Ferrari 250 GTO: The most expensive car in the world

Patrick Ernzen © 2018 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's
Ferrari 250 GTO
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K a classic car seems to be in great demand to be as the Ferrari 250 GTO. Record prices of up to 70 million US dollars are said to have been paid by collectors for a copy. But why is the 250 GTO so rare, so coveted and so special? Who are the owners of this car, which is very expensive and rare even for a Ferrari of the 1960s? We clarify the most important questions and try to explain the myth of the Ferrari 250 GTO.

What kind of car is that technically?

The Ferrari 250 GTO is a sports car built for racing in small series that can be used as a GT. The abbreviation stands for Gran Turismo Omologato, homologated GT. This model was officially called the 250GT Competizione Berlinetta 1962.

Patrick Ernzen © 2018 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's
Under the long hood is the Hertz of the 250 GTO: a three-liter V12 with 300 PS.

The heart of the GTO is under the long, curved bonnet: It is the around 300 PS Colombo V12 with three liters Displacement. The light metal engine (Silumin) with a bank angle of 60 degrees goes back to the engine of the first Ferrari from 1947 - designed by engineer Gioachino Colombo. All V12s of this development line with the short engine block are unofficially named with his namemarked. Giotto Bizzarrini and his team used a racing engine from the 250 Testa Rossa to develop the 250 GTO. For the small-series version, the technicians changed details such as the oil pan or the housing for the timing chain. They also reduced the manufacturing tolerances.

The GTO was an evolution of the 250 GT SWB (= Short Wheel Base, Italian Passo corto) with the short wheelbase of 2.40 meters. It was further developed because from 1962 only GT vehicles were eligible for points in the sports car world championship. Ferrari's supremacy there was supposed to secure an aerodynamically cheaper car there. With success: According to the official information, the GTO ran with a top speed of 280 km /h, 12 km /h faster than the 250 GT SWB. Ferrari was also motivated by the presentation of the Jaguar E-Type at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961, which was seen as a serious opponent in the GT category after its first races. However, the British competition shouldn't play a major role in the world championship.

Like other manufacturers, Ferrari used a rule in international sports law for the construction of the GTO. A passage allowed a special body for GTs if the basic dimensions and the technology of the homologated basic model were observed. In order to create a flatter front section compared to the old 250 GT SWB, Bizzarrini had the V12 engine mounted as deep as possible in the tubular space frame. The body, the shape of which was developed by Ferrari technicians and Sergio Scaglietti, was made of light metal, as was the case with the Short Wheel Base. The chassis with the designation 539/62 was stiffened at several points compared to the 250 GT. The chassis with the independent suspension at the front and a rigid axle at the rear were taken over by the technicians from the 250 GT SWB. The GTO rear axle got coil springs and was guided by a Watt linkage. With the evolution model from 1964, which had a wider track, Ferrari moved even further away from the original 250 GT. Strictly speaking, the GTO was a prototype.

What makes the GTO a myth?

Part of the myth is provided by the charisma of the brand itself. The 250 GTO becomes a special Ferrari by combining highly developed racing technology with a near-series sports car. Collectors who enjoy driving like Nick Mason appreciate this practical versatility: The GTO is just as fun on public roads as it is on the racetrack. The traditional V12 with its fascinating sound has just as much of a charisma as the round, no-frills body line, the final shape of which comes from Scaglietti. From 1988, price records in the double-digit million range make the 250 GTO the most expensive car in the world an object of speculation.

The legend is also based on the success in motorsport: the GT secured Ferrari three world championship titles from 1962 to 1964as a result. In addition, there are two overall victories in the Tour de France and GT victories in the most prestigious endurance races in Le Mans, Sebring, Goodwood, the Nürburgring or the Targa Florio - all with a classic front-engine berlinetta.

