1963 Ferrari 250 GTL “Lusso” Berlinetta

Late in 1962, at the Paris Show, Ferrari introduced the Lusso Berlinetta, the last of the 250 series. The Lusso combined features of the 250 SWB and the 250 GTO in a beautiful, luxurious steel body by Scaglietti, and was one of Pininfarina’s most successful designs.

The design incorporated aerodynamic refinement, the result of Ferrari’s experience with the round-tailed SWB and the cutoff Kamm tail of the GTO. The sloping back window flowed to the short rear deck and the effective spoiler above the Kamm tail. “Lusso” means luxury, and the car was trimmed with thick carpets and soft leather. Like all Ferraris, the Lusso was a driver’s car, with excellent visibility. In barely 18 months, 350 were built.

Steve McQueen parted with his Lusso in late 1967, after becoming irritated with the smoke under hard acceleration. He had the engine rebuilt but the smoke persisted, so he traded it to Charlie Hayes, ex Can-Am driver and dealer, who advertised it in Competition Press, now AutoWeek. San Francisco collector Tom Sherwood purchased it in July 1972, for $8,000. Sherwood drove it about 6,000 miles and did some restoration during his 25-year ownership. In 1997, he sold it to Mike Regalia, past president of and guiding light behind many of the Nethercutt Collection’s Concours-winning restorations. Regalia called it “the nicest unmolested Lusso that needed a restoration in the world. Cosmetically it was not great, but it ran very well.”

The Lusso’s association with McQueen was undocumented, but SCMer Mike Sheehan obtained the original order by Santa Monica dealer Otto Zipper to Luigi Chinetti showing the purchaser was Steve McQueen. McQueen’s wife, Neile, actually ordered it before his 34th birthday. It quickly became McQueen’s favorite for high-speed road trips. McQueen’s son, Chad, introduced Regalia to McQueen’s friend, photographer William Claxton, and painter Lee Brown, who remembered the Lusso. Claxton had a number of photos of their 1,500-mile trip up Route 1 a week or so after McQueen took delivery. Lee Brown, who repainted the Lusso for McQueen, had a can of touch-up paint marked “McQueen Lusso,” which he had saved for 30 years.

Restoration began in 2000, and Regalia stripped the body to reveal rust-free and undamaged metal. The engine was removed and serviced, but because it had only been 6,000 miles since its last rebuild, the internals required no work. Doing all the metal, mechanical work, and detailing himself, Regalia took his time until March 2005, when Pebble Beach Concours chairman Glen Mounger asked Regalia if the car could be finished for the August occasion, honoring Pininfarina, which meant the restoration went from idle to redline, resulting in a seven-day-a-week push.

The 250 GTL Lusso Berlinetta was shown at the Concours but did not win an award. Additional work followed, which resulted in Platinum Awards at the 2006 Cavallino Classic and Concours on Rodeo Drive and Best in Class at Amelia Island in March 2006. Now in concours condition, it comes with extensive documentation, including a copy of the original order, Lee Brown’s touch-up paint, documentation and photographs by William Claxton, and McQueen’s California license plates.

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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