Tag Archives: Ferrari 250 GT SWB

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Ferrari at the Castle

A late summer day spent at Blenheim Palace for Salon Privé was followed 24 hours later by a grey autumnal day, also in the company of fantastic cars, this time the venue was Windsor Castle. The reason for this was attending the 2016 Concours of Elegance, repeating its visit to Berkshire back in 2012. Using my Ferrari test what was the level of the show?

 

In a word, sublime. This Ecurie Francorchamps Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Competizione aka Daytona is typical of the rare and authentic gathering of Maranello’s finest seen in the Upper Ward. Chassis 16425 was the final Competition Daytona to built, car number five in 1973 and number fifteen overall. Jacques Swaters was the customer and, as was his tradition, his Ferrari was painted in a distinctive yellow or Giallo Fly.

The Daytona raced in two major international events in ’73, Spa 1000Kms, finishing 12th overall in the hands of Teddy Pilette and Richard Bond. A month later Bond shared a run to 20th place in the Le Mans 24 Hours with Jean-Claude Andruet.

The Daytona made its way across the English Channel where it has resided ever since, running in national events, usually with Mike Salmon driving. It is believed to be the only unrestored Competizione Daytona and is almost completely the same as it was leaving the factory.

Not all the 60 cars on display were completely unfamiliar to me, this unique Ferrari Testarossa Spider was built for none other than Gianni Agnelli, the President of Fiat, on the occasion of his 20th anniversary at the helm of the Italian industrial empire.

Indeed I had encountered this special car back in February at the Rétromobile and wrote about at the TIME

The Testarossa Spider was by no means the only car that was specially made for Agnelli by Ferrari. In 1955 he commissioned this famous Ferrari 375 America that made its first appearance at the Turin Show. The nose resembled a Facel Vega, the A-pillar is tilted forward, there are fins on the rear deck and a transparent panel in the roof.

Add in a red-green paint job and you have a striking car that attracts admiration when seen in person.

Almost as rare as the Testarossa Spider is this beast, the 288 GTO Evoluzione, dating from 1986. Just six of these fearsome contraptions were built by Michelotto in anticipation of the FIA Group B regulations being applied to the tracks as well as the forests. My previous POST gives a fuller account of why the FIA cancelled their own regulations leaving the Porsche 961 and the 288 GTO Evoluzione with nowhere to play, though the Porsche did make two appearances at Le Mans in ’96 and ’97.

Actually, according to Joe Sackey, the MAN when it comes to the 288 GTO, Ferrari dropped the 288 from the Evolution model so it should be referred to as GTO Evoluzione but hardly anyone pays attention to that.

The figures for the GTO Evoluzione are staggering considering what the opposition were doing at that point 30 years ago. Power of 650bhp meant accelerating 0-60mph in just 4 seconds and a top speed of 229.9mph was quoted, Mamma Mia!

Perhaps the most important role that the GTO Evoluzione played was in acting as a test mule for the F40 that would be launched the following year. To see one of these elusive wonders of the Maranello World in the flesh is truly impressive.

There are few cars that have an entire book dedicated to them, much less by a historian as respected as Doug Nye, but Ferrari 250 GT SWB, chassis #2119, is one of such a select group. The Ferrari was delivered to Rob Walker and Dick Wilkins in mid-1960 and Stirling Moss was scheduled to drive it at the Goodwood Tourist Trophy in August. This despite not being fully recovered from his serious injuries sustained in the Belgian Grand Prix two months earlier. Moss ignored the pain and put on a fantastic show to crush the opposition, with the performance passing into legend as Moss turned on the car’s radio to hear the BBC commentary on his race.

In an earlier book about the Ferrari 250 GT SWB, Nye found that Moss was really enthusiastic about the car. “It was quite surprising how good it was – a really comfortable Grand Touring car; with good brakes, a super engine and crisp gearbox, and unusual in that it would not lift its inside rear wheel despite that old-fashioned live axle……. quiet difficult to fault, in fact.”

Moss took two further victories that season and #2119 was sold on to Tommy Sopwith’s Equipe Endeavour who scored another three wins in 1961, with promising new-boy and future Ferrari Grand Prix driver, Mike Parkes, behind the wheel.

Several well-known owners followed for the Ferrari such as Neil Corner and Sir Antony Bamford till in 2014 #2119 was acquired by Ross Brawn, the legendary engineer who was an integral part of the successes of the Schumacher era at Ferrari. Subsequently Brawn ran a team under his own name and won the Formula One World Championships in 2009. Brawn GP was then purchased by Mercedes-Benz and has formed the foundation for their tremendously successful team that currently dominates F1.

For Brawn #2119 is a dream come true. “When #2119 came up for sale I decided it was such a unique car that I had have it as well; I had to muster everything I could to buy it. To me it’s as aesthetically perfect as you can get for a sports racing car of that era. The historical connection means a lot to me because when I drive it I think of Stirling.”

