1959 Ferrari 250 GT “Tour de France”Competition Berlinetta

Ferrari’s 250 3-liter LWB Berlinettas so dominated the grueling Tour de France in the mid 1950s, they took their name from it. They racked up a string of victories in the epic French race, scoring a 1-2-3 in 1958, when only 21 of 60 starters finished.

The five-day, 3,300-mile marathon included open road rally stages, six circuit races, two hill climbs, and a 500-meter drag race. The Tour demanded speed and reliability; in 1956, only 37 of 103 starters finished. The winner was the stylish Marquis de Portago driving one of the first LWB Berlinettas, #0557. In winning the 1956 event, the TdF also grabbed the race’s title. Stirling Moss was second in a factory Mercedes 300SL.

In 1957, Oliver Gendebien repeated de Portago’s win in S/N 0677, a works car with the best racing history of any TdF. Gendebien’s car was one of the ten 14-louver cars with the smaller rear window, allowing for a sail panel to accommodate the louvers.

Clothed by Scaglietti in a similar fashion to Pinin Farina’s 250 and 375 Mille Miglia, the first ten cars differed from subsequent TdFs, with a wrap-around rear window and no side louvers. The number of louvers distinguishes the five series of TdFs but it’s as confusing as counting stripes on zebras.

The 14-louver cars were followed in mid-1957 by 15 three-louver cars with new, set-back, covered headlights. These were followed by 29 cars, now with single louvers, but also all with covered headlights, of which this car is the last of that series. Finally, eight single-louver cars were built in 1959 with open headlights as required by a new Italian law. There were also 5 TdF superlight cars with bodies by Zagato.

In all, there are 77 cars from which to choose. But they won’t be cheap. The Scaglietti-built 250 LWB Berlinettas are among the most coveted Ferraris for their great racing history and attractive appearance.

The elegant design and exhilarating performance made the TdFs the first in a series of dual-purpose road/competition cars that evolved into the 250 SWB and finally the most revered dual-purpose Ferrari, the GTO. From 1955 to 1964, the 250 GT in all of its variants was the car that made the Ferrari name famous the world over.

John Apen

John Apen - SCM Contributor

John holds degrees in engineering and operations research from the University of California-Berkeley, New York University, and Johns Hopkins. He vintage raced a Ferrari TdF for 13 years and has been restoring old cars for nearly 50 years. He owned the Atlanta Ferrari-Maserati dealership, FAF, for 17 years. He’s always had an affinity for obscure American cars, and in high school, he drove a 1936 Packard convertible coupe, followed by a 1949 Olds Holiday hardtop that got him through college. Today his garage includes 11 cars, including a Top Flight 1960 Corvette he’s owned since day one, a 1957 T-Bird, and several vintage Ferraris. His automotive library contains over 5,000 magazines and books and 1,800 auction catalogs. He has contributed to SCM since 1996.

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