May 21, 2023
Ferrari: Top of the Top
Mar 19, 2022
The Fallen Stars Ferrari 408 4RM
Photo credit: Bonhams, Ferrari, Wheelsage
Who wanted it, and who made it? Enzo Ferrari did, aiming to secure a victorious entry in the World Manufacturer’s Championship (formerly known as the Formula 1 World Driver’s Championship), which transitioned from sports cars to grand touring cars.
The initial project was the work of engineer Giotto Bizzarrini, who, starting from the Ferrari 250 GTO short wheelbase, moved the engine towards the centre of the chassis and stiffened the entire structure. During development, Bizzarrini left Ferrari, and the project’s finalization, with significant improvements, was carried out by Mauro Forghieri.
Testing at Monza of the first Ferrari 250 GTO prototype baptized "Papera" for its low, thin front end that recalled a duck's beak.
When: between 1960 and 1961, with its debut at the 1962 12 Hours of Sebring, where it immediately triumphed in the GT class (Gran Turismo).
The car’s potential had already been seen during testing at the Monza racetrack in 1961, where the new GT had lapped even faster than Formula 1 cars (which, in those years, had 1500cc engines by regulation).
12 Hours of Sebring 1962: the winning GT-class debut of the 250 GTO with Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien at the wheel.
Where: in Maranello and Modena, where the famous coachbuilder Scaglietti helped Bizzarrini find the most effective forms for a competition car. During this creative process, the distinctive front and side vents that now define the car’s appearance emerged. The first car built, without a rear spoiler and with a different front end, was nicknamed “Papera” (duck) because it resembled a duck’s beak.
It was Forghieri who introduced the rear spoiler to increase rear-end grip and extended the nose to improve front-end grip.
The iconic front end of the 250 GTO with the triple air intake that has become a signature feature of the car.
How: through continuous road and track testing, with an eye towards producing the 100 units necessary for GT homologation. In reality, only 36 were made because Ferrari managed, not without effort, to have the new car accepted as part of the 250 GT short wheelbase family. Hence, the origin of the name. When the telegram arrived at the team that was already at Sebring, announcing that the car had been homologated, in the classic concise formulation of those times (every word cost money in a telegram!), it read “250GT Omologata”. That’s how it became the GTO.
Only 36 examples of the Ferrari 250 GTO were produced. Despite the 100 units required it was homologated by the FIA being considered part of the 250 SWB family.
Why: because the V12 engine designed by Gioachino Colombo, which produced 300 horsepower and featured six twin-choke carburettors, a dry sump, and a 7,000 rpm redline, had the potential to secure success – even during an era when engines were transitioning to the rear configuration. Remember that the constraint of the front engine came from the objective of homologating the car as an extension of the 250 SWB. The GTO’s trophy collection is truly impressive: it won everything, everywhere.
The 60°, 2953cc Gioachino Colombo-designed V12 that powers the 250 GTO. A work of art.