|Vehicle:||1956 Ferrari 250 GT TdF|
|Original List Price:||$11,000|
|SCM Valuation:||"standard" TdF $600-000-$800-000|
|Tune Up Cost:||$1,500|
|Distributor Caps:||2@ $250 each|
|Chassis Number Location:||front frame tube|
|Engine Number Location:||engine rear mount|
|Alternatives:||250 SWB, 250 MM|
$753,000 bought the TdF pictured here at Brooks Europe’s May 27th Monaco auction. The amount was on the high side, given the condition of this car. But its no-surprises, no-excuses provenance and competition history, as detailed in Jess Pourret’s definitive 250 GT Competition book, The Ferrari Legend Since 1977, added significantly to this car’s appeal to serious collectors.
The TdF was the first in a series of dual-purpose road/competition cars that evolved into the 250 Short Wheelbase Berlinetta (SWB) and finally the most highly valued dual-purpose Ferrari, the GTO. From 1955 to 1964, the 250 GT in its various guises was the car that spread the Ferrari name the world over. Driven mostly by amateur owner/drivers, the 3-liter Berlinettas won an astonishing number of races, including three consecutive World Championships. They also won nine consecutive victories in the grueling Tour de France multi-day speed and reliability contest.
In 1958, George Arents drove 0773 to fourteen East Coast SCCA races, winning thirteen of them. In 1978, Bob Bodine drove 0677 (see SCM cover, July 2000) to the Atlanta Ferrari Club Meeting from Minnesota. And in 1994 I drove 0703, another 14-louver TdF, 2,600 miles from Atlanta to Laguna Seca, raced it and drove it home.
Here is how the model evolved. The 3-liter competition cars on the Long Wheelbase (LWB) chassis are relatively rare, with ninety-two Berlinettas produced in five series as the design evolved from 1955-1959. Almost all have survived, one literally brought back from the dead after being burned, stripped and buried.
Under the name LWB Berlinetta, the first series of eight 3-liter cars were built in 1955 and early 1956, bodied primarily by Pinin Farina (PF), with aluminum coachwork. Most of these looked similar to PF’s striking 250 MM coupe.
Scaglietti then produced the second series, nine cars with minor variations on the PF design. The TdF moniker arrived when the playboy Marquis de Portago, in the seventh Scaglietti-bodied car built, won the 1956 Tour de France race, besting Stirling Moss in a Gullwing. These nine cars still had a wrap-around rear window without the louvers on the sail panel that later came to characterize the TdF design. 0507 is the second car built in this series.
The next nine Scaglietti cars, the third series, were quite different in appearance and are the first of what many consider the true TdF design, which is characterized by a non-wrap-around rear window and 14 louvers in the sail panel for improved cabin ventilation.
In late ’57, the 14 louvers gave way to three large slots and the front was changed to attractive covered headlights on the next fifteen cars, the fourth series. The final forty cars, the fifth series, had a single louver and the same covered-headlight front end, except for the final eight which were forced in 1959 by Italian law to have open (uncovered) headlights.
Is 0507, pictured here, a remarkable original? Most of the body is original and it has the original engine. This is noteworthy but not unique. The 250 Berlinettas were almost all raced and a quick perusal of period photos shows that many were involved in shunts, some completely destroying the body, most just resulting in a crooked “smile” from the front. As Jess Pourret says in his book, “it must be remembered that Scaglietti could make a complete body easier than repairing crushed aluminum, and at a low cost which today seems incredible.”
In late 1957, Scaglietti partially re-bodied 0507. The front end was redone with crisper front fender lines, a lower nose, a much smaller grille and covered lights. In 1964, it was, according to Pourret, again modified, front and rear, this time in Switzerland.
With the exception of the first (0503) of these second series TdFs, the remaining eight have most of their original bodywork.
The front modifications on 0507 are not considered by most observers to be one of the more successful Scaglietti re-designs. The less-than-attractive rear-end treatment, done for visual, not competition purposes in 1964, deserves no comment, only quick evisceration. Warren Fitzgerald, author of the famous Merritt and Fitzgerald book Ferrari: The Sports and GT Cars, spoke to the Ferrari Club Annual Meeting in 1971 about TdFs. His slide showed 0507 with its current paint scheme and body modifications and he described it as: “thoroughly bastardized and it’s a crying shame.”
The Brooks catalog states that second series “TdF are widely accepted as being the most desirable and valuable.” Perhaps. But asking which series TdF is the most desirable is like asking which ’95 French cabernet is the best. Many serious collectors would put the later, 14-louver cars at the top of the heap. Supposedly, the owner of a well-raced 14-louver TdF has turned down $2 million (SCM July 2000, page 6). Still others prefer any of the forty-five covered-headlight, 3- or 1- louver cars. From the point of verified sales, the highest recent price was for one of the three lightweight double-bubble Zagato TdFs, $1.7 million for 0665 (one of two built in the second series of TdFs).Any car that has been in a museum for thirty-two years, even if it’s a museum in a castle as 0507 was, is going to require serious mechanical work before the new owner blasts away at the next TdF or MM retrospective.
Bottom line, 0507 has a well-known provenance, some competition history, and a cobbled-up, partially original body. It’s a nice but not great TdF and Brooks revealed all the salient facts. But 0507 may need complete mechanical restoration. It definitely needs a new tail and maybe a nose before making its debut in proper Ferrari society. $100-200,000 should get the job done. Thus, like most restoration projects, it was probably a bit over priced. However, the new owner of 0507 is not a dot-com novice with stars in his eyes and stock options in his pockets. It was purchased by an East Coast SCM subscriber who has previously bought project cars and taken them to Class and Best of Show wins at Pebble Beach. He knew exactly what he was buying and paid exactly what he thought was a fair price for this particular piece of merchandise.
As the prices of TdFs, SWBs and GTOs continue to rise, this car was simply the best unrestored example available on the day of sale, and the price redefines the current market. Upwards, again.
(Photo and description courtesy of auction company.)