The Paris Salon in 1959 saw the introduction of a Ferrari 250GT Short Wheelbase Berlinetta, a direct development of the Long Wheelbase car known as the Tour de France. Built on the 94.5-inch wheelbase chassis powered by the 3-liter V12 engine, the new and exciting Gran Turismo car was destined for many racing successes. Perhaps more than any other Ferrari, before or since, here was a car equally at home on a racetrack or road. A quick change of plugs, racing tires and a roll bar and the Ferrari 250 SWB could contest its class at Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring, win the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood, the Tour de France and 1000km at Montlhery.
The 250GTs made between 1959 and 1964 were one of Ferrari’s most prolific cars of the period. They had multi-tube chassis frames, independently sprung at the front, but with a live axle on half elliptic springs at the rear. It was equipped with a variety of bodies, by which Ferrari graduated from being a constructor of cars in small batches of twos and threes into proper series production.
They were still exclusive, still beautifully made, but they were production cars nonetheless and it was possible to discover two examples the same – something unlikely as long as Ferrari remained a strictly bespoke manufacturer. Yet the temptation to make a few specialist neo-racing cars for competition or highly favored customers was one Ferrari could never resist. So, among the host of production 250GTs there appeared only 175 Short Wheelbase Berlinettas, of which around a quarter had lightweight competition bodywork, made by Scaglietti.
These lightweight aluminum cars were introduced for competition use and therefore had fewer road car comforts; for example, the dashboards were painted matte black instead of being leather trimmed, and Perspex windscreens instead of glass. Power of the 3-liter was quoted at 280bhp at 7,000rpm and with an on-road full tank weight of 2,110 lbs, provided impressive performance with top speed over 160mph.
Chassis No. 3539 was originally imported into the US by Luigi Chinetti and, according to the factory, prepared and raced in the 1962 12 Hours of Sebring. It remained in America for many years and was badly crashed. It was eventually purchased by Massimo Columbo and the rebuilding of the car began in the early 1980s using Engine No. 1613, an SWB Competizione engine.
The specific history on Number 3539 is disputed and potential owners are advised to read all commentaries before taking a view.
When Terry Hoyle, a recognized Ferrari specialist received the car in the late 1980s, it was a rolling chassis with a new Scaglietti-built alloy body. Hoyle completed the car to his normal high standards and it has since been used on numerous long distance rallies.