From Pontiac chassis to home-built Ferrari—in 18 months
Many enthusiasts lust after the cars of Maranello, but few are able to own one. That realization set in early for Bart Jones. He was just 10 years old when he realized the 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta he longed for would likely be out of reach for his entire life. So he started formulating a plan to build his own. The planning stage lasted 30 years, but Jones never gave up.
A boat builder by trade, Jones attended college for design and, after graduation, spent time studying composites. Coincidentally, he never strayed far from the skill set he needed to build the Berlinetta, and his long-awaited replica isn’t his first, either. Jones built his first Ferrari homage when he was 19 years old, creating a fiberglass Testarossa tribute on the chassis of a Pontiac Fiero.
Initially, Jones planned to fabricate the Testarossa’s body and use it as a template to pull molds for more panels, which he could sell as kits. The Testarossa replica came out beautifully—but when Jones used the finished car to create more panels, the molds failed to release. His project was destroyed.
“I then realized it didn’t make sense to go about making all the molds and other bits for just one car. I didn’t want to go into production, I wanted to build one car. So I pivoted to planning something that would not require molds,” says Jones.
His dream of a one-off 250 GT Berlinetta replica fit that criterion. After 30 years of research and design, in the fall of 2018 Jones finally moved past the planning phase and picked up the tools. Well, he started by picking up a chassis.
“I had settled on using the Pontiac Solstice for the project. There were multiple chassis I investigated—Corvettes, Miatas, a few others—but the Solstice has a wheelbase that is just a half inch different than the Berlinetta. Also the cabin and engine are in the right place. It was tough to find a modern car with the seating set far enough back to make the profile look right,” Jones says.
Not only was he lucky enough to find a Solstice chassis on Craigslist, he found a Solstice chassis practically prepared for him. He discovered the bare Solstice chassis on a 4th of July weekend, a rare three-day break from work, and his wife encouraged him to immediately hitch up a trailer and make the trip from their Minnesota home to Georgia to pick up the chassis.
“It was an older gentleman who purchased three Solstices,” Jones explains. “He used this car to repair the bodies of the other two. It was a 50,000 mile car with no issues. No wrecks. Just the body was removed. It was perfect for what I needed.”
Despite his earlier work with composites, Jones found himself constantly learning about the material and refining his skills through the process of fabricating the Berlinetta’s fiberglass body. Indeed, working with composites is typically the task at-home and kit-car builders struggle with the most.
“I like to joke that [the Berlinetta] is a project that took 30 years and six months—30 years of planning and six months of actual building. My wife would come out in the garage when I started in the fall of 2018 and would constantly mention how fast the work was coming together.”
However, the build still threw some challenges Jones’ way. A feature almost every kit-car builder struggles with reared its head—windows. Though Jones’ replica retains its factory Pontiac windshield, its side and rear windows needed to be custom built to match the radical change in roofline profile. The difficult process of cutting your own glass at home is why many kits are convertibles or, if they do have side and rear windows, those panels aren’t weather-tight.
Jones wouldn’t have a leaky Berlinetta, though. He wanted roll-up windows and trustworthy weatherstripping. Though his determination carried him through, Jones says that the process of building the side and rear windows to his satisfaction was his hardest task—he has no intentions of doing it again.
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The curse of big projects like this is that typically, they’re never done. Jones bucks that trend. “I’m really good about finishing my stuff. With the exception of the wheel centers that are on backorder, this car is done done. I’d put it in a car show tomorrow.” From a bare chassis to complete home-built custom in about 18 months.
His 250 GT Berlinetta might be finished, but Jones isn’t sitting back. He already has ideas for more customs, and if I had to bet, he won’t be waiting another 30 years to start the next one. For now, we at Hagerty salute you, Bart. You built your dream car and the finished product is something of which you can be proud. Best of luck on the next one.