This Ferrari 275 GTB prototype might be the coolest rally car ever

On its own, the Ferrari 275 is among the most desirable collectible cars in the world. It is gorgeous. It is fast. Its engine sounds heavenly. Its technical innovations were a seminal moment for Ferrari road cars and represent critical performance developments that made Ferrari and the 275 so successful in competition.

Obviously the first-ever 275, a 1964 GTB prototype, is a major piece of automotive history that anyone would dream of having in their garage. But get this—that same 275 GTB prototype was also a dirt-slinging, mud-conquering, snow-crunching rally car that competed at Monte Carlo in 1966. And now, after 25 years out of public view, it might just find a new home after crossing the auction block at Gooding & Company’s 2019 Scottsdale auction.

Following the also-lovely Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, the 275 was a step forward in two essential ways. The 275 employed both an independent rear suspension and a rear-mounted transaxle, both firsts for a road-going Ferrari. Cast alloy wheels were also a first on the 275. The two-cam 3.3-liter Colombo V-12 was by then familiar, in this case larger at 3.3 liters versus the 3.0-liter engine used for the previous Ferrari 250. Coupe versions used 280-horsepower triple-carb engines (260 hp for the GTS convertibles), but the factory also offered a six-carb engine good for 300 horses.

Ferrari 275 GTB chassis 06003 was the foundation of this historic model’s development, serving as the factory prototype. Built in 1964, the short-nose, two-cam 275 remained a testing platform for Ferrari through the spring of 1965. Throughout this process, 06003 received several updates that would come later on the series-production 275 GTB, including the long-nose front end.

1964 Ferrari 275 GTB Prototype front 3/4
1964 Ferrari 275 GTB Prototype Gooding & Company/Brian Henniker

Ferrari sold 06003 in April of 1965, but it would pay a visit back at Ferrari HQ in Modena that November in preparation for its new life in rally competition. There were still a few people at the company who wanted to see what the new transaxle and independent rear suspension were made of, and so the transformation began. Scuderia Ferrari driver Mike Parkes helped with the testing that resulted in front-mounted rally lights, reinforced glass, a 75-percent locking differential, radiator protection, unique hood, and a third windshield wiper.

The car entered the 1966 Monte Carlo rally not as an official factory-backed competitor, but as a private entry albeit managed by racing team Scuderia Sant’Ambroeus (founded by Ferrari racing manager Eugenio Dragoni). Driving duties fell to rally driver Giorgio Pianta, with Ferrari factory test driver Roberto Lippi in the navigator’s seat. Speaking to Ferrari World magazine in 1991, Pianta called it “the most beautiful memory of my life.”

“The car was extremely well-balanced on both snow and tarmac and was surprising, because it reached in seconds speeds which for that time were incredible,” he said. “I can only say that when I drove the rally Ferrari, that car was a dream for me—at that time it seemed perfect. I honestly can’t remember anything that wasn’t beautiful about that car. The braking was perfect, the tuning… Even with all the experience I have now as a test driver of rally cars for Abarth, I couldn’t say what more they could have done!”

1964 Ferrari 275 GTB Prototype engine
Gooding & Company/Brian Henniker
1964 Ferrari 275 GTB Prototype steering wheel
Gooding & Company/Brian Henniker

Giorgio Pianta driving the 275 GTB at the Monte Carlo Rally.
Giorgio Pianta driving the 275 GTB at the Monte Carlo Rally. Gooding & Company / Archives Maurice Louche

Nonetheless, 06003 was forced to retire from the 1966 Monte Carlo rally due to driveline issues. It was sold soon after, changing hands a few more times until landing with its current owner in 1994. During the last 25 years it hasn’t been exhibited publicly, least of all at a major concours like Pebble Beach. Gooding & Company notes that it will need some mechanical refreshening to be ready for reliable road duty, but it is most of all fantastic to see such a spectacular car back in the public eye. It looks sensational in yellow, although it is indeed a repaint; at some point previously the car was painted red.

The auction house’s pre-sale estimate sits at $6M–$8M. Current #1-condition (Concours) examples of the standard-production 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB are on average worth $2.1M, but both unique examples and cars with racing history always command a hefty premium. The most expensive 275 ever sold was a 1964 GTB/C Speciale works car with a major racing pedigree, which went for $26.4M in 2014.

“Frankly, I’m surprised the estimate isn’t a little higher, given that Gooding sold a ’65 275 GTB that once belonged to Pinin Farina for just over $8M last year,” says Hagerty auction editor Andrew Newton. “And this GTB prototype would be worth more if it was a factory entrant at Monte Carlo.”

It’s especially wonderful to see this first 275 GTB prototype photographed in the snow, harking back to its snow-covered rally days at Monte Carlo. Although you’d have to be pretty brave (read: reckless, rich, and brilliant) to take a multi-million-dollar Ferrari out on a hilly dirt road these days, seeing the bookends of this car’s history are special indeed.

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