The GTO myth also includes the “palace revolution” at Ferrari, which took place in the middle of the development phase of the model. After a dispute between the sales manager Girolamo Gardini and Enzo Ferrari's wife Laura, almost all of the company's executives left the company in November 1961: in addition to Gardini, who was fired, they included Giotto Bizzarrini, Carlo Chiti and Romolo Tavoni, the manager of the successful racing team. In future, the then young engineer Mauro Forghieri will take care of the technology, and thus also of the final development steps of the 250 GTO.

How rare is the 250 GTO? Why so extremely rare?

Only 36 of the original version of the 250 GTO were built in 1962 and 1963. With the same body line, three 330 GTOs with a four-liter V12 were also created, which, however, were only permitted in the sports car category.

In 1964, three more 250 GTOs with aerodynamically improved bodies were created, the flatter, wider and shorter was than the original version. The chassis was adapted with a wider track. In addition, four owners had their GTO converted to the new stand, for example Corrado Ferlaino from Naples. This car (chassis 3413 GT), with which the privateer won the GT class at the Targa Florio, achieved a record price of 48.4 million US dollars at the RM Sotheby’s auction in Monterey in 2018. Only a few private drivers and teams could afford a GTO: The purchase price for the racing GT was extremely high - as was the maintenance effort for the technology of the twelve-cylinder.

Auction record: 48.4 million US dollars

In spring 2018, the model with chassis number 4153 GT changed hands and now belongs to one Collectors in the USA. It is the winning car of the Tour de France Automobile 1964 and with further top results in Le Mans, on the Nürburgring, in Reims or Montlhery near Paris, the most famous 250 GTO. It is said to have cost $ 70 million. However, the prices achieved in private purchases are mostly speculation because official information is missing. But regardless of whether it is a trade or an auction: every price is only a snapshot. Just like the new auction world record of 48.4 million US dollars. Top prices can only be achieved with specimens that have known previous owners, an important racing history and a very good material substance. Accidental damage and the replacement of original parts during restorations push the price down.

The development of prices from new cars to top-value investments for collectors is exciting: first owners paid 18,000 US dollars in the USA in 1962, inGermany according to the price list of the importer Auto-Becker 78,750 marks. A year later, the price of 50,500 marks is stated in a publication. Back then, a 250 GTO could even be found as a used car in the classifieds section of auto motor und sport: “For sale: Ferrari GTO, spec. light, totally rev from the factory. Vehicle. Kalman of Czazy ”. The owner, a young Swiss of Hungarian descent, does not name a price.

After three years this GTO (3809 GT) is only worth 20,000 marks: from the second owner, Swiss private driver Pierre Sudan, it will Car resold to a German collector for this price in October 1965. Ten years later, the price has more than doubled: the next change in ownership will cost around 50,000 marks.

Around the same time, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason pays 35,000 British pounds for his car in England. In 1978 that is a lot of money for a rock star, but of course a bargain compared to today's values. In 1985 Ralph Lauren paid $ 650,000 for its copy. In the Ferrari hype from 1988, the GT prices exploded: this year, the Swiss collector Engelbert Stieger paid 4.2 million US dollars for the car with chassis number 3589 GT. In the new millennium, the value breaks the 10 million barrier for the first time: A US collector is supposed to pay 10.6 million US dollars for the first 250 GTO (3223 GT).

Prominent GTO owners

The illustrious circle of GTO owners currently includes fashion billionaire Ralph Lauren, the British construction machinery manufacturer Mogul Sir Anthony Bamford (JCB), the Italian businessman and ex-Formula 1 team owner Giuseppe Lucchini from Brescia and the musician Nick Mason. Pink Floyd's drummer is one of the most loyal GTO owners. He has owned the Ferrari Coupé with chassis number 3757GT for 40 years. Almost as desirable as his red racer itself is its license plate: '250GTO'.

Nick Mason has been driving 250 GTOs for 40 years

Patrick Ernzen © 2018 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's
Ferrari driver Nick Mason appreciates, among other things, that the engine is in theThe traffic jam doesn't overheat.

