A selection of the rarest Ferraris. It’s a journey that encompasses the Company’s entire 65-year
history and includes some radical and remarkable cars
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Anyone who has ever tried to compile the definitive list of Ferrari production cars will readily confirm that delving into the Company’s history is a rather arcane and often frustrating process. Now imagine trying to do the same thing with the many one-off models that have appeared since
the marque’s birth back in 1947.
Part of the difficulty is down to the sheer number of coachbuilders who were drawn to the
exotic new kid on the block, or had been commissioned by a client to weave some bespoke
magic on a Ferrari chassis. The list of names ran, quite literally, from A to Z, Abarth to Zagato, with
virtually every other Italian coachbuilder of note along the way, plus one-offs from Abbott in the UK, Ghia-Aigle in Switzerland, and Oblin in Belgium, to name but a few. (See page 96 of this issue for our exclusive drive story in the 1956 250 GT Zagato.) Sometimes owners had their cars re-bodied in a different style, sometimes to make amends after an accident, or maybe just to have something more contemporary looking without buying a new car. This was a trend that started almost immediately, and continued into the 1960s, when body shops around Modena, such as Carrozzeria Sports Cars (Drogo), Fantuzzi and Neri & Bonacini, would re-body predominantly competition GT cars. The most famous of these is the 250 GT SWB “Breadvan”, chassis no 2819 GT, commissioned by Count Volpi di Misurata for his Scuderia Serenissima racing squad. If
nothing else, this car – with its aerodynamically experimental rear end – suggests that not all of these one-offs were necessarily conventionally attractive or stylish. But they certainly make for a fascinating detour for the curious Ferrarista. One thing is unarguable: so many have been made over the years that it would be impossible to mention each and every of them in this article.
Until the late 1960s, any car that a coachbuilder displayed at a motor show to promote their styling house was expected to be fully functional, and was frequently sold after display. From the 1970s onwards, however, there were also a variety of concept cars that were mostly static display models and never saw production. For Ferrari most were done by Pininfarina, like the celebrated Modulo from 1970 and the four-door Pinin a decade later, although the latter has since been turned into a running car by its current owner. A fully functioning Pininfarina
show car was the Mythos from 1989, which was built on Testarossa mechanical components.
But let’s rewind. A styling feature first introduced by Carrozzeria Touring on the 166 MM Barchetta in 1948, namely the egg-crate radiator grille, is what one might call a trademark element of design that has remained on Ferrari V12 models to this day. Whichever design house produced a new body style for a Ferrari during the 1950s invariably incorporated this feature, whatever shape the
grille may have been. There were some exceptions, but it was a feature that gave a Ferrari an identity on the street and race tracks of the world. Vignale provided the most avant-garde and
flamboyant offerings of the early 1950s, and virtually no two bodies were absolutely identical,
although the source of their offerings was clearly identifiable through styling cues. The most
noticeable of these was probably the use of ovoid “portholes” on the front wings, particularly on the competition-oriented models, and frequently the lavish use of chrome trim to highlight details.
They produced some truly exotic creations, including a quartet of 340 Mexico models, three
coupés and a spider, for the 1953 running of the Carrera Panamericana road race in Mexico. These
models had a very pronounced protruding slim front wing line, with the headlights set low
between the wings and radiator grille, and fins on the rear wings. These design features also appeared on some of their street cars, like the duo-tone black and yellow 212 Inter Coupé, chassis no 0197 EL, which went even further by mounting headlights within the grille. Vignale bodied or re-bodied over 150 Ferraris between 1950 and 1953, when Pinin Farina (as the company was then known) became virtually the sole supplier of coachwork for Ferrari road models, with a homogenous series of cars to identify the marque, rather than the design house responsible for the body. Fifteen years later, Vignale produced a final sensational one-off model for the 1968 Turin Salon. However, this was a re-body of a 330 GT 2+2 coupé into a station wagon, on chassis no 7963, finished in metallic green with gold roof panels split by a main body colour “basket handle”. It’s now owned by Ferrarista and friend of this Magazine, Jay Kay. Perhaps the most unusual styling exercise of the early 1950s was the 166MM/53 Abarth Spider, the sole Ferrari to be bodied by Carlo Abarth, which was raced throughout 1953 and 1954, including at
that year’s 1,000 Miglia. Another car of debatable but memorable aesthetic qualities, it featured a
single central headlight, with radiator openings either side of it. Arguably a precursor to the “shark
nose” Chiti-designed Formula One and sports racing cars of the early 1960s, another of its
notable features was a demountable aluminium body in sections, retained by Dzus fasteners.
