|1964 Ferrari 250 GT/L Berlinetta Lusso
|Original List Price:
|Tune Up Cost:
|Chassis Number Location:
|Stamped on the passenger’s side frame rail next to the engine
|Engine Number Location:
|Stamped on a flange on the rear passenger’s side of block
|Ferrari Club of America
|1964–66 Lamborghini 350 GT, 1965 Maserati 500GT, 1964–67 Lancia Flaminia Super Sport, 1963–65 Aston Martin DB5 coupe
This car, Lot 162, sold for $1,975,483, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s London Auction on September 7, 2012.
The Ferrari factory was a busy place in 1962. The final 250s were in development, and engineering was working hard on the company’s next generation of models.
The open-top 250 Pininfarina cabriolet production had just ended, and the California Spyder was being phased out. Work was progressing on the new 275 Spyder, but the model wouldn’t hit the streets until 1965. Once a month, an ultra-exclusive 400 Super America would come off the line, and the 250 GTE production was in full swing — and bringing in cash to pay the development bills.
There was too much going on in the racing department to inventory except to note that the 250 Testa Rossa has just been discontinued and the 250 LM would be introduced in 1964.
The real news at Ferrari surrounded the 2-passenger closed cars.
The Grand Touring 250 Pininfarina coupe was being phased out and wouldn’t be replaced until the 330 GTC came out in 1966. The dual-purpose 250 Short-Wheelbase Berlinetta was also being phased out.
Serious racers had been winning all over the world with SWBs. Non-racers were buying SWBs, emulating their racing heroes. The racing landscape was changing though, and dual-purpose cars were no longer competitive with the factory prepared racing variations. A new era had arrived.
Enter the 250 GT/L
Rather than replace the 250 SWB with another dual-purpose car, Ferrari replaced it with two models. For the serious racer, Ferrari offered the fire-breathing 250 GTO. For the GT driver, the new 250 GT/L was introduced.
The 250 GTE had been a huge hit for Ferrari. Clients liked the idea of having a civilized derivative of a Ferrari’s race car. They liked that the GTE could be used as normal transportation, but the 2+2 configuration was a little too civilized for some clients. The 250 GT/L was introduced for these clients.
The L in 250 GT/L stands for Lusso. Lusso means luxury, which is a misleading descriptor of the new model. While the GT/L was less spartan than the SWB, it was by no means cushy. The seats were form-fitting buckets that sat right on the floor. It took some agility to get into the car — and even more to get out. The steering wheel was a reach away rather than the in-your-chest position that was popular with other sports cars of the period.
The car was noisy, stiff — and completely representative of a proper Ferrari Berlinetta driving experience.
Luxurious to see
The aesthetics of the Lusso is where the luxury is found. Like haute couture fashion, details of design and execution merge to where the result exceeds the sum of the parts.
My wife was sitting next to Chuck Jordan, the late GM vice president of design, at a dinner years ago. She had no idea who he was, but we were at a Maranello event, so the conversation was Ferraris. She asked him which was his favorite Ferrari and why. He was complimentary about several Pininfarina designs but chose the Lusso as his favorite.
Jordan said the car’s lines flowed near perfectly from front to rear. He liked the ratio of glass to metal, and he especially liked the slight lift of the horizontal line as it reached the trailing edge. He noted that he found the center gauge cluster a bit impractical, but he liked that the designer was willing to take a risk to make the car more fun.
It’s interesting to note that the Chevy Vega, which was designed on Jordan’s watch, has a rear end that looks suspiciously similar to the Lusso’s rear.
Welcome to the big time
August 16, 2007, was a gold-star day for Lusso owners. Christie’s Monterey Jet Center auction was in full swing, with a Chestnut Brown 1963 Ferrari Lusso taking center stage. The Lusso had once belonged to Steve McQueen, and there was electricity in the room anticipating the sale.
At the time, $500,000 would have bought a Pebble Beach Lusso. The car came to the stage with an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. Not long after, it exited with a staggering sale price of $2,310,000.
Obviously it was the car’s star status rather than model type that fueled the insanity, but few people in the room that day would have believed that the Lusso would prove to be a sound purchase rather than folly.
Completely unscientifically, I also mark that sale as the point where billionaires’ bank books rather than logic took over the high-end Ferrari market.
Over the next seven years, Lusso values began a meteoric rise.
High prices brought Lussos out of the woodwork, into the restoration shops and onto the auction floors. In 2014, there were at least four Lussos at the Monterey auctions, with one topping the McQueen sale at $2,365,000.
Well bought and sold
SCM’s Paul Hardiman examined Lusso 5885 at RM Sotheby’s sale. He noted minor wear but otherwise found a proper car. In 2014 I would have called 5885 a $2,000,000-plus car. Supply appears to have exceeded demand lately, and despite a $2,300,000 sale a couple of months back, prices just below $2 million seem to be the new norm.
There has been little logic to Ferrari pricing for several years. Sellers find the highest price noted for a similar model and ask more. There’s little reference to the condition or provenance — they just ask more and often have gotten it.
In this case, the buyer was able to acquire a car based on its condition and real value rather than setting a new record and hoping that the market will follow. Both sides got what they deserved on this one. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)