The 15 most important Ferraris, as per 5 Maranello experts

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Luigi Chinetti Sr. dives through Tertre Rouge in his 166 MM Barchetta on the way to a crucial victory in the 1949 24 Hours of Le Mans. Klemantaski Collection/Getty Images

Picking the most … anything out of an illustrious chronicle such as Ferrari’s is a torturous exercise. Over its 75 years as a racing scuderia and artisanal automaker, Ferrari has produced more gorgeous bodies, more sonorous engines, and more motorsports glory—often with all three occurring at once—than any single enterprise in the history of the automobile.

So we did what any group of rank cowards would do and punted, offloading the task to a diverse mix of aficionados, insiders, and collectors from Ferrari’s vast orbit. We asked them a simple but deliberately vague question: Name your three most significant Ferraris, and we let them interpret the word “significant” as they saw fit. Here is what they punted back.

Frank Stephenson

Frank Stephenson is a car designer of both American and Spanish lineage, born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco. Over his 30-year career, he has served as design director for Ferrari, its sister brand Maserati, and McLaren. Among his most recognizable works are the 2001–2006 reboot of the Mini Cooper and the Ferrari F430. He now runs his own London-based design firm, Frank Stephenson Design.

Frank Stephenson
Joe McKendry

1. 1962 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso: “This was the first Ferrari road car that transferred race car design technology to a production vehicle by incorporating a rear spoiler known as a duck tail. It had a very pure, uncomplicated, and flowing shape as well as elegantly narrow pillars.”

2. 1973 365 GT4 BB: “This car replaced the popular front-engine Daytona and marked a turning point for Ferrari, being its first mid-engine 12-cylinder design. Also, it incorporated pop-up headlights, which allowed for a very sleek and clean front-end profile.”

3. 1969 Dino 246 GT: “This car was badged a Dino, but it should be viewed as a Ferrari. It is incredibly well proportioned, with beautiful surface transitions. It has a love-at-first-sight aura and not a single unagreeable viewing angle. Those negatively curved rear buttresses and curved rear glass are masterfully executed. For me, it’s a totally lustful object of design.”

Ferrari 250 GT Lusso side
Considered by many to be the loveliest Ferrari road car ever made, the 250 GT Lusso counted Steve McQueen among its owners. Tim Wallace

Mike Sheehan

Mike Sheehan is a Canadian who hitchhiked to California, and in 1972, he focused on buying and selling Ferraris. He has also vintage-raced many significant competition Ferraris, and 50 years and a few thousand Ferraris later, he and his daughter are still at it (see: Ferraris-online.com). Sheehan calls himself a survivor for having weathered seven or eight (depending, he says, on how you count them) boom-and-bust Ferrari cycles.

Mike Sheehan
Joe McKendry

1. 1969 512 S: “This sports-racing car is an unassailable choice. I bought and raced one, serial number 1018. The 5.0-liter V-12 had an awesome power curve and a sound to die for. The first time I drove it, I made the mistake of not wearing earplugs and my ears were ringing for hours. On the track, the 512 had a wonderful balance. I sold that car in 1991 when the Ferrari market was falling off a cliff. Today it’s worth $8 million to $10 million. Sigh.”

2. 1957 250 Testa Rossa: “The TRs were raced by the factory and also sold to gentleman racers. They won all the major sports car races of the era and established Ferrari’s reputation for building fast, tough, and easy-to-drive competition machines. I’m particular to one example, serial number 0732 TR, which I drove in the 1988 Mille Miglia, a 1000-mile annual road rally that mimics the original open-road speed contest. I couldn’t help but slide and drift it through every town square, which the Italian spectators absolutely loved. That was a life-changing experience.”

3. 1969 365 GTB/4 Daytona: “This was the last V-12 Ferrari designed before Fiat bought 50 percent of the company and before regulations had a strong influence on car design. The Daytona was stunningly beautiful in 1969 and remains so today. It was a true supercar in its day; Brock Yates and Dan Gurney used one to set the 1971 Cannonball Run record. The pair risked driving this high-profile car because it was so capable and a true 170-mph automobile in a time when 150 mph was considered very fast.”

Daytona 24 Hour Race Ferrari 512 S
Ferrari’s brutal but largely unsuccessful 512 S, seen here departing the pits in the 1970 24 Hours of Daytona, was Ferrari’s last big-bore sports prototype. The Enthusiast NetworkGet/ty Images

Paul Russell

Paul Russell founded the restoration shop Gullwing Service Company in 1978, which evolved into Paul Russell and Company in 1988. Russell- restored cars have won 49 Best of Show awards and three “Best of the Best” awards at various concours. He is a chief class judge at Pebble Beach, at the Cavallino Classic, and at The Amelia.

Paul Russell
Joe McKendry

1. 1949 166 Barchetta: “This car put Ferrari on the international map after Luigi Chinetti persuaded Enzo—who was nervous about the car’s reliability—to enter it in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Chinetti drove for 23 of 24 hours and won. The design was groundbreaking, a major shift from the cycle and pontoon fenders of contemporary sports cars. The 166 also had the first V-12 designed by Gioacchino Colombo. Versions of that mill powered Ferraris for years. Today, the 166 is an antique car with a transverse front leaf spring, but it’s an incredibly charismatic machine. If you leave the pilot’s seat with anything but a huge grin, you’re brain-dead.”

