a.k.a the Ferrari 250 GTO Prototype
The 1950s and 60s were arguably the most critical time in Ferrari’s history. The company had only just started building road cars and the legendary motorsport success on which the brand would later be built on was still a work in progress. One of the main contributors to Ferrari’s success was the 250 series of cars built between 1953 and 1964. This line covered everything from Ferrari’s Le Mans-winning race cars to some of the early road going GT cars, eventually culminating in the legendary 250 GTO. A homologation special regularly considered one of the greatest cars the company ever built. (See one have a spectacular crash at this year’s Goodwood Revival).
The car in question here though is the Ferrari 250 GT Sperimentale relatively obscure, and almost as important as the aforementioned. Only five examples were ever in 1961, of which the first car was a test mule for the factory that was never actually raced. The other recorded car was the #2643 which was Ferrari’s factory car at Le Mans for that year. The Sperimentale featured a chassis design very similar to the 250 GTs from earlier, but the wheelbase was shortened by 20mm which led to the SWB moniker. The engine came from the Type 168 Testarossa of 1960 and was a 3.0-litre V12 unit that featuring dry-sump lubrication and six carburettors. These engines produced about 280 bhp in competition trim and 240 bhp in road-going trim. The Pininfarina body was also not all new but a development of the 250 GT LWB Interim Berlinetta from 1960. The main difference was a slight redesign to the rear glass area and the addition of a rear spoiler and front winglets to aid stability along Le Mans’ Mulsanne straight. This was also probably one of the handful works Ferraris that wasn’t painted in the traditional Scuderia Red, instead getting a traditionally French racing blue as colour treatment.
The Sperimentale #2643 was essentially a testing and development platform for Ferrari’s racing division. The developmental work done on this car eventually led to the 250 GTO, this meant that the Sperimentale used as the factory entry in 1961’s Le Mans, is now also referred to as the GTO Prototype. While it didn’t finish Le Mans in 1961 due to an engine failure at around the 12-hour mark, the car’s biggest achievement was a class win at Daytona in 1962 with Sir Stirling Moss at the wheel.
The Ferrari 250 GT Sperimentale was a transitionary model for Ferrari at the time. However, that does not stop it from being a textbook example of Ferrari’s deep-seated commitment towards motorsport. The company started out with a clear idea of what their race car should be like and consistently improved on it until they had a car which could compete and win at the highest levels of motor racing.