A Brief and Beautiful History Of Ferrari’s Road and Racing Specials
Asking when Ferrari began offering track-ready specials to customers is a silly question, because Ferrari has been doing it since the very beginning. As just a small race team operation, Enzo Ferrari’s first venture, Scuderia Ferrari, was founded to service its gentlemen driver customers. And as his marque, Auto Avio Costruzioni, gave way to simply “Ferrari” after the Second World War, little changed: older race cars were sold off to privateers or clients for race or road use. It’s been that way since.
In other words, if you wanted a Ferrari, you bought a Ferrari—and unless it was a Grand Prix car or an extreme prototype, it could be used on the road.
As Ferrari’s various racing programmes developed and the years progressed, the race cars began to diverge from the road cars; still, however, engines and other components shared more than a little with what appeared on track.
Here are some of our favorites from each decade:
1951 212 Export
Forget just racing, you want to win—the 212 Export, with its larger 2,562-cc Colombo V12 and more rigid chassis helped this car win both the Targa Florio and Carrera Panamericana.
1962 250 GTO
There’s a reason this car is at the top of modern-day auction results: just about every example has raced—competitively—by drivers the world over. As the racing world switched to mid-engined cars, the front-engined, V12 GTO won just about everything it was eligible for, including the Goodwood Tourist Trophy, Tour de France, the Nürburgring 1000km, and its class at Le Mans.
1963 250 LM
The mid-engined LM is incredibly fast, and essentially a road-going sports prototype. A few lucky owners road registered theirs, and instead of taking it to the track, bombed up and down twisty roads like Mulholland Drive.
1971 365 GTB4 Competizione
Picking up where the 250 GTO left off a decade earlier, the Competizione was a still-street-legal race car that wore bodywork to suit the task at hand, though even as a road car, there was no denying its competition roots—plastic windows and side exit exhaust are an easy giveaway that this is no ordinary “Daytona”.
1984 Ferrari GTO
The first “modern” Ferrari supercar, the limited-run GTO was developed for Group B competition, sold out instantly, and can trace its lineage back to the 250 LM and forward to the F40, F50, Enzo, and LaFerrari.
1989 F40 Competizione
“We’d like to run Le Mans in an F40,” the French importer said, so Ferrari obliged, creating a total of 10 race-ready F40s—a car that in street trim was already among the fastest ever built. It wasn’t the most successful racing Ferrari, but it did have a top speed around 230(!) mph.
1993 348 Competizione
This is, in effect, the direct descendant of the modern Ferrari Challenge cars. Built primarily for privateer racing, it provided a fast-but-inexpensive way to get into racing. Its key feature was a ridiculously low (dry) weight of just 2,600 lbs.
2015 458 Italia GT
Based on the road-going 458 Italia, the racing specification models for GT2, GT3, and Grand-Am competition are some of the closest you’ll find to a “street” car these days. With a specification varied based on where it’s racing, the 458 Italia GT cars can see upwards of 500 horsepower, and a few minor modifications for competition, including a roll bar, enhanced safety gear, and harder-wearing components like brake pads and tires.
2015 Ferrari FXX K
What happens when your fastest road car is too fast for series competition? The LaFerrari is already one of the world’s fastest cars, but is far too powerful for competition. Ferrari’s Corse Clienti program, however, takes the car and adds items like slick tires, a qualifying setting for the bespoke Manettino system, and active aerodynamics—all to ensure its monumental 1,050 horsepower are harnessed to deliver performance that’s able to surpass most race cars.