2. 1962 250 GTO: “Enzo was all about racing, and the GTO delivered three World Sportscar Championships. It’s the iconic Ferrari design, masculine and sexy. Everyone recognizes it. GTOs are mechanically basic, but they were incredibly durable thanks in part to the evolved Colombo V-12. The GTO was the last of a romantic era, when racing cars could also double as street cars. Maybe that’s why of all the vintage Ferraris, the GTO is worth the most, with a recent private sale at $80 million.”

3. 1975 312 T: “Ferrari today would be very different without the 312 T. After years of poor results in F1, the 312 T won four constructors’ championships. The team was then run by a young Luca di Montezemolo, who later became Ferrari’s president after Enzo’s death. Ferrari was a chaotic mess then, with several mediocre and poorly built models. Without the stature earned by Montezemolo’s F1 success, I’m not sure he could have righted the ship. Without the 312 T, there’s no Michael Schumacher or La Ferrari.”

1963 Ferrari 250 GTO high angle overhead
The last great Ferrari road car that could double as a racer, the 250 GTO ranks as the single most valuable Ferrari ever made. Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Cathy Roush

Cathy Roush is the daughter of Ferrari Market Letter founder Gerald Roush. She has worked at FML in some capacity since its inception and took over publishing duties after her father passed in 2010. Now in its 47th year of biweekly publication, and with a companion website, FML offers Ferrari classified ads and has a historical database on over 100,000 Ferraris.

Cathy Roush
Joe McKendry

1. 1948 166 MM Barchetta: “The 166 is the car that put Ferrari on the map. I was a teenager and with my dad when he found one in a barn in Texas. I’ve loved that car ever since, and since there can only be one first, the 166 is the Ferrari.”

2. 1954 250 GT Coupe: “This was nearly a mass-produced car for Ferrari in the 1950s, as Ferrari produced around 350 examples over four years. The 250 GT was a comfortable street car and much more civilized than the competition machines. The sheer volume of 250 GTs produced meant that it transformed the image of Ferrari beyond just racing and into touring cars.”

3. 1969 365 GTS/4 Spyder: “If I win the lottery, this is the first car I will buy. They’re just gorgeous, with wonderful V-12 engines. I have loved this model since the mid-1970s when I first saw a white one in front of an antebellum home in Athens, Georgia. I think my opinion here is colored because my dad and Pat Braden wrote what many consider the bible for Daytonas.”

Daytona Spyder silver front three-quarter
Just 122 factory Daytona Spyders were built, the 1969 Pininfarina design debuting the year Enzo Ferrari sold out to Fiat. Courtesy RM Sotheby's/Robin Adams

Luigi Chinetti Jr.

Luigi Chinetti Jr. got both his name and trade from his father, who was uniquely responsible for bringing Ferrari to the U.S., where the rich market proved a critical funding source for Enzo’s firm. Like his dad, Chinetti Jr. also raced at Le Mans. In 1971, his first participation, he finished fifth overall and first in class, driving a 365GTB/4 Daytona, just behind the big Porsches and Ferraris. It was entered by the family’s North American Racing Team, which was created in the 1950s to promote Ferrari. They had the first Ferrari to win Le Mans, in 1949, and the last, in 1965.

Luigi Chinetti Jr.
Joe McKendry

1. 1960 400 Superamerica: “Ferraris have to be beautiful, and the 400 SA is one of the most beautiful street cars they ever made. The entire design just works, and the proportions are particularly wonderful.”

2. 1987 F40: “The F40 has everything. It’s a true driver’s car in that you have to use your head to pilot it and it has a manual transmission, something absent in today’s cars. I find today’s supercars, with horsepower reaching 1000, overkill. What can you do with that? The F40 was brutally quick yet somehow usable. I had one new and I loved it.”

3. 1964 250 LM: “I drove one from New York to Chicago during a snowstorm. I raced one at Daytona. That car is seared into my brain. It did everything expertly. If they had made it a little more comfortable for the street, it would have been a commercial success; no other rear-engined Italian offerings would have been able to match its credentials.”

1989 Ferrari F40
Evoking the spirit of the 250 GTO, the F40 was intended to be a usable road car that could go to the track with few modifications. National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

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Comments

    Two Pick three cars from the Ferrari Portfolio is most difficult.

    #1 the F40 is no doubt the best envisioned model Enzo ever produced. It is a shame it never was races like it was originally intended. I did see one race in IMSA in the GTO class running the field of tube chassis cars while the F40 only had better cams, larger turbos, a F1 dash and still had opening doors. Here the car also shared much with the 288 GTO.

    #2 For Styling the 250 Lusso was the best styled car at Ferrari and maybe in the industry. Yet the bones under the car were based on the GTO 250.

    #3 The 250 TR Roadster had the grace and styling yet proved to be one of the winningest Sports Cars in Racing. This car set the path for Ferrari in the 60s in racing and on the street. It is where Ferrari went from the odd race car builder to a true leader in racing and performance.

    While I appreciate the new cars I resist choosing them as they are more electronic control vs the cars that do it all mechanically. The older cars were also hand built and are like true items of Mechanical Art.

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