1959 Ferrari 250 GT SWB “Competition” Berlinetta Speciale

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.

 

Steve Ahlgrim

Steve Ahlgrim - SCM Contributing Editor

Steve taught high school auto shop before moving to Atlanta, GA, where his love of sports cars led him to FAF Motorcars, the former Ferrari dealer where he served as General Manager and Vice President. He has been a self-proclaimed “one-trick pony,” coveting the Ferrari marque. He has been involved in concours judging for over 25 years and is a member of the IAC/PFA, an international committee overseeing high-level Ferrari concours judging. He is chief judge of the Celebration Exotic Car Show in Celebration, FL.

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