{vsig}2010-9_2525{/vsig}The LWB Berlinetta was one of the great Ferrari racing cars and was the start of the 250 GT Berlinetta’s competition career. It would win more races than either of its legendary successors, the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta or the 250 GTO.

Introduced in October, 1954 at the Paris Salon, it was a refined evolution of the competition 250 MM. A 2,600 mm, 102.3-inch, chassis with wishbones, and coil springs replaced the elliptic leaf spring front suspension of the earlier Ferraris. The first prototype was built by Pinin Farina who developed five more prototypes. One ended up with the Marquis de Portago, and in December 1955, he scored the first victory for the new car in the Tour de France Race, a multiday competition over French roads, with hill climbs and circuit races.  Ferrari fans quickly seized on Portago’s victory to nickname his winning mount the “Tour de France.” The type won the Tour de France three more times and “TdF” became its moniker.  Scaglietti in Modena built the first production car in November 1956, and then built about 65 over the next three years.

The Scaglietti version had three variations of the body, characterized by the number of ventilation louvers in the sail panel. About 29 series III cars with single louver vent were built. This  version, #0925, is a single-louver car, finished in December 1957 with a factory roll bar. The car was sent to Santa Monica Ferrari dealer Otto Zipper, who sold it to Bill Harrah, the casino owner and possessor of an extraordinary car collection that he had started assembling in the late 1940s. At its peak, he had 1,200 cars, and his personal collection included four Ferraris: this 250 GT Tour de France, a 166MM, a 250 LM, and a 410 Superamerica. By 1964, his car dealership, Modern Classic Motors, became the Ferrari distributor for 11 western states.

Chassis 0925 GT remained in Harrah’s Reno, Nevada collection for 30 years. In 1986, it was sold to a California collector, and in October 1988 it sold at the Orion Monaco Ferrari auction, for $874,680. In 1992, it was traded to Japan in partial exchange for a 330 LMB.

Harald Mergard of Germany was the next owner in 1993, and he drove it in the 1993 TdF retrospective. Terry Hoyle rebuilt the engine and drove the car for the Mille Miglia and the Coppa d’Oro. In 1993, the gearbox and steering box were rebuilt. In 1994, the car was restored by Ferrari specialists DK Engineering in England. The car ran again, in the Mille Miglia, in 1995 and again in 1998. In 2004, the car was shown at the Cartier Concours at the Goodwood Festival.

The car shows less than 17,600 miles, and this is almost certainly original mileage. Never raced in period and stored for many years in Harrah’s collection, it’s the most original Tour de France Ferrari we’ve ever offered. Its all-alloy bodywork, covered headlamps and red finish are a feast for the eyes. It was Ferrari Classiche Certified in 2009.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1957 Ferrari 250GT LWB Berlinetta Tdf
Years Produced:1956 - 59
Number Produced:(All variations):84
Original List Price:$12,500
SCM Valuation:$1.25m - $2.8m
Tune Up Cost:$2.80
Distributor Caps:$600
Chassis Number Location:Front frame tube
Engine Number Location:Engine rear mount
Club Info:Ferrari Club of America P.O Box 720597, Atlanta, Ga. 30358
Alternatives:250 SWB, 250 LWB California

#0925 brought $3,191,664, at RM’s Monaco auction on May 1, 2010, which is a strong price for a TdF Berlinetta. The pre-auction estimate was what we thought to be an aggressive $2.7m to $3.2m.  

Many car collectors rightly ask why these old Ferraris can bring such prices, eclipsing most of the valuable, pre-war “Full Classics,” which were once the standard of the car collecting world.

One reason why old things become valuable is excellence at the time of their conception. The competition successes of the TdFs attest to their superiority at the top of international competition. But their dual nature also enchants collectors around the world.  These cars can be used on a daily basis, and then taken to the track, headlights taped up and raced to win—not just at some local race but also at prestigious international events.

For instance, George Arents, the silent partner of Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti,  drove his TdF, 0773, to East Coast SCCA races in 1958. There were no trailers with his team. When he passed through New York, he would stop at Chinetti’s in Greenwich, CT and have the oil changed and the car serviced. Arents came in first in GT or first in class in 13 events.  
But the days of buying a sports car that doubled as a daily driver and race track competitor ended in the late 1960s. Cars that can do both astounded drivers decades ago, and they can bring astonishing prices today.

