Featured: Ferrari Penalized by FIA for Building Amazing Racecar

Ferrari Penalized by FIA for Building Amazing Racecar

By Yoav Gilad
April 27, 2014

Photography by Josh Clason for Petrolicious / Vintage images courtesy of Ferrari North America

Nowadays, it’s easy to forget just how humble Ferrari’s roots really are. They’ve won multiple Formula One championships in the last fifteen years (although recent results have been disappointing), have the backing of a large auto company with deep and broad resources, and are arguably the premier automotive brand in the world. But back in the 1960s, Ferrari was a small, independent manufacturer that sometimes had to ensure a car sold in order to pay the factory staff at the end of the week.

One story has it that they received four sets of Lucas electronics for evaluation and wound up installing them in customer cars so that they wouldn’t be wasted. There was no lying about it as the build-sheets include the Lucas info, rather than the usual Milanese Magnetti bits, but for a company so obsessed with competition and winning, wasting parts or money was anathema. And so Ferrari capitalized on every opportunity and sought every advantage.

And so it was with the GTO, one of Ferrari’s most well-known and beloved racecars, of which only thirty-six were built over three years. In 1962, Ferrari, seeking to build upon the success of the 250GT Short Wheelbase (SWB) berlinetta, claimed that they were going to build over one hundred (the quantity required by the FIA for homologation) GTOs and that they were evolutions of the 250GT SWB.

It certainly seemed plausible as 163 SWBs were built. And the GTO absolutely seemed like an evolution; it had the same layout and engine as the outgoing berlinetta. The two primary differences between the SWB and new GTO were the GTO’s far more aerodynamic body (that eliminated some of the high-speed lift on the SWBs) and modified rear suspension. The FIA was convinced and agreed that the GTO was a progression of the SWB.

However, three years later, the FIA realized that Ferrari was not, in fact, going to build anywhere remotely close to one-hundred GTOs. With only thirty-six examples of the 250GTO produced, Ferrari claimed that there was no point to building more as there weren’t any more buyers competent enough to race the car (whether or not they had the resources to build them is another matter altogether).

The racers that did drive the last of the GTOs enjoyed great success with them, however. In its first entry, the 1964 GTO of Phil Hill and Pedro Rodriguez won the 2000km of Daytona. In the following race, the same car finished first in class (seventh overall) and later on won its class in the three races of the Nassau TT at Hill’s hands.

Sadly, Ferrari’s ‘creative’ interpretation of rules cost them a GT car for the 1965 season. When Ferrari tried to claim that their new car, the 250 LM (derived from the 250 P) was a GT car, the FIA refused its homologation for two reasons. First, Ferrari once again claimed that their proposed entry was an evolution of the prior season’s car. This time however, Ferrari was claiming that the mid/rear-engine 250 LM was derived from the front-engine SWB and GTO. Second, and probably equally important to the FIA was the fact that Ferrari had duped them when it came to the GTO’s proposed production numbers.

It seems that the FIA was punishing Ferrari and wouldn’t be fooled twice. Had the cars been more similar there may have been grounds for dispute, but of course they weren’t. Amusingly, the 250LM wasn’t even a 250 (the displacement of each individual cylinder, in cubic centimeters), for that matter; all but the first car were 275s, with 3.3L engines. The FIA’s decision ultimately caused Ferrari to withdraw from the 1965 World Sportscar Championship, effectively handing it to Shelby’s Cobras.

Special thanks to Mr. David Seibert and Ms. Morgan Theys.

Join the Conversation

Leave a Reply

6 Comments on "Ferrari Penalized by FIA for Building Amazing Racecar"

Photo and Image Files
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
James Toal
James Toal

This is a bit of a confusing piece. The facts are correct but the illustrations all seem to be ungainly ’64 GTOs, of which I believe 7 were built from existing cars. There’s one photo of the original GTO shape in the second batch of photos and no picture of a 250 SWB or 250LM. A group of photos starting with the 250SWB and progressing through to the 250LM would have better illustrated the chronology. Not your usual high standard.

Garrett Waddell
Garrett Waddell
The 250 GTO series are beautiful cars. I am fortunate to race with some of them in SVRA Group 6, among which are Peter Sachs 4091GT, which is the only Type II I have ever seen, at St Louis in August of 1985. I have also raced with several of the Type I cars, which I consider “prettier shape”. The 250 GTO usually races in Group 5 with solid axle Corvettes, but sometimes at Wine Country, and some times at Monterey they have run them in Group 6 with Cobras and Corvettees, then I have the “best seat in the… Read more »
Steven Robertson
Steven Robertson

Fabulous video. There were of course 7 250 GTOs bodied in ’64 style – 3 originals of which 5571GT was the first and 4 Series 1 cars were rebodied. The first GTO bodied in this 1964 style was 4399GT which is a series 1 car rebodied to series 2 at the end of 1963.

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle
What is there to say about the Ferrari 250 GTO that hasn’t already been said it was a stunning looking automobile with the performance to back it up. Yes it is true Ferrari did not make many 250 GTOs but then again i heard that Carroll Shelby did skip a large block of VIN numbers to make it seem like he was building a large amount of cars. Now on to the 250 LM while it was a brilliant piece of machinery I personal think the FIA was right to ban it from GT. Enzo was trying to use the… Read more »
Pepe Rodriguez
Pepe Rodriguez

And in 1965 the 250 LM won the Le Mans 24 hours. with Jochen Rindt (a Formula One World Champion) and Mansten Gregory. it was the last victory of Ferrari at Le Mans, and of course a great victory for Luigi Chinetti as it was a N.A.R.T entered car.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
IMO the gearbox ranks alongside the aero as the biggest evolution from the SWB to the GTO. The 5 speed unit in the GTO allowed it to run at higher speeds at Le Mans than the 4 speed in the SWB. The 5 speed unit will not fit in a SWB chassis without extensive mods (my Dad tried when he owned an SWB and wanted to lower the gearing when touring). Ferrari already had an IRS setup for the rear suspension on their prototypes but the GTO retained a live axle like the SWB to appease the FIA. While there… Read more »