Ferraris 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. Ferraris 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 marques 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 factorys 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 Farinas 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 drivers 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 SWBs 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 SWBs 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 SWBs 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 engines 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 Ferraris 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.