'The car was at the top of my wish list,' says the auto and art collector Mason, who is responsible for his dream car 1978 paid a whopping 35,000 British pounds (at that time the equivalent of about 135,000 marks). The musician sums up the advantages of the 250 GTO in a nutshell: “With all its qualities, the GTO comes very close to the perfect car.” The Ferrari V-12 and its sound are only two of many aspects, says Mason: “It's pleasant The balanced combination of disc brakes and a nicely balanced chassis with sufficient engine power gives you the thrill of a racing car without the life-threatening terror of a 600-hp monster. 'The Ferrari with the 300 hp three-liter engine also has very practical advantages for Mason:' You can use it in traffic, it has space to take several bags with you, and the engine does not overheat even in slow-moving traffic. ”

But many fans just look at the Italian sports car to rave about it . “From the outside, the 250 GTO is a gorgeous example of the art of body construction,” Mason also praises the shape of his Ferrari. “From the cockpit, the view over the curves of the bonnet is an aesthetic pleasure. If ever a car looked absolutely perfect, then it is the Ferrari GTO. “

Design from the workshop

Courtesy of The Klemantaski Collection
The 250 GTO also became a legend because of its many racing successes.

The shape of the light metal cover does not come from Pininfarina, but from the small body shop of the Ferrari racing department in Maranello. The first prototype bodies are the work of Giotto Bizzarrini. The series versions are handcrafted by Sergio Scaglietti in Modena. With the new, aerodynamically more favorable shape of the GTO, Ferrari is reacting to a rule change for the brand world championship. From 1962, only the results of the GT vehicles are counted for the World Championship - the body of the 250 GT SWB (Short Wheel Base) could no longer be competitive due to the excessive air resistance and the top speed of 250 km /h. Planning began at the end of 1960for the new Berlinetta, In September 1961 Stirling Moss tested the new GT in Monza for the first time on a racetrack - shortly before the Italian Grand Prix, when Ferrari driver Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips had a fatal accident.

In the middle of the development phase of the 250 GTO also coincides with the “palace revolution” at Ferrari. A total of eight senior employees leave the company, including Giotto Bizzarrini, chief designer Carlo Chiti and race director Romolo Tavoni. The trigger is said to have been a dispute between Laura Ferrari and the sales manager Federico Gilberti.

GT in terms of the regulations

The 26-year-old engineer Mauro Forghieri is the successor to Carlo Chiti. He is also driving the further development of the 250 GTO. On February 24, 1962, Ferrari's new GT was officially presented in Maranello. The official type designation is: '250 GT Competizione Berlinetta 1962'. The legendary term GTO follows a little later - according to the book author Jess Pourret due to an error in a telegram sent to Ferrari. The 'O' stands for 'omologato', the Italian word for 'homologated' and indicates that the new Ferrari is registered in the GT category. Like Jaguar, Aston Martin and Porsche, for example, Ferrari uses a passage in the GT regulations (Group 3) that allows a special body for a homologated model (minimum number of pieces: 100 copies) while maintaining the technical basis.

Only one month after the press presentation, the 250 GTO celebrates its racing premiere at the 12-hour race in Sebring. In the Ferrari used by the North American Racing Team (N.A.R.T.), works drivers Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien win the GT category with six laps ahead of the 250 GT SWB used by the same team. Ferrari can sell so many cars that a total of 15 GTOs will be used in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, some with larger engines and other technical changes as prototypes. By the way: In Germany, the importer Auto-Becker calls for 78,750 marks. For comparison: A Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster cost 29,000 marks back then.

Three world championship titles and many GT victories

With the GTO, Ferrari is continuing its series of successes in the sports car World Championship continued. The Italians won the title in the division for cars with a displacement of over two liters three times in a row. Only in 1965 did they have to admit defeat to Shelby-Ford. The aerodynamically improved GTO body did nothing to change that. In addition to the three titles and the many GT victories in the world championship races, the two victories at the Tour de France Automobile in 1963 and 1964 are among the greatest successes of the GTO

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