The Ferrari 250 GTO succeeded the SWB as Ferrari’s GT standard bearer and has now become the most valuable and desired car in the world. Just 39 examples were built and #3729 was ordered by John Coombs, the Jaguar dealer from Guildford, who was a prominent driver and entrant in the ’50s and ’60s.

The line up of drivers who got behind the wheel in the ’62 to ’64 seasons was pretty special, Graham Hill (in the year that he won his first World Championship) , Roy Salvadori, Richie Ginther, Mike Parkes and Jack Sears. A second place in the ’62 Goodwood Tourist Trophy, courtesy of Graham Hill, would be the highlight of #3729’s career.

Somewhere along the way #3729 was repainted red but the current owner had the distinctive off-white colour restored recently, and it is much the better for this.

A decade before the GTO, Ferrari were turning out very competitive racers such as this Ferrari 212 Inter Vignale Coupé. It proudly sports number 52 as running under that designation it finished first in the 1953 Coppa InterEuropa held at Monza and driven by the Ferrari agent for Milan, Franco Cornacchia.

A few weeks later #0237EU scored a class win in the Bologna-Raticosa Hillclimb. Subsequently the 212 was sold on to Venezuela and then to the USA, finally returning to Europe in 1986, since then it has become a regular in the historic racing scene.

Ferrari was not just about racing, the line of fast and luxurious Gran Turismos became another thread of the legend of Maranello. The Ferrari 500 Superfast has been compared to the Bugatti Royale and in the Tanner/Nye master-work Ferrari it was described as; “This was the ultimate in front-engined Ferraris for those who like the Rolls-Royce touch with their performance.” 

The 500 Superfast was popular with royalty, The Shah of Iran ordered two, the Aga Khan and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands each had one. Other notable owners that give the Rolls-Royce reference such substance included, Gunter Sachs, Otis Chandler, Barbara Hutton and Peter Sellers. It remains one of the most sought-after Ferraris.

One very special Ferrari that was on display at Windsor Castle is this gorgeous 250 GT SWB California Spider. What makes this example unique is that the first owner from Milan specified it with right-hand drive and it is the only example of the 57 cars built with this configuration. He wanted to race the car and felt that RHD would be the optimal arrangement.  In fact he did compete in just one race, the Trofeo Pacor in ’62, finishing 5th.

Although the California Spider was not intended for competition both the LWB and SWB variants did race at a range of venues including Le Mans, Sebring and Targa Florio as well as club events and hill climbs. The best result for the SWB brigade was 12th overall for Allen Newman, Gaston Andry and Robert Publicker in the 1961 12 Hours of Sebring, widely regarded as the toughest endurance race of them all.

The 250 GT SWB California Spider attracted many owners from the creative arts, in France these included Alain Delon, Roger Vadim and Brigitte Bardot, Johnny Halliday and François Sagan. In the US Bob Hope, James Coburn, Barbara Hershey and Ralph Lauren all have enjoyed the pleasures of driving the California Spider. The jaw-dropping good looks and almost perfect proportions will have appealed to these stars of stage and screen, that and it being a Ferrari.

The Concours of Elegance has passed my Ferrari test with flying colours, the question is what will we find when the circus assembles again at Hampton Court Palace 1-3 September? My advice is to grab a ticket and go along, it is truly one of the great motoring displays.

Finally, on behalf of all who toil at DDC Towers, may I wish our readers a happy and healthy 2017.

John Brooks, January 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Regent Street Experience

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Great Britain’s capital, London, has a fair number of landmarks that are famous all over the globe. Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament are examples of this notoriety, so is Piccadilly Circus. If one heads north from the statue of Eros, the centrepiece of the latter, it will be along Regent Street, one of the major shopping streets in the West End of London. It was named after the Prince Regent (later George IV) and is associated with the architect John Nash, whose street layout survives, even if all bar one of his creations have vanished.

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Busy as this tourist boulevard is, the last Saturday of last month it was closed to traffic from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus for the Regent Street Motor Show. This festival is part of a week-long celebration of cars, The London Motor Week, promoted by the Royal Automobile Club. The organisers claim that hundreds of thousands attended on Saturday, it certainly was busy and the clement weather will have tempted out the crowds.

The central attraction on display was a collection of around 100 cars due to take part in 2015 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, the following day.

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The trip from London to the South Coast’s largest city is now the world’s longest running motoring event. First held in 1927, it is a re-enactment of the original Emancipation Run, which was held on 14th November 1896 to celebrate the passing into law of the Light Locomotives Act which raised the speed limit to 14mph and removed the need for a person to walk in front of a mechanised vehicle waving a red flag to warn other road users. The irony of the Health & Safety Regulation-driven use of marshals to escort the cars to their assigned parking spots was obviously lost in translation………ah well.

The participants for the run were from all over the world, accents from Australia, New Zealand mingled with distinctive American twangs, the veteran car fraternity are a cosmopolitan bunch who really get into the spirit of the event with period costume, it is automotive street theatre.

