Is This 250 GT SWB Berlinetta The Vintage Ferrari Of Your Dreams?
Photography Courtesy of Artcurial
What’s the most beautiful Ferrari? It could be any model spanning the company’s history—tough choice, isn’t it? There are so many attractive machines it’s almost unfair to pick just one. Many say the 250 GTO while others prefer the 250 Lusso. What about the California or 275 GTB? Well, call me a nonconformist, but I’ll make an argument for this 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta.
For the sake of argument, I’m going to get unnecessarily picky, here. The Lusso has long, dramatic proportions—perhaps too theatrical. The c-pillar on the 250 GTO always looked out of place in my eyes, like a hastily added “feature.” The California is the obvious choice for a drop top, but I prefer a fixed roof. The 275 GTB is undeniably beautiful, but more elegant than sporty. In Goldilocks fashion, that’s why I find the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta just right.
The honest, simple face isn’t try-hard and the fenders gradually curve down the flanks just past the doors before the quarters hike-up over the rear wheel arches. The short wheelbase (SWB) keeps the proportions tidy and the overhangs minimal, while the fastback roofline accentuates the low-slung body lines, giving the car a scrappy, fast-even-when-parked, character. I even love the c-pillar’s lack of glass or louvers—no need for unnecessary styling.
Being a member of the 250 family, under the scooped hood lies a Colombo Tipo 125 3.0-liter V12 with an Italian tenor register like no other. With a horsepower output somewhere near 240, it’s worth mentioning the 250 SWB Berlinetta was the first Ferrari GT equipped with four-wheel disc brakes. So it can go and it can stop, but where this prancing horse really gallops is through the twisty pavement.
Thanks to its short wheelbase, double wishbone coil spring front, and semi-elliptical live axle rear suspension configuration, the SWB Berlinetta can switch feet like a Cuban salsa master, albeit one born in 1961. The slippery body, shaped by the same folks who would later bring the 250 GTO, keeps the car nimble—weighing in around 2,400 pounds. In fact, one maneuvered its way to first in the GT class at the 1961 Constructor’s Championship.
This numbers matching road-going version features a fully upholstered interior and a slightly softer but still compliant suspension compared to the hardcore Competizione model. Chassis 2917GT was originally finished in Azzuro light blue and displayed at the 1961 Paris Motor Show. The second owner, who for whatever self-torturous reasoning, only drove black cars—so, he had Carrosserie Chapron paint it black. Between the man who apparently hated having a clean car and 1969, the car was resprayed yet again, but this time in iconic Rosso Corsa. Perhaps not very original, but how can anyone genuinely dislike a red Ferrari?
Since purchasing the car in 1969, the current owner has enjoyed a lengthy near half-century love affair with this Maranello masterpiece. It’s noted the caretaker drove the Ferrari regularly through the French countryside over the past 47 years, and has preserved the overall condition with great care. Other than being manufactured in Italy, the car is said to have remained in France since the 1961 Paris Motor Show—unless you reside in the Land of the Franks, it’s time to change that.
– Displayed at the 1961 Paris Motor Show
– Remained in France since 1961
– Same owner for the last 47 years
~240 hp, Colombo Tipo 125 3.0-liter V12, five-speed manual transmission, front coil sprint double wishbone and rear live axle semi-elliptical suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 2,400 mm.
Chassis no.: 2917GT
Auction house: Artcurial
Price realized: TBD; Auction on 9 July