Cars that were once wild girlfriends have become trophy wives, with all the cattiness that accompanies competitive collecting
By 1962, it was becoming clear that the 250 GTO was no longer competitive, and something completely new was required. So starting in 1961, Ferrari began experimenting with a rear-engine design.
A series of V6 and V8 prototypes named "Dino," after Ferrari's late son, were developed, and their early success seemed to show that Ferrari was on the right track. The new layout provided better balance and improved traction with the engine over the driving wheels. The result was the 250 P.
Completely new in appearance, it incorporated a rear-mounted transaxle and a dry-sump version of the venerable V12 engine. The 250 P enjoyed considerable success, including the ultimate sports car racing achievement-victory at the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans.
With a replacement for the 250 GTO now due, the easiest solution was to put a roof on the 250 P. Pininfarina accepted the assignment, and the result was the unconventional but undeniably pretty 250 Le Mans Berlinetta, or 250 LM. The only hurdle remaining was homologation in the GT class. Enzo Ferrari told the FIA that the new 250 LM was a variant of the 250 GTO. Even the car's name was part of the strategy. Given that all but the first prototype were fitted with the 3.3-liter version of the Columbo V12, the car should have been called the 275 LM. Unfortunately, it was all in vain, as even the FIA could not be convinced that the radically new sports car, with its rear engine, transaxle, and all new bodywork, was in any way related to the GTO.
The 1965 Ferrari Berlinetta presented here, 250 LM s/n 6173, was sold in April 1965 to the Italian Scuderia Sant Ambroeus Racing Team. Driver Edoardo Lualdi Gabardi scored fine placings in Italian club races, while in international events, drivers Tarainazzo/Signala teamed up for several successful events, including a first in class at the 1965 Targa Florio. The Scuderia then sold 6173 to Swiss Ferrari dealer Peter Monteverdi, who registered the car for street use for its subsequent owner.
|Vehicle:||1965 Ferrari 250 LM Berlinetta|
|Original List Price:||$20,000|
|Chassis Number Location:||Rear cross member on gearbox bracket|
|Engine Number Location:||Right rear of block on side|
|Club Info:||Ferrari Owners Club 18000 Studebaker Rd., Ste. 700 Cerritos, CA 90703|
|Alternatives:||1969 Ford GT40, 1965 Shelby Cobra Daytona coupe, 1970 Porsche 917K|
This 1965 Ferrari 250 LM Berlinetta sold for $3,617,020, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s Automobiles of London auction at Battersea Evolution, London, on October 29, 2008.
Though various front-engined racing Ferraris were converted to street use, very few of the mid-engined racers can claim such use as part of their resume. By the mid-1960s, racing had become way too specialized. I can personally attest that this car legitimately tried, though. Its history shows that it came to the U.S., then ended up for sale in Seattle. In the spring of 1969, I was visiting friends when I wandered into Contemporary Classics, a small exotic car dealership.
Down in the basement was a Lusso with a crunched fender and a “streetable” 250 LM Berlinetta, both for sale. I was hooked. I figured out that I could barely afford the Lusso (which I bought), but they wanted $11,000 for the LM, so it was way out of my range.
A friend did take it out for an after-midnight “test drive” and tells of coming back downtown on the freeway, pretty much flat out in top gear, and passing a cop who was doing about 60 mph. The cop turned on his lights but was out of sight behind the LM in moments.
My friend bailed off the freeway and sneaked home on back streets, living one of those fantasies we used to get away with now and then. The LM was a terrible street car, by the way, a softer clutch and mufflers (and a heater!) being the only concessions made to civility.
Beaten up horribly in its “retirement”
Forty years later, here I am writing about it. We’ve both seen a lot of miles since then, though I hope to claim this 250 LM Berlinetta has had a rougher life. I’ve often held forth on these pages about how racing cars are seldom the blushing virgins that collectors who spend megabucks to own them would like them to be, but this car is different in that it survived its racing career unscathed, only to be beaten up horribly in its “retirement.”
In 1973, the car left the road in a Nevada event and plunged into a twelve-foot ditch. It was badly damaged. The insurance company totaled it and the wreck was sold to an ex-NART mechanic who restored it himself over a period of years. In the process, the front bodywork was rebuilt to standards maybe acceptable in 1976, but not today.
There followed a rather uneventful 30 years with a succession of owners, including a sale at RM’s Amelia Island auction in 2000 (for $2,310,000, SCM# 18038). A few years ago it was launched off the road at the Modena Cento Ore Classic, only to land on its roof. Though fixed, the damage was done-yet another story. Somewhere along the way it also lost its correct Borrani wire wheels and got a set of five-spokes, along with some truly awful mirrors on stalks. When it showed up at this auction, it had a lot of asterisks attached to it.
Though we all get misty-eyed when we think back on the good old days when these cars were bad boy toys, flung about with joyous abandon in midnight romps that presumed disposability of the cars and immortality of the drivers, the reality is that Ferrari collectors today are generally a very sniffy bunch. The cars that were once wild girlfriends have become trophy wives, with all the cattiness that goes along with competitive collecting. Tawdry backgrounds extract a toll when the world knows what you’re showing. And in today’s wired world, rare is the important car that comes to market without its every secret revealed.
A real car that needs a nose job
In an environment that prides itself on blemish-free perfection, this car is what I characterize as “les dregs de la crème.” There’s no doubt it is part of the “crème.” It’s a real car with a good competition history, and it has its original engine and transaxle, mostly (if not completely) original frame and suspension, and it appears to be in excellent mechanical condition. The body, particularly the nose, is not correct, and apparently the tanks and exhaust are incorrect as well, but it’s a real, honest 250 LM Berlinetta. It’s just not a very good example. Think of it like the nick and dent rack in a very snooty and exclusive store; you can find tremendous value if you’re willing to ignore the whispering and raised eyebrows from the people who are proud of buying off the front display.
I’m interested that the vendor didn’t choose to spend the time and money to resolve the various issues before putting it up for auction; even paying factory prices, they could have been largely dealt with for a fraction of the car’s value. On the other hand, there is something refreshing about an old racing car with intervening history being presented and sold as such, blemishes and all. The market for “crème de la crème” LMs is about $7 million these days (even post-crisis), so this example sold at a huge discount. If the buyer was looking for an honest old Ferrari 250 LM for a collection, not a bauble to dazzle the audience, I’d say this car represents excellent value. Well bought.