If you can't afford a nice example, you really can't afford a bad one


By the end of the 1950s, the success of rivals Aston Martin and Maserati in providing Grand Touring cars for the enthusiast with a family meant that Ferrari could no longer ignore this increasingly important market sector. There had been four-seater Ferraris before the 250 GTE, with Ghia, Touring and Vignale all producing 2+2 designs in the 1950s, but these attempts had been compromised by the necessity of using a chassis not conceived with passenger carrying in mind and were deemed less than entirely successful. Close collaboration between Ferrari and Pininfarina in the design of Maranello's first series-production four-seater ensured that no such criticism could be leveled at the 250 GTE.
First seen in prototype form at the 1960 Le Mans 24 Hour Race, where it served as the race director's car, the 250 GTE had its official world premiere later that year at the Paris Salon. At 2,600 mm (102 in.) in the wheelbase, the multi-tubular chassis was similar to that of the Pininfarina-designed 250 GT notchback coupe, and 200 mm (7.8 in.) longer than the contemporary 250 GT SWB's. Moving the engine forward by 200 mm and widening the rear track by 38 mm (1.5 in.) made room for the two rear seats.
Independent front suspension, a live rear axle, all-round disc brakes and a four-speed overdrive gearbox completed the basic chassis specification, while the 240-hp engine ensured that there was no reduction in performance despite the inevitable gain in weight. Top speed was within a whisker of 140 mph. One example, driven by Ferrari works driver Phil Hill and carrying two passengers, accelerated from a standstill to 100 mph and back to rest in 25 seconds.
Completed on November 22, 1960, the car on offer here was originally midnight blue with blue leather. Acquired by its current owner in 1995, the car has since benefited from comprehensive restoration at a cost of over $85,000. The body and upholstery were refurbished and the engine, gearbox, differential and brakes were overhauled. The electrical system was rewired and a new stainless steel exhaust was fitted, while the Borrani wire wheels were returned to the factory for rebuilding.
The car is now finished in red with black leather trim, one of the finest 250 GTE Ferraris on the market

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1960 Ferrari 250 GTE
Years Produced:1960-63
Number Produced:955
Original List Price:$11,000
SCM Valuation:$45,000-$75,000
Tune Up Cost:$2,500
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, P. O. Box 720597, Atlanta, GA 30358
Alternatives:1953-55 Aston Martin DB2/4, 1963-68 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, 1962-65 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III
Investment Grade:C

This 1960 Ferrari 250 GTE sold for $67,973 at Bonhams’ Gstaad auction, held December 4, 2004.
My first experience with a 250 GTE came on my second day in the Ferrari business. I was given a cutting torch and assigned the task of severing the body from the chassis of a parts car. Back in 1979, nasty, rusted, worn-out GTEs were relatively common. It was not unusual for these cars to serve as daily drivers, and after suffering their fair share of abuse, end up being discarded. So we were scavenging the sheet metal to use for potential accident or rust repair, with the frame destined to go to the scrap yard.
Today, of course, the idea of throwing away any piece of a vintage Ferrari is not just heresy, but entirely stupid. A used and abused GTE would just as likely be restored as cast off, and you can rest assured that a derelict chassis would become the seed from which some replica, most often a GTO or Testa Rossa, would sprout.
The 250 series did more to establish the Ferrari name and legend than any other model. Its success on the race track cemented Ferrari’s reputation as the premier builder of dual-purpose racing automobiles, while its popularity as a production model provided the much-needed capital to establish Ferrari as a serious manufacturer with an international distribution network.
Today, we may lust after 250 models with names like Lusso, Testa Rossa, and GTO, but back in its day, the 250 GTE was Ferrari’s most popular model, more than doubling the sales of any other 250 variant.
There were three series of the 250 GTE, plus a few 330 Americas that were 250 GTE Series IIIs fitted with the 330 engine. The three series were very similar, with most differences confined to cosmetics. There is little difference in value among any of these four-seaters, although the 330 America does tend to be the more desirable model due to its larger displacement V12.
In the long-brewing controversy as to which is the best “starter” Ferrari, the choices are usually the 1963-68 330 GT 2+2, 1959-62 250 Pininfarina coupe, and the GTE. While there are technical reasons to prefer the later 330 GT 2+2, like the availability of air conditioning, power steering, and a five-speed gearbox, my choice would still lean towards the GTE.
It’s not a big stretch to compare either the PF coupe or the GTE to any of the great 250s. The mechanicals are reasonably similar, as are the sound and feel of the cars. But the GTE edges out the PF coupe with a better driving position and more attractive cosmetics. If you can find a good one, a GTE can be a very rewarding buy.
But the entry price of a GTE is only the beginning of your ownership cost. The maintenance schedule and expense of these cars is equal to that of the exotic two-seater 250s, cars whose prices contain seven digits. If that’s not scary enough, most GTEs tend to be high-mileage cars that were passed along to less affluent owners as they aged, people for whom maintenance could be entirely unaffordable.
As in the case of the 1960 250 GTE pictured here, the cost of refurbishing a rough GTE will quickly exceed the car’s value. This is a case where if you can’t afford a nice example, you really can’t afford a bad one.
While this car was extensively refurbished about ten years ago, it reportedly showed some needs when offered at Gstaad. I am told that the engine number was also suspiciously missing, certainly causing some sales resistance. The $68k price thus fell far short of both the optimistic $94,000 high estimate, as well as the $85,000 that was being asked for the car by a Swiss dealer just a few months earlier.
This was a classic case of buying the restoration at a discount and getting the car for free. Assuming the condition was appropriate to the repair bills, it sounds like the buyer should be pleased with his purchase, and the seller will be hiding both the restoration bills and the Bonhams check from his wife.

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