visibility is essential in a car which has no external mirrors to ruin its beautiful lines! The seats are of genuine sports car design with the buckets hugging the hips as the car corners. The driving position is with bent knees, the handling and roadholding being true 1960's. The unique instrument panel has the speedometer and tachometer placed directly in the centre of the panel flanked by the smaller gauges in the front of the driver.

The burgundy Lusso in our photographs belonged tp movie actor Steve McQueen. As a precursor to Steve's 34th birthday, which would take place March 24, 1964, his wife Neile bought the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso, S/N 4891, from Otto Zipper Motors in Santa Monica, California, via Luigi Chinetti in New York. Chinetti was the North American importer of Ferraris. The car was ordered in a chestnut-brown metallic hue called Marrone, with a beige interior - an odd, yet elegant, colour combination, as Lussos are so often seen in red, silver, or black. According to Mrs. McQueen, the car was delivered to their Hollywood Hills home to join the aforementioned's Jaguar XK-SS, a black Porsche Speedster, a Cadillac, her Porsche 911, and the ever-present bikes.

The Lusso quickly became a favorite for high-speed road trips. Noted pop-culture photographer William Claxton, former Motor Trend art director and a close friend of Steve's, relates a trip taken a week or so after the McQueens got the car. According to Claxton, Steve and Neile invited Claxton and his wife Peggy for a getaway. Their route took them from Los Angeles to Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, then through San Francisco, Reno, Lake Tahoe, Death Valley, and back to Southern California. Says Claxton: "We would set a place to meet for lunch and then take off, Steve in the Lusso and me in my Porsche 356 SC 1600. Steve's idea of fun was to go roaring off and, a couple hours later, be parked at the side of the road pretending to be bored waiting for us to arrive. It was a great time. He really loved that car."

Ferrari 250 GTO

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta

Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. The racing 250 Testa Rossa was one of the most successful Ferrari racing cars in its history, with three wins at Le Mans, four wins at Sebring, and two wins at Buenos Aires. One example sold at auction for a record-breaking $16.39 million.

Phone: 0412 879 698 | Email us
Content © 2017 Australia For Everyone