This group of Italians had quite a tale to tell about their Isotta Fraschini dating back to 1902. For those of you who have not heard of this fine Italian car company they produced luxury limousines that were much sought after by stars of Hollywood and the like in the ’20s and ’30s. However the destruction of the global economy following the Wall Street Crash and The Depression and the militarisation of Italy under Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, meant that both production and sales dwindled.

Back in 1931 Henry Ford considered a plan to build a major Ford Motor Company plant in Italy, actively encouraged by Il Duce. As part of the incentives offered, Mussolini “encouraged” Isotto Fraschini to donate the first car they produced to Ford’s museum.

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Unfortunately for the Italian dictator and Ford as soon as Fiat got wind of this plan to install one of their major rivals on home ground the scheme was halted in its tracks. The car sat in the museum until Italy declared war on the USA following Pearl Harbor. It was removed from display and lost in a storage unit for over half a century. It has now been repatriated to Italy in the hands of a collector, a happy ending.

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The populace is regularly told that electric powered cars are seen as the next best thing, well as long as we ignore where the electricity to charge the batteries comes from, assuming it is a form of fossil fuel. That issue will be solved in due course. Certainly great progress is being made on hybrid energy recovery systems and motor sport is contributing to this cutting-edge technology in Endurance racing and Formula One.

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The famous London department store, Harrods, was using electric vehicles back in 1904. This Pope Waverley was built in Indianapolis in 1899 and imported into the UK a few years later. It was used by Harrods for local deliveries to the palaces and great houses that were close to Knightsbridge. Harrods continued to use electric delivery vehicles for many years subsequently. They designed and built their own version, constructing a fleet of 60 vans between 1938 and 1941.

The above vehicle was taking part in the London to Brighton Run and it was estimated that four changes of battery would be required to complete the route’s 54 miles.

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Anywhere classic cars are gathered there will be a concours, here are the judges, one of whom is Grand Prix legend, Ross Brawn. Brawn has amassed a fine collection of cars down the years with his major contribution to teams like Ferrari and Honda. He is the proud owner of a 1904 Wilson-Pilcher that he has run twice in the London to Brighton.

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The Regent Street Motor Show featured other, more contemporary aspects of motoring. Would you fancy turning this pile of bits into a working car? In less than six hours? In front of the public? Well Caterham did.

Actually four of Caterham’s engineers did. Why? Over half of the Caterham Sevens sold in the UK are for self-assembly. This dates from ’50s when sportscars such as the Seven were sold in kit form to avoid Purchase Tax, which could save up to 33%. To get round the rules the kits were supplied with a “Disassembly Book”. Customers had to follow these instructions in reverse……………

There are no such problems these days. The dynamic four managed to complete the task in under five hours, which is impressive.

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Like most major cities London suffers from congestion and pollution that blights the lives of all who experience it. Transport for London are tasked with improving London’s air quality and aim to have the greenest bus and taxi fleet of any city. They had on display one of their new electric buses and also one of their oldest buses as well.

Forming part of this initiative a Low Emission Motoring Zone has been introduced to regulate older lorries and vans. There is a substantial tax ($300 per day) for using vehicles that have not been modified to reduce emissions while operated in Central London. In addition to this as of 2020 there will be an Ultra Low Emission Zone in force in the heart of London with charges payable on a daily basis for non-compliant vehicles. Manufacturers such as BMW, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Renault brought along their latest products to Regent Street to show their solutions to this issue. The star was undoubtedly the BMW i8, Munich’s dramatic hybrid Grand Tourer.

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Speaking of stars, the Aston Martin display attracted much attention from the passers-by and none more than the Aston Martin DB10 that featured in the latest James Bond movie, Spectre.

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Spectre’s premier was only a few days back, so the timing of this exhibit was perfect. The DB10 was created specially for the film, hand-built by Aston Martin. One almost felt sorry for all the other cars.

Almost I said, as for some of us even the DB10 is shaded by the Ferrari ‘Breadvan’ which greeted visitors arriving from the Piccadilly Circus end of the show.

I explained the history of this unique Ferrari 250 GT SWB earlier it is certainly special a very cool car.

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One of the celebrities that turns out for almost every serious motoring event held in the UK is the mildly annoying DJ and new Top Gear presenter, Chris Evans. Evans is tireless in his work to raise money for the charity Children in Need, indeed he has his own event to benefit that cause, I went along last year to CarFest.

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Whatever my opinion is of Mr. Evans, he is a serious car-guy, owning a fabulous collection of Ferraris and other desirable cars. In the run up to the 2015 London to Brighton event he trained to drive a bus, getting his PCV Licence. Lodge’s Coaches provided a pair of ’50s vehicles and Evans auctioned a ride to Brighton on his morning radio show. He raised the astonishing sum of $525,000 for 40 passengers.

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The Regent Street Motor Show is the UK’s largest free-to-view, motoring event, if you are in the West End next autumn, pop along you will not be disappointed.

John Brooks, February 2016

Photography Copyright and Courtesy of Simon Hildrew and the Author. Additional material courtesy of the organisers.