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Motoring: Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Berlinetta 2+2 - 1962

The Ferrari 250 has gained itself two entries in our Classic Car Hall of Fame - once for the 250 series as a whole and again for the last model in the 250 series, the gorgeous 250 Lusso. The full title of the 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."

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