One of the rarest and most desirable of Ferraris is the 250 GTO. The car was designed to compete in GT racing, and FIA regulations in 1962 required at least 100 examples of a car to be built in order for it to be homologated for Division III Grand Touring Car racing.
At the time of its development, Ferrari was anxious about the soon-to-be-released Jaguar E-type. It had a lineage of successful Jaguar prototypes. As such, to win the 1962 Manufacturer’s championship, Ferrari had to turn its focus from sports prototypes to GT cars. That led to the development of the 250 GT, as much as the rules would allow.
Road-going models, made only to meet the FIA requirement, were produced from 1962 to 1964. The numerals in its name denote the displacement in cubic centimeters of each cylinder of the engine (250cc), while GTO stands for Gran Turismo Omologato (Grand Touring Homologated).
Ferrari, in fact, built only 39 250 GTOs (33 normal cars, three with the four-liter 330 engine sometimes called the 330 GTO, and three Type 64 cars with revised bodywork). Ferrari eluded FIA regulations by numbering the car chassis out of sequence, using jumps between each to suggest cars that didn’t exist. A new GTO retailed at USD 18,000 and buyers had to be approved personally by Enzo Ferrari and Luigi Chinetti, his dealer for North America.
The GTO was based on the earlier 250 GT SWB model. It used the 3.0 L V12 engine of the 250 Testa Rossa, placed into a short wheel base chassis of a 250 GT. Unlike most Ferraris, it was not designed by an individual or design house like Guigiaro or Pininfarina. Chief engineer Giotto Bizzarrini worked with Sergio Scaglietti to develop the body. Development was later handed over to the new engineer Mauro Forghieri after a dispute between Bizzarini and Enzo Ferrari.
The interior was extremely basic, lacking even a speedometer, while switches came from a far more affordable Fiat model. The only instruments included a Borletti/Veglia 10,000 rpm tachometer which shared a binnacle with smaller temperature, fuel, and pressure gauges. And of course, a wooden Nardi steering wheel.
The car debuted at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1962, driven by American Phil Hill (then Formula One World Driving Champion) and Belgian Olivier Gendebien. The experienced pair finished second overall behind the Testa Rossa of Bonnier and Scarfiotti. The car would go on to score maximum points in the 1962 Division III Championship for sports cars over two liters. Ferrari again took the Division III championships in both 1963 and 1964. The GTO’s dominance was only challenged by Shelby Daytona Cobras by the end of the 1964 season.
This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Vol. 8 2012.