By the late '50s it was apparent that Ferrari had perfected the dual-purpose gran turismo automobile with its line of 250 GTs. The Colombo-designed V12 had evolved into a powerful engine. More important in racing, where it was said, " to finish first, you must first finish," it was reliable. That reliability carried over to 250 GTs that never saw the race track, creating confident and satisfied owners. By 1961 competition pressure had persuaded Ferrari to create high-performance versions of the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta. Known as the 168 Comp./61s and sometimes called "SEFAC hot rods," one steel-bodied car, built during the construction of many of the Comp./61s, was delivered with a comprehensive selection of Comp./61 performance features, making it a true factory hot rod: 2549GT. 2549GT was built to US specifications. In addition to the Tipo 168F engine, it was built with a cold air box, 40-mm Weber carbs, aluminum front and rear bulkheads, outside fuel filler, ribbed alloy case competition transmission, full Abarth competition exhaust system with SNAP exhaust extractor tips, 8 x 34 (4.25:1) rear axle ratio, black-face competition instruments, a metal dashboard and single floor skins without insulation, all highly specific competition specification items. These features are documented in the Ferrari factory build sheets. Chinetti sold 2549GT upon receipt to pioneer television entertainer and personality Dave Garroway, creator of the Today Show. He paid $17,900 for 2549GT, a premium of some 40% over the New York price of a standard 250 GT SWB Berlinetta. It was never raced, serving only as a road car for Garroway for a period of six years until sold through Atlanta Ferrari dealer Don Fong to Terry King in 1967. King used the car as a daily driver for years, and then commenced a restoration that was, sadly, unfinished at the time of his death by cancer. This SWB is spectacularly presented in a rich dark French Blue with tan leather interior and chrome Borrani wire wheels. It of course retains all its important Comp./61 options. The engine benefited from improved porting and high-lift cams during its rebuild and now delivers more than the factory-rated 285 hp. Organically sensual, superbly restored and uniquely configured, 2549GT is unique among the very small club of Ferrari dual-purpose gran turismos. It has ample room for a week's necessities for two and is ready for the drive to Palm Beach where its performance will startle the competitors at Moroso and its appearance will awe the onlookers at the Cavallino Classic.

SCM Analysis


This Ferrari 250 GT SWB sold for $902,000, including buyer’s premium, at the RM Arizona Biltmore sale, held January 18, 2002.

As the ’50s came to a close, Enzo Ferrari found he needed to do something to improve the cornering speeds of his sports racers. He shortened his current chassis about eight inches to 2400 mm, and the short-wheelbase chassis was born. Pininfarina was selected to dress the chassis and the result was the impressive 250 GT Berlinetta, commonly called the SWB or Short Wheelbase.

Few Ferraris have the desirability of a SWB. They have a handsome profile that draws attention even when surrounded by more exotic machinery. They are comfortable and can effortlessly handle the duties of a vintage tour. They are also extremely potent and capable of running in the front of most vintage races. The SWB is a car you can take to any event and know you brought the right car.

Terry King, a ballroom dance instructor in Atlanta, Georgia, bought this particular car when he was in his early 20s and it was the love of his life. He drove it through college and, as it became a little tatty, he started taking it apart for refurbishing. One thing led to another and the project became a full-blown restoration. As the paint was removed, a seriously distorted front fender-a remnant of a previous botched repair—proved to be a financial hurdle that moved the restoration to the back burner. Over the next 10 years, as his salary allowed, Terry collected parts and restored pieces in preparation of the eventual reassembly. Unfortunately, as the bodywork was finally being performed, Terry succumbed to cancer and never got to see his beloved SWB in its finished state.

The auction text does an excellent job of portraying the unique virtues of SWB S/N 2549GT but, at a price so close to the million-dollar mark, a very special car is expected. 2549GT is just a steel-bodied car without competition history. It was built at a time when special features were not uncommon and its performance is unproven. Its condition and pedigree brought a price just over the high end of the SCM price guide, but $100,000 less than a more worn steel-bodied car with some competition history brought at the Bonhams Gstaad sale a month before.

However, this was a smart purchase. The car has been out of circulation for decades and was relatively unknown, so the exposure it will get in the next few years will embellish its provenance. Purchased by an SCM subscriber who uses his cars, we can expect to see the car at future historic events. I think Terry would be pleased. Steve Ahlgrim

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