So here we are the next in line of “reminiscing” articles thanks to “historical month” at the Official Merchandise blog. Throughout this month during the Summer break I have been dedicated to giving some alternative articles on periods of Formula 1 history, that some fans may not know about, or perhaps cherish just as much as I do.
However for this next article I thought I would go down a slightly different route, as I stumbled across an extremely special birthday this year for one of the biggest icons in Motorsport history. Now breaking the trend somewhat it isn’t incidentally Formula 1 related but something that possesses just as much historical value.
People that follow my movements on a regular basis will know how fascinated I am by the history of Formula 1, even more so to some extent than current affairs this season, however Motorsport disciplines, more importantly Group B and Le Mans history in general has always had a special place in my heart, always yearning that I was born in the period to witness the famous D Type Jaguars bombing down the Mulsanne straight with Sir Stirling at the wheel, just as much to witness a Metro 6R4 Group B rally car apply it’s slightly poetic trade around the greatest forest stages in Europe.
So when I stumbled across this very special birthday this week, I felt I just had to publish an article about this car, refreshing my memory on just why I love it and what exactly makes it so special.
Now considered to be a Motorsport icon, a car has to be truely special, have pedigree and heritage running through its bodywork, encapsulating everything about the best brands in the motorsport world, from the styling, the history, the passion and of course the success. However one car in recent years has managed to propel itself into the undisputed position of being “The daddy” when it comes to Motorsport icons, with prices soaring and reputation sky rocketing, we can only be talking about one car – one iconic brand – that being none other than Ferrari and then most sought after car in the entire world – the 250 GTO.
About 14 feet of unrivalled perfection as it is now considered today, this car was typical in everything Ferrari stood for, the Scaglietti designed bodywork, the 3 Litre Colombo V12 engine, the Borrani wire wheels and the passion given from every Ferrari employee to design every single one of the 39 classic examples.
With that recipe it is easily recognisable now why it is regarded as possibly the greatest Ferrari racing car ever made, even surpassing that of the legendary 250 Testarossa from the late 50’s. It became the car to beat at Le Mans and the World Sportscar Championship for GT manufacturers winning in 1962, 63 and 64, asserting its dominance as “the” sportcar of the decade, wiping away all competition in the class above 2000cc of displacement.
All that may be rosy for the 250 GTO pedigree, however there was a time when the car was nowhere near as valuable as it is today, leading a rather obscure life during the late 70’s and early 80’s, having a reputation no greater than that of the 275 GTB/4 or the 365 Daytona. So it leads us on to a very interesting question, just why is it now considered the kind of Motorsport icon’s and why has it suddenly thundered into the lead as one of the most desirable cars in the world?
Well this brings us beautifully back to the D Type jaguar of the mid 50’s, this magnificent feat of engineering managed to win Le Mans 3 times in a row and set the bar to a ridiculous level on what sport cars were compared to. However recent prices suggest that the car has not reached higher than 3 million of your glorious pounds. Now recently news had broken that a British Racing Green 250 GTO that was produced exclusively for Sir Stirling Moss, had indeed sold at auction for in excess of £22 million pounds.
Wait a minute? I hear you asking, how can it be, a car of the same pedigree be so much more expensive? You would be extremely correct in thinking a substantial price difference is rather misplaced in most instances. The Jaguar used as an example is considered extremely rare with only 89 examples ever made. It is the epitome of sportscar design from the mid 50’s and dominated its class for numerous years.
However perhaps that is exactly the reason why, the Ferrari 250 GTO can only claim to have 39 examples ever made in its history. This makes it almost of 3 times rarer than the D Type some of the chassis of which are no longer with us today. Now when you put it in those circumstances, you can then start to form a picture at how special this Ferrari truely is. In automotive terms, when a car is considered 3 times rarer than an iconic Le Mans 50’s race car, it does start to justify the titanic price tag many people have paid for the famous chassis numbers around the world.
Then we have to explore the sheer practicality of the thing. Nick Mason (Pink Floyd Drummer and 250 GTO owner) on numerous occasions has famously stated that he used to enjoy taking the kids to school in his example, this perhaps revealing a rather more defining characteristic within the car itself. Most classic GT cars from the period are considered extremely brutal when transferred from the race track to the road, the huge power, lack of traction and soft chassis by modern standards seemingly creating a lose lose situation for anyone wanting to enjoy them on the road. However the 250 GTO has seemingly created a new precedent shying away from the usual classic race car clichés.
This means that classic car collectors should no longer fear taking their 250 GTO’s out on to the public roads, this solidity on normal roads away from its stomping ground on the race track, allowing drivers to experience the sheer thrill of experiencing the world’s most expensive car in all its mechanical glory, has created a huge selling point with potential buyers, and a possible reason why they are so desired from collectors.
I suppose this is the part of the article where I try to explain what the 250 GTO means to me and why I consider it probably the most iconic car in Motorsport history. Well the 15 minutes in this video probably explain everything you need to know why I love the car so much, but I will attempt to put it into words for everyone reading this.
The 250 GTO to me is a car that set the benchmark amongst sports cars worldwide during the early 60’s. It took almost 5 years for the car to be knocked off its perch as a world beater and was one of the last front engine GT cars to stay competitive up until the mid engined revolution that infamous John Cooper created during the period. (Something incidentally I have already blogged about).
The Colombo V12 is a masterpiece, its engine note is so iconic you could close your eyes on the bank at GoodWood and instantly recognise a GTO as they flew past at some 120mph. The slightly metallic but raw, vicious engine note sends shivers down your spine, and as the infamous “Ferrari Whail” come into earshot it must of been hugely inspiring for any fan and collector alike today.
Its racing pedigree is not the greatest in the history of Motorsport however it was more due to the 250 GTO having a very short lifespan, but in its time dominated sport cars the world over. This reputation is continued today at the classic car meetings held all over Europe, winning numerous races at Goodwood and Silverstone. It is possibly the ultimate classic racing car that can usable on the road, and is probably the most inspiring sight for any fan that witnesses this incredibly rare car on the public road. It is this legacy that has catapulted it into the Motoring elite amongst every fan in the world.
I originally stated earlier in my article that a motoring icon has to epitomise the brand in every respect, have the passion, heritage, history and success available to make it an extremely unique car. What I think we have with the 250 GTO is the perfect example of this.
It holds the most famous name in Motorsport on its bonnet, is designed by one of the most decorated men in the history of car design, has the Motorsport success etched into every hand beaten panel on its beautiful exterior and has possibly one of the most beautiful and iconic engine notes in the history of Motorsport.
This combined with its rarity, driveability and continued success in classic car events the world over, in my view, allow it to easily claim the top spot when it comes to Motoring icons. It is exactly this reason why examples are £12 million plus and are sought after by any big name in the classic car industry.
The 250 GTO this year celebrates its 50th birthday, however it still looks just as remarkable today as it did 50 years ago, a timeless masterpiece that defines everything that is great about Ferrari and it’s Motorsport pedigree, it is this why it is considered possibly the “ultimate” Ferrari and for that reason alone can lay claim to becoming the “ultimate” in Motorsport icons.