Michael Furman ©2013, courtesy of RM Auctions
Michael Furman ©2013, courtesy of RM Auctions
The 250 GT SWB was an automobile that could be driven to the racetrack, easily decimate the competition, and then be driven home. Although there were detail differences from car to car, the 250 GT SWB was fundamentally a standardized design. However, that did not stop the demand for custom coachwork. Six chassis utilized custom bodies, with four of those being designed by Pininfarina and the other two built by Carrozzeria Bertone. Offered here is the first Bertone-bodied SWB, chassis number 1739GT. This chassis was graced with a one-off body that was designed by a 21-year-old Giorgetto Giugiaro. Chassis 1739GT got a variety of unique exterior and interior options that would further distinguish it from other SWB models. Regardless of his youth, it was evident that Giugiaro had an eye for design, and the public’s stunned reaction at the first glimpse of the car at the 1960 Geneva Salon clearly helped improve his stature in the industry. Chassis 1739GT enjoys fascinating provenance, as it was commissioned by Dr. Enrico Wax of Genova, Italy. Dr. Wax was a prominent importer of alcohol into Italy. He was a personal friend of Enzo Ferrari and well-known for ordering special Ferraris for his personal use. Dr. Wax expressed an interest in a special Ferrari during a meeting with Enzo at the factory. The men walked to the Competition Department, where Enzo pointed to the first chassis in a line of just three 250 SWBs. Enzo said that even though this specific chassis was earmarked as a Works team car, it would instead be immediately assigned to Wax’s account. Fitted with a brushed stainless-steel roof, rockers, and front and rear valences, there was no doubt to even those unfamiliar with the marque that this was something special. At the front, a one-off wire mesh grille was constructed, headlights were fitted, and a Ferrari badge that was larger than usual was installed on the hood. To many Ferraristi, this design looks somewhat akin to the later 250 GT/L Lusso. Another interesting detail is the installation of a “clam shell” style hood, which allowed the hood and fenders to be flipped forward to expose the entire engine and front portion of the chassis. The front three-quarter panels on either side of the body were adorned with badges that read “Prototype EW,” proclaiming the uniqueness of this vehicle to all who were unaware. The interior was lavish and adorned with rolled, pleated seats, a unique “pistol grip” gear lever, electric windows, and a full set of fitted luggage. The speedometer and tachometer were placed centrally on the dashboard, directly over the transmission tunnel, which was a design that would help to influence the Lusso. Even in terms of previous special-bodied Ferraris, this interior was undoubtedly the height of automotive elegance at the time. Chassis 1739GT has all the characteristics of a Ferrari Works racing car. It features velocity stacks, an aluminum firewall, a drilled transmission mount, polished leaf springs and solid spring bushings. The intake and exhaust ports of the cylinder heads were ground out and polished. It was also the first Ferrari to be fitted with SNAP exhausts. Perhaps the most notable accessory is the red cam covers, which are similar to those affixed to the 250 Testa Rossa, and this is the only known GT to be equipped as such. The Ferrari 250 GT SWB is considered to be one of the greatest dual-purpose sports racing cars of all time. This example takes the historical significance of the SWB one step further, as it combines one-of-a-kind coachwork with one of the greatest sports car underpinnings of all time and a chassis that was originally intended for competition use.  

SCM Analysis


Number Produced:About 90 steel-bodied cars, 75 alloy-bodied
Original List Price:$13,500
Tune Up Cost:$3,000
Distributor Caps:$450 (two required)
Chassis Number Location:Left frame member by steering box
Engine Number Location:Right rear above motor mount
Club Info:Ferrari Club of America
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 136, sold for $7,040,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s “Art of the Automobile” auction at Sotheby’s in New York on November 21, 2013.

We’ve become so numbed with automobiles selling at $10 million, $20 million and even $50 million, that a $7 million sale hardly elicits a yawn. It seems every major auction has a $5,000,000-plus sale, and big auction weeks produce several of these once-unheard-of prices.

Wealthy collectors have been known to buy multiple million-dollar cars in a weekend. There’s hardly a superlative left that hasn’t been used in describing one sale or another, yet there’s an element to the Ferrari 250 SWB market that makes it even more stunning than any of the individual sales.

Any SWB is worth millions

Drag most any crusty Ferrari 250 SWB out of a barn and you’ll have a $4m payday. If it’s a nice, matching-numbers example, add a few million more. If it happens to be an alloy-body factory-comp car with an important history, you might be able to double the last number.

The individual value of a 250 SWB is quite impressive, but it is even more impressive when you factor in how many of these cars were built. The SWB is not a rare one-off or miniscule-production model. There were around 175 of them built. Ferrari 250 SWBs are the most prolific $5m-plus cars on the planet, and the second-place car isn’t even close.

The theoretical value of the 250 SWB production run is, at this moment, just shy of a billion dollars. Chalk it up to the cars’ competition history, their beautiful lines or their easy drivability, collectors like 250 SWBs and will pay up to have one.

Extraordinary — but not the best

RM’s catalog quotes the late Ferrari historian Stan Nowak’s assessment of SWB chassis 1739GT as “possibly the one Ferrari that possesses all the criteria to contend for Best in Show at any major international concours, including Pebble Beach — one-off coachwork, influential design, debut at international salon, commissioned by prominent personality, built on special chassis, abundant bright work, impeccable history.”

Mr. Nowak was part of the team that assembled the Ralph Lauren collection, and his taste was second to none. However, he missed an important point: You could walk right by 1739GT at Pebble Beach without taking a second look. It is a beautiful car and impressive on inspection, but it just doesn’t have the wow factor to draw spectators from across the field.

Indeed, Chassis 1739GT has enjoyed significant concours success, but a Best of Show award is not among them.

Seven million dollars is a huge number, and by itself, that makes 1739GT one of the most valuable cars ever built, but as a 250 SWB, it only ranks in the middle of the price pack. The placement of the car in the hierarchy of the SWB world is no slight against it, but it is instead an endorsement on how right Pininfarina got their design.

Chassis 1739GT is an impressive and an important car, but as a contributor on Ferrari Chat concisely put it, “It has none of the sportiveness of the SWB and none of the sensuality of the Lusso.”

RM offered SWB 1739GT at their 2009 Maranello auction, where it was a no-sale. This time it sold toward the low end of a correct $6,500,000–$8,500,000 estimate. The buyer got a wonderful car, and the seller got the right price.

All this said, it’s interesting to note that, in an important Ferrari collection, 1739GT would be a novelty rather than the centerpiece this sales price might suggest. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Auctions.)

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