As the 1950s progressed, the uniformity of design of Ferrari model series, mainly through the
Pinin Farina studio, increased, but there were still many unique show cars by Pinin Farina, Ghia and Zagato. Some of the designs had a transatlantic influence, featuring the then in-vogue exaggerated tail fins beloved of GM design wizard Harley Earl. Notable among these were the offerings by Ghia and Pinin Farina both on 410 Superamerica underpinnings. The former was based on their 1955 Gilda design concept, and appeared in 1956 on chassis no. 0473 SA, whilst the Pinin Farina offering appeared at the Paris Salon that year on chassis no. 0483 SA. Even Scaglietti, who was bodying Ferrari’s sports racing and 250 GT “Tour de France” models, produced a finned offering in 1957, on 410 Superamerica chassis no. 0671 SA. These special one-off cars were sold to special clients, often heads of industrial conglomerates, stars in the entertainment industry or royalty, including Gianni Agnelli, Roberto Rossellini, Ingrid Bergman, Prince Bertil of Sweden, King
Leopold and Princess Lilian de Réthy of Belgium. During the 1960s, the market for one-off
coachbuilt cars began to decline. Most models that appeared were ready for production series or
prototypes that would closely resemble the final production car. By this time, Pininfarina (the name had been contracted) was virtually the sole design house for Ferrari, the only exceptions being a pair of Bertone designs on 250 GT SWB chassis, the 250 GTO series by Scaglietti, and re-bodies carried out by the carrozzerie around Modena. However, the decade did produce some small series of super luxury Ferraris. A star was the 500 Superfast, of which just 36 were made, and the 365 California Spider in 14 examples, together with the 275 GTS/4 NART Spider, the rarest of this trio with only 10 produced. A 330 GTC was specially bodied by Pininfarina for the Princess Lilian de Réthy, which featured a concave vertical rear window between buttresses. This would be a design feature of another Pininfarina creation of the same period, the mid-engined 365 P “Tre Posti”, of which only two were built, and would also feature in the production Dino series that started in 1967. The Dino series also featured some one-off prototypes, notably the original Paris Salon car, with lights behind a full-width plexiglas nose panel, and the bright yellow sports racing concept with front and rear wings. Subsequent to this, concept cars like the 250 P5,
and P6, which clearly presages the Boxer series, and the Modulo, to name a few, were static display cars. Few worthy one-offs appeared over the next three decades, unless one includes non-authorised modifications like the conversion of coupés into convertibles, or worse still stretched limousines… The indefatigable Luigi Chinetti Jr re-bodied some cars, most notably the Michelotti-penned 365 GTB/4 Competizione Spider, which raced at Le Mans in 1975 for Chinetti’s NART squad. In 1989 the IDEA Institute designed the Mondial-based PPG Pace Car for the American Indy Car Series and, in the early 1990s, Zagato unleashed the FZ93. One that did go down the Ferrari production line was a Testarossa convertible commissioned for Gianni Agnelli, and there were limited production series starting with the 288 GTO in 1984 (272 cars), continuing through the less
limited F40, the F50 and Enzo, the 550 Barchetta, the 575 Superamerica and 599 SA Aperta.
Ferrari also produced a pair of four-wheel drive prototypes and one-off examples of a 328 and 412
convertible. They never made production, but both cars still exist. Mention should also be made
of the “Venezia” series of 456 GT models produced by Pininfarina for the Brunei Royal Family, saloons, estates and convertibles, together with numerous other confections on a variety of Ferrari models. In the new millennium, Fiat Group patriarch Gianni Agnelli commissioned Pininfarina to produce a unique 360 Barchetta as a wedding gift for Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemelo in 2000. In 2005 Giorgetto Giugiaro re-bodied a 612 Scaglietti in his own style, calling it the GG50, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his life styling cars. During the first decade of the 21st Century, Zagato has re-bodied a sextet of 575M models, together with a trio of 550 Barchettas. Now, of course, the concept of bespoke design and personalisation is firmly back in fashion. Ferrari’s impressive Tailor-made scheme has been a resounding hit with Ferrari’s clients, and spans effectively the entire range of a new owner’s imagination. Anything is possible, and underlines the feeling that every Ferrari is a one-off. But the Special Projects division is the one
within Maranello that truly channels the memory of the classic coachbuilding names. The Official
Ferrari Magazine has been privileged in the past five years to cover many of these contemporary oneoffs, including Junichiro Hiramatsu’s SP1, Edward Walson’s P540 Superfast Aperta, Peter Kalikow’s striking Superamerica 45 and Eric Clapton’s wonderful SP12 EC. Yes indeed, bespoke is back.
From issue n° 20 yearbook 2012