Considered by many to be the best and most beautiful sports car in the world, the Ferrari 250 GTO is also one of the rarest and most desirable. The last front-engined sports racing car that was competitive on the world’s stage, the GTO was billed to the FIA as a “continuation” of the 250 SWB, and its legendary initials stand for “Gran Turismo Omologato”. 100 cars were required for homologated for Grand Touring competition, but only 36 were constructed with an additional three 330 GTOs (the same car with a 4.0-liter V-12), meaning that Ferrari was indeed able to convince the FIA that the GTO was an evolution of the SWB. Seven of the 250 GTOs were clothed in “Series 2” bodywork that had a lower, flatter look and tunnel-back roof. It was more aerodynamic, but didn’t have the iconic look of the original cars.
The elegant body was built by Scaglietti, while the brilliant Giotto Bizzarrini oversaw the mechanical detail. Underneath, the frame was almost identical to the Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, but the body was more streamlined after testing in a wind tunnel at Pisa University. The nose sloped down to prevent front end lift at speed, while the Kamm tail at the back kept the rear of the car in check.
The 3.0-liter, dry sump-lubricated 250 V-12 breathed through six dual-barrel Weber 38 DCN carburetors to deliver an even 300 hp at 7,500 rpm and was mated to a five-speed manual (replacing the 250 SWB’s four-speed) with Ferrari’s famous open gate shifter. Thanks to the V-12’s impressive power figures and the hard work on the aerodynamic body, the top speed was 174 mph, making the 250 GTO ideal for Europe’s high speed racing circuits. Three cars featured a 4.0-liter engine derived from the 400 Superamerica and were called 330 GT0s. Most of the Ferrari 250 GTOs were left-hand drive, but eight of them were built with right-hand drive for British customers.
Launched at Maranello in February of 1962, the Ferrari 250 GTO was clearly all about racing. There were no bumpers, the side and rear windows were plastic, and the dry sump oil tank (which enabled the car to sit lower) resulted in lots of heat pumping into the cabin.
The GTO is a desirable car thanks to its beauty and rarity, but it was its record on the track that made it a legend. Gendebien and Hill dominated the GT class at Sebring in 1962 to finish first in GT and second overall. Scarlatti and Ferraro took first in the GT class at the 1962 Targa Florio and finished fourth overall. Parkes and Gregory then were first and second at Silverstone in May 1962. Parkes and Mairesse finished second overall at the Nurburging 1000 kms in a 4.0-litre GTO. At the 1000 km finale at Montlhery in October, Ferrari took first through sixth places. The list of victories goes on from there, and the GTO took the FIA GT World Championship in 1962, 1963, and 1964.
There was a time in the later 1960s when these were just obsolete racing cars and changed hands for obsolete racing car prices. One was even donated to a high school in the United States, where students took it apart and it sat dismantled for years. Times have changed, though, and for several decades now the Ferrari 250 GTO has been established as the most desirable and valuable Ferrari of them all, and that’s saying something. All examples have been accounted for, so there are no barn finds waiting out there, and they hardly ever change hands. On the rare occasion that one does sell, it’s usually done privately, meaning that 250 GTO ownership puts you into one of the most exclusive groups in the world.