1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta
Above Images ©Christies Inc, Bohnhams, Dirk de Jager
The 250 GT represents the longest running road and race series in Ferrari history. Introduction of this legendary model came when Alfonso de Portago drove one the very first examples, 0415GT, to victory at the 1955 Bahamas Speed Weeks in Nassau. Their achievement marked the beginning of Ferrari's domination in GT racing with “a very long line of legendary and unbeatable 3 litre berlinettas” known as the 250 GT.1
Not long after being introduced, the 250 GT was winning races for Ferrari's best customers. Opposition in the 3-liter class “was obliterated until the Cobras arrived and won in 1964; nevertheless, this was no easy task for them and they had to use a much larger motor.”1
From 1954 through to 1959, Ferrari manufactured roughly one hundred purpose-built coupes for endurance sports car racing on the long wheel-base chassis.1 While winning the Tour de France (TDF) and other important events, these cars proved their versatility and became the racer of choice amongst top drivers.
After Ferraris took the top three places at the 1957 TDF, the race organizers lent their event's name to the victorious design. Starting in Nice and ending five days and 3345 miles (5383 km) later in Paris, the Tour de France was a highlight event in its day. It tested both durability and versatility through several road rally, circuit and hill climb stages. Since this test was grueling, most competitors, sometimes up to 70 percent, didn't finish. After the 250 GT won the event in 1957, it continued the trend for the next eight years and won a record nine times in a row.
The common link between all 250 GTs was their surefire three-liter engine designed by Gioacchino Colombo. This engine was the smaller of the two developed by Ferrari and was needed due to new restrictions on engine size. After the serious 1955 LeMans incident, a three liter limit was imposed in an attempt to curb high speed accidents. Ferrari's three liter engine was still good for 230 to 250 horsepower and kept up regularly with the prototype entrants.
The entire car was similar to the 250 Europa GT of 1954 with upgraded front suspension, fully synchromesh gearbox and shorter engine. The chassis took advantage of this engine to ahve a 2600mm wheelbase. Called the Tipo 508, the 250 GT kept this chassis with only slight revisions until a shorter 2400mm unit replaced it in 1959.
Each chassis received a hand-crafted body, and most were bodied by Scaglietti & C. based on four Pinin Farina showcars. Zagato, a Milanese design house known for their lightweight construction, bodied some particularly potent examples and Camillo Luglio became an Italian Champion in his.
Progressive development and hand crafted bodies meant that no two 250 GT Berlinettas were the same. Differences were incorporated into the body from year to year, with subtle details such as sliding or wind-up windows, cowled or covered or plain headlights and varied hood louvers distinguishing each car. The first TDFs were modeled after the 250 MM, both having the same general proportions and wrap-around rear windscreen. Later changes to body included a smaller rear windscreen, the addition louvers on the C pillar for cockpit cooling and more pronounced rear fenders. By 1959, a new front end included open headlights to comply with Italian law as well as provide more light.
While dominating the Tour de France, the 250 TdF went on to class victories at the Mille Migla and many other Italian events. In its day this car was the racer of choice until replaced by the 250 GT SWB, its disc-brake successor.
Author and owner Jess G. Pourret describes the car very safe with “a very clean road-holding and handling, a sturdiness of motor and chassis, and a seriousness of mechanical construction.” He notes that “out of so many races over that 10 year period it is amazing to note the rarity of fatal results.” As for complaints he lists “interior ventilation marginal on hot days or during racing time, waterproofing also marginal, noise level quite high, [...] mechanical worries for the careless or brutal driver, gearbox synchronization a little weak on racing use, clutch very good for the light footer but short for the heavy ones, brakes bordering on real discretion above 150 kmh (93 mph).”1
Sources & Further Reading
1. Pourret, Jess. Ferrari 250 GT Competition Cars. Foulis 1977.“”
Auction Sales History
1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta 0557GT - sold for $13,200,000
Placed 1st overall at the 1956 Tour de France Auto. The actual car that instituted the “Tour de France/TdF”. Nomenclature. Raced and owned by the legendary Marquis Alfonso de Portago. The fifth of only seven Scaglietti-bodied first-series competition berlinettas. Awarded First in Class at Pebble Beach and Meadow Brook and the Prix Blancpain Award at the Louis Vuitton Concours d’Elegance. Cavallino Classic Platinum award winner. A once-in-a-li... read more
Auction Source: RM Sotheby's Monterey 2015
1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta (Tour de France) 0563GT - sold for €2,310,000
Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta (Tour de France) chassis no. 0563 GT is one of the most legendary Ferrari dual-purpose road/race cars and is the last of the series of eight cars produced in this body style. With its outstanding competition history it is certainly of the most desirable closed 12-cylinder Ferraris and it would be eligible for all the important historic races and events around the world, including the Tour Auto, Mille Miglia Storica an... read more
Auction Source: 2009 Leggenda e Passione
1959 Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France Berlinetta 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France Berlinetta - sold for €2,897,675
1385 GT may not have a lengthy string of victories, but it represents the foundation of Ferrari’s competition effort. By building truly exceptional competition cars and making them available to those with the skill (and money) to buy them, he was able to find drivers for his best cars. At the same time, the lessons learned at the track by all the cars helped improve the breed, and so it is that every competition Ferrari carries the DNA of the ... read more
Auction Source: 2008 RM Automobiles of London
1956 Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France Berlinetta 0563GT - did not sell for $3,900,000
The Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France presented here, chassis number 0563 GT, was sold new by Ferrari SpA to Racing Sport S.r.l of Torino, Italy on September 10th, 1956. Racing Sport then leased the car to Nice resident, Jacques Peron. The fifth Tour de France was held between September 17th to 23rd in 1956 and Peron, with co-driver Jacques Bertrammier took the car to 8th place overall. In October that year at the 12th Coupe du Salon at Montlhéry,... read more
Auction Source: 2008 Monterey Preview