Ferrari 250 GTO – £30m

Approximate value

£30m

$38m

The iconic 250 GTO was initially developed as a formidable competitor in GT racing, pitting itself against renowned adversaries like the Shelby Cobra, Jaguar E-Type, and Aston Martin DP214.

Giotto Bizzarrini, the chief engineer at the time, spearheaded the design of the 250 GTO. While Bizzarrini is often credited as the mastermind behind the car, he and most other Ferrari engineers faced termination in 1962 following a dispute with Enzo Ferrari.

Mauro Forghieri, a new engineer, took charge of further advancing the 250 GTO, collaborating with Scaglietti to continue refining the car’s body. The design process was a collective endeavour and couldn’t be attributed to a single individual. During its introduction, the 250 GTO showcased relatively conservative mechanical aspects, incorporating engine and chassis components that had been proven in previous racing vehicles. The chassis of the car was derived from that of the 250 GT SWB, with minor alterations in frame structure and geometry to enhance the chassis’ rigidity, reduce weight, and lower its profile. Constructed around a meticulously hand-welded oval tube frame, the car featured A-arm front suspension, rear live-axle with Watt’s linkage, disc brakes, and Borrani wire wheels.

Ferrari 250 GTO
© Copyright Oast House Archive and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Powering the 250 GTO was the Tipo 168/62 Comp, a 3.0-litre V12 engine also employed in the 250 Testa Rossa. This all-aluminium engine boasted a dry sump and six 38DCN Weber carburettors, delivering approximately 300 horsepower while maintaining impressive reliability, as proven by previous racing experiences with the Testa Rossa. The car came equipped with a new 5-speed gearbox featuring Porsche-type synchromesh.
Bizzarrini dedicated considerable effort to enhancing the car’s aerodynamics, focusing on achieving higher top speeds and improved stability. The body design of the 250 GTO was informed by wind tunnel testing at Pisa University, as well as extensive road and track trials with several prototype models. The resulting all-aluminium bodywork featured a long, sleek nose, a small radiator inlet, and distinctive air intakes on the nose with removable covers. Early testing prompted the addition of a rear spoiler. The car’s undercarriage was covered by a belly pan, and an additional spoiler formed by the fuel tank cover was positioned underneath.

The aerodynamic design of the 250 GTO represented a significant technological leap compared to previous Ferrari GT cars, aligning with contemporary advancements by manufacturers like Lotus. Scaglietti was responsible for constructing the car’s bodies, except for the initial prototypes that were built in-house by Ferrari or by Pininfarina in the case of s/n 2643 GT. The cars were produced in various colours, with the vibrant red shade known as “Rosso Cina” becoming particularly famous.

Expensive Ferrari 250 GTO
Neil, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The interior of the 250 GTO was stripped down and focused on its racing pedigree. The minimalist approach included an instrument panel devoid of a speedometer, cloth-upholstered seats, and the absence of carpeting or a headliner. Ventilation in the cockpit relied on exterior air inlets. The exposed metal gate that defined the shift pattern became a Ferrari tradition, continuing in production models until recent years when paddle-shift gearboxes gained prominence across the range.

According to FIA regulations in 1962, a minimum of one hundred units of a car had to be produced for it to be eligible for homologation in Group 3 Grand Touring Car racing. However, Ferrari only manufactured 39 250 GTOs, comprising 33 of the “normal” cars, three equipped with the four-litre 330 engine (often referred to as the “330 GTO” and recognisable by the large bonnet hump), and three “Type 64” cars featuring revised bodywork. Ferrari managed to circumvent FIA regulations by assigning non-sequential chassis numbers, creating the illusion of nonexistent cars. When FIA inspectors appeared for confirmation, Enzo Ferrari relocated the same cars to different locations, creating the impression that the full complement of 100 cars was present.

Ferrari 250 GTO Interior
ColinMB, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 250 GTO made its debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1962, driven by Phil Hill, the reigning Formula One World Driving Champion, and Olivier Gendebien from Belgium. Despite their initial annoyance at piloting a GT-class car instead of the fully-fledged Testa Rossas competing in the prototype class, the seasoned duo amazed themselves and their spectators by finishing second overall, just behind the Testa Rossa driven by Bonnier and Scarfiotti.

Ferrari went on to dominate the over 2000cc class in the FIA’s International Championship for GT Manufacturers in 1962, 1963, and 1964, with the 250 GTO racing in each of those years. The 250 GTO stood as one of the last front-engined cars to maintain competitiveness at the highest level of sports car racing. Following the era of vintage racing, like other cars from its time, the 250 GTO became outdated. Some were repurposed for regional races, while others found use as road cars.

During the early 1990s car market crash, prices for the 250 GTO plummeted significantly, reaching lows of $2,700,000 in September 1994 and $2,500,000 in May 1996. However, prices started to rise again in the late 1990s, reaching approximately $7,000,000 by 2000 and hitting $10,000,000 in 2004. Since 2013, the record price stands at a staggering $52 million, achieved in the sale of a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO, surpassing previous records of $32 million and $35 million for the 1964 and 1962 models, respectively.

In the realm of Ferraris, GTOs, and the ultra-wealthy, unidentified buyers, a $35 million GTO now seems like a relative bargain.

Header image credit: Neil, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

View more outrageously expensive vehicles here.


Related posts

Receive our latest articles in your inbox