“Greatest Ferrari of all time” at 2011 Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

Ferraris are revered the world over for being among the finest, fastest and most exotic sports cars ever conceived, and the Ferrari 250 GTO is considered by many to be the greatest Ferrari ever manufactured.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the birth of this model, more than twenty of these exclusive sports racing cars will take to the show field of the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday 21 August 2011, the world’s leading classic car event.

Only thirty-six 250 GTOs were originally produced, as well as two 330 GTOs with larger capacity engines. All of these exclusive cars have been invited to the Concours and more than half have already accepted the invitation. Some of these GTOs have sold for as much as $40 million in recent years.

“The Ferrari 250 GTO is one of the great sports racing cars of all time,” says Ed Gilbertson, Chief Judge of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. “The GTO beat everything in the world for about three years running, which is quite an accomplishment when you consider the marques that were racing at that time.”

In its racing debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1962, American Phil Hill and Belgian Olivier Gendebien placed second overall in the 250 GTO, with only a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa sports racing car ahead of them. This was the beginning of the 250 GTO’s racing success, which included winning the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile’s (FIA) International Championship for GT Manufacturers three consecutive years, from 1962 to 1964. Other 250 GTO wins included the Tour de France in 1963 and 1964; the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood in 1962 and 1963; the Nürburgring 1000 km in 1963 and 1964; class wins in the Targa Florio in 1962, 1963 and 1964; and category wins at Le Mans in 1962 and 1963.

Based on the Ferrari 250 GT SWB chassis, the 250 GTO evolved from an experimental test car, the 1961 250 GT Sperimentale, which was raced by Stirling Moss to a GT win and fourth overall at Daytona. Production of the 250 GTO began later that year. The Sperimentale and many examples of both the Series I and Series II 250 GTOs will be exhibited at Pebble Beach.

Gilbertson says just one of these limited production cars remains in its original condition, although it was repaired in period due to extensive race damage. It too will be on the famed 18th fairway at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Enzo Ferrari put engineer Giotto Bizzarrini in charge of developing a car outside the normal Ferrari circles, wanting the car built in complete secrecy. Bizzarrini started with the 250 SWB, lightened and reinforced the chassis, then moved the engine behind the front axle for improved weight distribution. But in the fall of 1961 Bizzarrini and a number of others left the company.

Subsequently, Enzo Ferrari assigned engineer Mauro Forghieri and coachbuilder Sergio Scaglietti to complete the 250 GTO.

The team enhanced the 2953 cc V-12 engine, fitting Testa Rossa heads, larger valves and six double-barrel Weber carburetors, increasing the horsepower to 300 hp and replacing the SWB’s four-speed transmission with a five-speed, all syncromesh gearbox.

The 250 GTO also featured many familiar Ferrari technologies of the era, including a hand-welded tube frame, A-arm front suspension, live-axle rear end, disc brakes and wire wheels. The interior was extremely basic, to keep the weight of the car as light as possible, with no soundproofing and no speedometer in the instrument panel.