Cars

<em>Photo: Andrea Frazzetta </em>

A French affaire

It was love at first sight, when Claude Foussier stumbled upon the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta in a Paris showroom. He was so enthralled that he decided to customize the car, anticipating the Tailor Made Programme
Words

Alessandro Giudice

In September 1960, Claude Foussier walked into an elegant car showroom in Paris’ 17th arrondissement. He was looking to buy something special and when his eyes settled upon a magnificent 250 Berlinetta (passo corto) (‘empattement court’, in French; ‘short wheelbase’, or SWB, in English), it was love at first sight. The car’s astonishingly pure and beautifully proportioned lines were perfectly underscored by a red livery that exuded a unique sense of power and character.

Holding his breath, Monsieur Foussier walked around the car, concentrating on the technical and stylistic details. His passion did not waver even as he struggled to squeeze behind the speedster’s wheel. For a man with his powerful build – Foussier was very tall and weighed nearly 100kg – the Ferrari felt more like a sports prototype than a grand tourer. But Donald Sleator, who owned the showroom with his father Walter, assured Foussier that back at Maranello Ferrari would fix everything.

As dealers in exclusive roadsters, the Sleators were well used to working with exacting clients keen to ensure their cars were of tailor-made exclusivity and who were constantly looking for ways to render them unique. This was true of 35 year-old Foussier, a clay-pigeon shooting champion and France’s first Coca-Cola distributor. Although he ordered his 250 berlinetta on the spot (steel body, race-ready engine, a 9/34 limited slip differential), Foussier spent a month imagining and perfecting its details.

250 GT Berlinetta classic details: wooden steering wheel, V12 engine, Connoly Leather seats<em> Photo: Andrea Frazzetta </em>
250 GT Berlinetta classic details: wooden steering wheel, V12 engine, Connoly Leather seats Photo: Andrea Frazzetta

He chose Verde Pimlico no:12040 for the bodywork and a sample of purplish leather – identical to Connolly Leather’s VM 3110 Red – for the interior trim (even though he would later opt for black). Despite most of the specifications seemingly decided, Monsieur Foussier became so obsessed with 2283GT (the chassis number of his new berlinetta) that he eventually set out for Modena and the Scaglietti Coachworks, where – personally assisted by Signor Sergio himself – he was able to apply the finishing touches to his beloved Ferrari.

The ensuing customisation started with lowering the seats “as much as possible” and lengthening the steering wheel column by five centimetres to accommodate Foussier’s large body and long legs. Other modifications included the six louvres (three per side) high up on the bonnet to facilitate cooling of the big 12-cylinder and two more adapted from the previous 250 GT Berlinetta ‘Tour de France’ on the C-posts to ventilate the cabin.

Although equipped with a competition engine the 250 GT Berlinetta is a beautiful road car<em> Photo: Andrea Frazzetta </em>
Although equipped with a competition engine the 250 GT Berlinetta is a beautiful road car Photo: Andrea Frazzetta

Last but very far from least came the real creative coup de théâtre: a black lengthwise centre stripe along the bodywork flanked by two smaller ones, also black – the final elements that would render this model forever unique. This was the vehicle that arrived at Ferrari Classiche, who carried out a meticulous restoration that preserved the glorious patina and respected the originality of a car that was still exactly as it had left the factory.

For this was precisely what the current owner wanted and it follows a tradition – lasting more than six decades – which today is carried on by the Ferrari Tailor Made programme, itself reserved for the marque’s most discerning clients.

 

Ferrari