One man’s fast seduction

In period, there was nothing like these dual-purpose Ferraris. For instance, consider this story of how a wealthy enthusiast came to acquire this car, his first Ferrari, in 1958:

“I was interested in speed and performance; I’d been reading about Ferrari over the years. But there were drawbacks— a Chrysler 300 cost about $5,000. Ferraris were 140 to 150 mph, but they were $18,000 and $23,000 and all sorts of goofy numbers—just unthinkable.

“So I went by the agency just to look. I had no thought of buying one, but I was very tempted. It was a beautiful car. Richie Ginther, who won the 1965 Formula One Mexican Grand Prix, was the sales manager. He very politely, asked me if I wanted a demonstration. I said, ‘Yes.’ He took me up on Mulholland Drive in Hollywood, which I was familiar with because I was raised there. I knew what you could do there in a ‘26 Chevy or a ‘36 Lincoln. He took me in the Ferrari over the same road at double the speeds I’d ever ridden. He was a super driver, a Grand Prix driver. That, plus the car, was just unbelievable. He let me drive; I’d never driven a car like that! It made the Chrysler 300 feel like an old truck.

I  was really tempted. ‘How much is it?’ It was $12,500. The one I was driving was the only one they had, and it would be a little while before they’d get some more. ‘Okay,’ I finally said. I had $12,500, and I wrote him a check. I remember saying to myself, almost as if I’d just awakened with a hangover, ‘What a damn fool I was! God, I’m paying $12,500.’ That was 1958, and that would be like paying $150,000 today, in 1978—just something you don’t think about, but you go ahead and do it. You look at yourself in the mirror, and you think, ‘God, do I have control of myself?’”

Bill’s Car

That slightly giddy new Ferrari owner was Bill Harrah.

Not everybody who had the nerve to venture into a Ferrari dealer got a demonstration ride with Richie Ginther.  Few people who looked at a LWB Berlinetta already had 500 cars.

Harrah was mightily impressed, as he recalled in the taped, stream-of-consciousness interviews finished in early June 1978, a few weeks before his untimely death.  So, he bought his first Ferrari, despite having a bad case of buyer’s remorse. It was our subject car.

As Dean Batchelor said in his Ferrari Buyers Guide, 0925 was finished off pretty luxuriously. As Harrah said,   ”It was fast, and it was a road car.” Harrah drove the car as daily transportation for a time.

A daily driver and a track competitor

So, these 53-year-old cars can be driven in any vintage event with no problems, and you can drive them to work.

To honor Chinetti and Arents, my son joined me in 1994 to drive my TdF, 0703, from Atlanta to Laguna Seca. We drove more than 3,000 miles in five days without any backup vehicle.
When new, this car was first delivered to an Italian sportsman, who promptly steered it to the starting line of the 1957 Mille Miglia—and then drove it by himself the 1,000 miles in a little over 10 hours. He finished fourth in GT class and ninth overall.

We raced our TdF in the Monterey Historics race, finished and then won the “The Way it Was” trophy embodying the spirit of GT cars. After the award, a Ford executive and vintage race fan stated in an email: “I’ve witnessed the award ceremony for 12 years, and your win was by far the most popular. Fantastic!”

Vintage racers appreciate the spirit of the great Ferrari GTs.

Our own Keith Martin once wrote, “Technology and progress has led to the demise of the ‘gentleman racer’ driving a Ferrari SWB or TdF.” And he was right.

Many sports cars built before 1968 could be used in competition or on the street. This is certainly not true with modern race cars, which simply can’t live if they’re not on a race track. Today you can still drive your 1960s Ferrari down the boulevard, and if the right opportunity presents, you might blow the doors off a $100k BMW or Mercedes at the top end. The only problem is that it will take $3m or more to get a vintage Ferrari capable of this.

Considering other recent sales of top-end Ferraris, the $3.2m paid for this car is a reasonable price, and this car, as a recognized blue-chip Ferrari collectible, will always have a following and a market. Well bought.

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