50th anniversary of the Ferrari 250 GTO will be celebrated at Pebble Beach

Article by Christian Andrei, on May 8, 2011

The 50th anniversary of the greatest Ferrari ever made is certainly worth celebrating. To commemorate the birth of the Ferrari 250 GTO, over 20 exclusive sports racing cars will be brought to the show field of the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance on August 21.

Originally, only 36 units of the 250 GTOs were built. Two 330 GTOs were also produced with larger capacity engines. So far, more than half of these exclusive cars are expected to appear at the Concours.

However, the owners of all of the exclusive cars were invited to the event. In the past few years, several of these GTOs were sold for up to $30 million.

Ed Gilbertson, Chief Judge of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, said that the Ferrari 250 GTO is “one of the great sports racing cars of all time.” He said that for three straight years, the GTO was able to beat any car in the world. In 1962, it debuted as a racecar at the 12 Hours of Sebring.

With the 250 GTO, American Phil Hill and Belgian Olivier Gendebien placed second overall. The first place went to a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa sports racing car. The 250 GTO then went on to win Federation Internationale de L'Automobile's (FIA) International Championship for GT Manufacturers from 1962 to 1964.

The 250 GTO also won in the Tour de France in 1963 and 1964. Then in 1962 and 1963, it got the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood. It won at the Nürburgring 1000 km in 1963 and 1964. Then it got class wins in the Targa Florio in 1962, 1963 and 1964; and category wins at Le Mans in 1962 and 1963.

Built with the chassis of the Ferrari 250 GT SWB, the 250 GTO had been based on an experimental test car -- the 1961 250 GT Sperimentale. This test car had participated during the Daytona and was driven by Stirling Moss who later went on to have a GT win and ultimately place fourth overall. It was during the latter part of that same year that the 250 GTO started production. In addition to the Sperimentale, there will be other examples of the Series I and that Series II 250 GTOs that will be displayed at Pebble Beach.

According to Gilbertson, though one of this limited production cars was repaired as a result of receiving extensive damage during races, it remains in its original condition. It will be exhibited as well on the 18th fairway at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. In order to make a new car under absolute secrecy, it was Enzo Ferrari who assigned engineer Giotto Bizzarrini to create a car that was well outside the usual Ferrari circles.

Using the 250 GT SWB as the basis, Bizzarrini first lightened the chassis and then reinforced it. In order to enhance the car’s weight distribution, he decided to put the engine at the back of the front axle. However, by the fall of 1961, Bizzarrini, as well as other employees, decided to leave the company. To make sure that the 250 GTO would be completed, Enzo Ferrari thus assigned the task to coachbuilder Sergio Scaglietti and engineer Mauro Forghieri.

Continuing on the work done by Bizzarrini, the team worked on improving the V-12 2953 cc engine by putting in larger valves, six Weber double-barrel carburetors, and Testa Rossa heads. This resulted in an output of 300 hp, a significant increase in the horsepower. Instead of the SWB four-speed transmission, the team replaced it with the all syncromesh five-speed gearbox.

Included in the 250 GTO are a number of Ferrari technologies that are clearly from that same era. Examples are the wire wheels, disc brakes, live-axle rear end, the A-arm suspension in the front, and the hand-welded tube frame. To ensure that the car would remain lightweight, the interior was kept basic. It has no soundproofing and even the instrument panel does not have a speedometer.

Press Release

Ferrari 250 GTO 50th Anniversary

Ferraris are revered the world over for being among the finest, fastest and most exotic sports cars ever conceived, and the Ferrari 250 GTO is considered by many to be the greatest Ferrari ever manufactured. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the birth of this model, more than twenty of these exclusive sports racing cars will take to the show field of the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance on Sunday, August 21.

Only thirty-six 250 GTOs were originally produced, as well as two 330 GTOs with larger capacity engines. All of these exclusive cars have been invited to the Concours and more than half have already accepted the invitation. Some of these GTOs have sold for as much as $30 million in recent years.

"The Ferrari 250 GTO is one of the great sports racing cars of all time," said Ed Gilbertson, Chief Judge of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. "The GTO beat everything in the world for about three years running, which is quite an accomplishment when you consider the marques that were racing at that time."

In its racing debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1962, American Phil Hill and Belgian Olivier Gendebien placed second overall in the 250 GTO, with only a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa sports racing car ahead of them. This was the beginning of the 250 GTO's racing success, which included winning the Federation Internationale de L'Automobile's (FIA) International Championship for GT Manufacturers three consecutive years, from 1962 to 1964. Other 250 GTO wins included the Tour de France in 1963 and 1964; the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood in 1962 and 1963; the Nürburgring 1000 km in 1963 and 1964; class wins in the Targa Florio in 1962, 1963 and 1964; and category wins at Le Mans in 1962 and 1963.

Based on the Ferrari 250 GT SWB chassis, the 250 GTO evolved from an experimental test car, the 1961 250 GT Sperimentale, which was raced by Stirling Moss to a GT win and fourth overall at Daytona. Production of the 250 GTO began later that year. The Sperimentale and many examples of both the Series I and Series II 250 GTOs will be exhibited at Pebble Beach.
Gilbertson says just one of these limited production cars remains in its original condition, although it was repaired in period due to extensive race damage. It too will be on the famed 18th fairway at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Enzo Ferrari put engineer Giotto Bizzarrini in charge of developing a car outside the normal Ferrari circles, wanting the car built in complete secrecy. Bizzarrini started with the 250 SWB, lightened and reinforced the chassis, then moved the engine behind the front axle for improved weight distribution. But in the fall of 1961 Bizzarrini and a number of others left the company. Subsequently, Enzo Ferrari assigned engineer Mauro Forghieri and coachbuilder Sergio Scaglietti to complete the 250 GTO.

The team enhanced the 2953 cc V-12 engine, fitting Testa Rossa heads, larger valves and six double-barrel Weber carburetors, increasing the horsepower to 300 hp and replacing the SWB's four-speed transmission with a five-speed, all syncromesh gearbox.

The 250 GTO also featured many familiar Ferrari technologies of the era, including a hand-welded tube frame, A-arm front suspension, live-axle rear end, disc brakes and wire wheels. The interior was extremely basic, to keep the weight of the car as light as possible, with no soundproofing and no speedometer in the instrument panel.

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