Perfection at fifty

250 GTO

In most people’s hearts the perfect Ferrari, the 250 GTO celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Among its many charms is the fact that only 36 models were produced, all still in existence, all gloriously preserved

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Talking about perfection is not something to ever be undertaken lightly. Perfection means being free from errors, defects and omissions. To be able to understand that something is perfect, there must be something to compare it with. For human beings it’s easy: we manage to collect within ourselves such a large number of errors, defects and omissions as to make it perfectly clear what might be meant, at least as an ideal, by “perfection”. It’s easier to find perfection in nature or things
manufactured by man. A paper knife is perfect. Even a button, in its practical simplicity, is usually
perfect. The 250 GTO, when it made its first appearance exactly 50 years ago, aroused this feeling: it’s perfect. Perfect in its line, which was so harmonious and, at the same time, practical for its
purpose as a sports car.

Perfect in its mechanics, so well tested in Colombo’s V12 engine as to make it impossible for this ever to be questioned. Perfect in its performance, good enough to win the GT
World Championship two years in succession. That the model was mythologised from the outset is borne out by the fact that the 36 cars built are all still in existence. It is demonstrated too by auctions where the quoted values for GTOs have set records and that the rarity of the model leads to deals between private individuals which are extremely confidential but which, I have been assured, have approached $35 million! As we said at the beginning of this Magazine, this extraordinary car is nothing less than the fruit of the passion and the strength of will of a group of men able to see well into the future. We know about Sergio Scaglietti, who invented the coachwork by beating out the aluminium sheets based on the shapes of the chassis. A miracle worthy of Michelangelo. But also about Giotto Bizzarrini, who inspired the mechanics and the engineer, Carlo Chiti, in charge of designing the Ferrari at the development stage and contributed that little spark of genius that he always brought to his work. Strangely this “perfect” product was launched by Enzo Ferrari without his designers being present, and without a name. The car, in fact, was simply called “Berlinetta” while the designers had ostentatiously walked out after the well-known “mutiny” attempt in 1961.

A very young engineer, bravely installed by Ferrari, had just been put in control of the Technical Department. His first name was Mauro and his surname Forghieri. A promising talent who would soon become famous. Enzo Ferrari had a blind belief in that model which had been thought up and developed to be driven in races. After the beautiful, victorious 250 Passo Corto, the one rechristened the SWB by the English, a Berlinetta was needed to tackle and win the title of GT World Champion, just set up by the international automobile federation. Rules stipulated that cars destined for road use would compete, leading to certain regulations, such as the rather upright windscreen which obliged Scaglietti to revise the first prototype, and a minimum number of cars produced a year, exactly 100, to ensure no prototypes lined up to race dressed up as GTs. Ferrari avoided the shame of seeing homologation declined, as would happen later with the 250 LM, demonstrating that the GTO was merely an evolution of the 250 Berlinetta.

Homologation was late in arriving, with many cars already in clients’ hands. There was the Sebring 12 Hours to be raced with a team already on the spot. Finally, the homologation arrived and Ferrari sent the important news by telegram, using the abbreviations in vogue at that time, with initials GTO, meaning that “the GT is homologated”. In saying that, the legend of the name was born. The car won. That’s what is meant by perfection.

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  • Edwin Hutchins

    I thought the first 250 GTO was produced in 1962, fifty-two years ago. Oh well , learn something new every day I guess. ;)