Although selling in smaller numbers compared to coupes, Ferrari has almost continually offered cabriolets for discerning customers that want an open-air experience. Before 1959, these were almost always custom made and the Series I was no exception. Costing $3,000 more than the California Spider, this model was aimed at the top end of the grand touring market.
The forerunners to the 250 GT Cabriolets include some smaller convertibles built on the 212 Inter chassis as well as a pair of very exclusive 342 America Cabriolets and a couple other special one-ofs, but the Cabriolet Series I has the distinction of being Ferrari’s first ‘production’ cabriolet.
By 1957, the successful 250 GT ‘Tour de France’ had been released and it was an ideal platform to to support Ferrari’s next cabriolet. It had a robust chassis, large finned drum brakes, double wishbone front suspension and the Colombo-designed 60º V12 engine.
Pinin Farina was commissioned to make the first design and started with chassis 0655GT. It was a prototype that was well decorated for the 1957 Geneva Auto Show and it also sketched the basic outline for forty more versions.
Traits of the Series I body style included a long hood, covered headlights, kicked up rear fenders, recessed rear taillights and a simple raked windshield without vent windows. By comparison, many of the the Series I cars usually had as many similarities as they did differences. For the most part these were differences in the side vents, bumpers, interior, mirrors and other more subtle variations.
The Series I Cabriolets were built in a special workshop at Pinin Farina’s facilities. Each body was made of steel and was exquisitely detailed both inside and out. By 1959, Pininfarina had changed their name and standardized the Cabriolet in Series II specification. This included the more staid uncovered headlights and revised rear fenders which began with chassis 1537GT.
As a high performance alternative , Luigi Chinetti convinced Ferrari to sell an sporting version of the 250 GT Cabriolet called the California Spyder. They were instead bodied by Scaglietti and some of the aluminum versions were periodically raced.
0655GT – Built as the prototype, 0655GT was well decorated for the 1957 Geneva Auto Show. It was one of the first cars to use Dunlop disc brakes. Unique details include a driver’s side cut-down door, a sculpted front grill, and a hood scoop with prominent chrome accents. The car has been part of the Bob Lee collection for some time.
1181GT-1959 Ferrari 250 GT Series 1 Cabriolet. 1959 New York Auto Show Car. Originally Racing Red with all-white Connolly leather interior. Last Series I with covered headlights. Owned by Bob McKelvy of Scuderia Bear and Bob Grossman. Sold in 1981 in original condition with 34,000 miles from new. Subsequently restored in black with red interior. Offered at Gooding & Co’s 2010 Scottsdale Auction and sold for $1,950,000 USD.
1959 Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet Series I 1181GT – sold for €4,704,000 The 1959 New York International Auto Show car. The 36th of 40 built; the final factory covered-headlamp car. Built on the superior 508D chassis. Formerly owned by Bob Grossman, William McKelvy, and Glenn Mounger. Ferrari Classiche certified as a matching-numbers example. Former Cavallino cover car. Auction Source: 2014 Monaco by RM Auctions
1958 Ferrari 250GT Series I Cabriolet 0979GT – sold for $1,622,500. 0979 GT was originally finished in red with black leather; each of the Series I Cabriolets were different, and this example is no exception. It is fitted with several of the most desirable features, including the striking front fender air vents, covered headlights, full width front bumpers and elegant small top-mounted taillights. One of the most attractive features is the slim windshield pillars, an effect created, in part, by the lack of door vent wings.
RM Auctions has had the pleasure of inspecting and test driving 0979 GT and can report that the vehicle performed well without any problems on the 40-mile test drive in Italy. In addition, a recent inspection at Ferrari’s Classiche center has confirmed that the engine’s internal number is correct for the car.
The paintwork is excellent with no apparent imperfections, and all of the brightwork presents extremely well. The contrasting red leather interior with red carpets is also very good and shows very little signs of use. Auction Source: RM Auctions’ 2010 Sports & Classics of Monterey