The Lepeltier Collection,1961 Ferrari 250SWB 2649GT
Lot 264
1961 Ferrari 250GT Short Wheelbase Berlinetta 2649GT
Sold for CHF 1,050,371 (US$ 1,092,986) inc. premium

Lot Details
One owner since 1973, 56,816km recorded
1961 Ferrari 250GT Short Wheelbase Berlinetta
Coachwork by Pininfarina

Chassis no. 2649GT
Ferrari’s 250GT reached a level of true dual-purpose perfection with the Short Wheelbase Berlinetta. It coalesced three parallel and mutually-supporting paths of Ferrari development. Ferrari’s continuing focus upon racing in both grand prix and long distance endurance sports cars and prototypes emphasized power and reliability. Production of high quality gran turismo automobiles delivered comfort and exclusivity to a demanding clientele. And Pininfarina had refined a distinctive Ferrari design that visually captured and expressed the marque’s attributes.

The Colombo-designed V12 had evolved into a powerful engine but more importantly its racing pedigree, where it is said, “To finish first, you must first finish,” meant it also was reliable. Continuously refined, developed and improved, the 250GT engine epitomized the adage that racing improves the breed. That reliability carried over to 250GTs that never saw the race track, creating confident and satisfied owners.

Ferrari, as astute at catering to clients’ varied desires as he was at creating winning race cars, was always willing to create specialized variations on his series-produced cars to satisfy a whim – when the whim was backed by a heavy checkbook. These unique Ferraris are among the most prized by collectors and 250GT SWB Berlinetta ‘2649 GT’ is one of these built-to-order cars.

Introduced in 1959, the 250GT Berlinetta was designed with three objectives: first, to be more aerodynamically efficient; second, to be as compact as possible; and third, to provide appropriate accommodation and luggage space for a true gran turismo automobile. In the process, Pininfarina and Scaglietti created one of the most beautiful automobiles of all time, a succinct, straightforward and purposeful blending of form following function that is pleasing from all aspects.

Seven cars, known today as “Interim Berlinettas”, were built on the 2600mm long wheelbase chassis before construction was shifted to the 2400mm short wheelbase chassis, a change deemed desirable to improve the cars’ responsiveness in cornering. Still called by Ferrari the 250GT Berlinetta, its wheelbase has subsequently been firmly attached to the factory’s model designation to distinguish it from numerous other 250GT models and the 2600mm chassis “Interim Berlinettas”. As the 250GT SWB Berlinetta it has established a reputation and following second only to its successor, the illustrious 250 GTO.

Pinin Farina’s body design as executed by Scaglietti on the 2400mm short wheelbase chassis excels in all aspects. It is unmistakably Ferrari. It is devoid of superfluous bulk, features or embellishments. It is aerodynamic. The driver’s visibility from the ample greenhouse is good. The corners of the car are tightly wrapped around the wheels. Its gently rounded masses speak unambiguously of potency and power.

Complementing the 250GT SWB’s landmark design were a number of innovations and the kind of continuous improvement and evolution that characterized Ferrari. Perhaps most importantly, the 250GT SWB was the first production Ferrari delivered with disc brakes, a feature proudly displayed at the SWB’s 1960 showings at Turin and Geneva where it was exhibited on jackstands with the wheels removed to show off its Dunlop disc brakes. Also for the first time for a complete model run the lever action shock absorbers favored by Ferrari for years were abandoned in favor of telescopic shocks from Koni or Miletto.

Indicative of the 250GT SWB’s versatility is the appearance for the first time of the “Lusso” designation for road versions to complement the lightweight competition berlinettas. Steel bodied for strength, quietness and durability, the 250GT SWB “Lussos” had softer suspension, more insulation in the passenger compartment and more luxurious interiors to coddle their demanding owners. Ferrari even made heaters standard.

Under the bonnet the Ferrari 3-litre V12 engine took on new life with revised block, distributors relocated to the back of the camshafts, 12-port heads and coil valve springs. The spark plugs, long resident inside the engine’s vee, had now definitively migrated outside the vee. Several variants powered the 250GT SWB during its life, the last of which were the Tipo 168, a stronger and more powerful engine derived from Ferrari’s experience with the 250GT SWB at Le Mans and with the famous “Comp/61” high performance variants. Capable of over 280 bhp in competition tune, the softer and more tractable street versions produced a reliable 220-240 bhp with unusually strong mid-range torque.


  • The 250GT SWB Berlinetta was immediately successful in racing, and remained successful until its place at the head of the GT pack was gradually assumed by the GTO. Its list of competition successes is so long as to be pointless to recount in detail but included GT category wins at Le Mans in 1960 and 1961, Tour de France wins in 1960, 1961 and 1962 and of course Stirling Moss’s pair of Goodwood Tourist Trophy wins in 1960 and 1961. Built in both steel and aluminum, only 165 were made from 1959-1962. The 250GT SWB Berlinetta is the last true dual-purpose gran turismo built in quantity by Ferrari – or anyone else for that matter – and is in all respects a fitting milestone to mark the end of a legendary age.

    The eighty-fifth 250GT SWB constructed and one of sixty-six cars built during 1961, ‘2649 GT’ was uniquely configured by order of its first owner R. Riccero of Rome. Delivered through Rome dealer Malago, among the seventeen special features specified by the buyer were flush mounted door handles, a special dashboard with leather covering, a central console with different knobs, special instrumentation similar to that of the 250 GTE, electric windows and a request that the SWB be delivered with “perfect panel fit.” The colour scheme was specified as Rosso Bordeaux with black leather. Factory documentation indicates that its engine produced 236 horsepower on the Ferrari dynamometer at delivery, a strong example of the street-tuned Tipo 168 engine.

    Imported to Switzerland in 1968, its next owner was Henri Heller who kept it for several years before selling it to dealer Robert de la Rive Box. At some point the nose received covered headlights which have become one of ‘2649 GT’s’ distinguishing features, a complement to the many custom features ordered by its first owner from Ferrari. Riding on Borrani wire wheels, it has grille-mounted driving lights and small front bumperettes that enhance the uniqueness of its covered headlights.

    Michel Lepeltier acquired ‘2649 GT’ via Garage Hüni in 1973 and it has remained within this extraordinary collection of Ferraris ever since. Its odometer now displays only 56,816 kilometers which based upon its history almost certainly is the actual distance covered by ‘2649 GT’ since it was built.

    As a 1961 Ferrari 250GT SWB, ‘2649 GT’ incorporates two years’ experience in construction as well as desirable features such as the door quarter windows which improve passenger compartment ventilation and reduce window condensation. Finished in Rosso with the original black leather interior, its long list of specially ordered original features and covered headlights set it apart from other 250GT SWB Lussos, as does its history of thirty years’ continuous ownership in the Lepeltier collection, a provenance which will continue to distinguish it through the rest of its history.

    No automobile in the world, even from Ferrari, better expresses the concept of a dual purpose gran turismo than the 250GT Short Wheelbase Berlinetta. Highly prized for their styling, performance, responsive handling and refinement, Michel Lepeltier’s ‘2649 GT’ is a unique example of this outstanding Ferrari model. It will be a highlight of any collection but will be even more rewarding to own and drive enthusiastically where its lively performance and balanced handling will remain as impressive as they were to Stirling Moss, who described the 250GT SWB as “… very well-mannered, well-balanced cars … [that] also impressed me by their ability to change direction very quickly.” High praise indeed, but no more than is deserved by Michel Lepeltier’s Ferrari 250GT SWB.
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