1956 Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta Prototipo
Coachwork by Pinin Farina
Chassis no. 0435GT
Engine no. 0435GT
By the end of the 1950s, road car production had ceased to be a sideline for Ferrari and was seen as vitally important to the company's future stability. Thus the 250, Ferrari's first volume-produced model, can be seen as critically important, though production of the first of the line - the 250 Europa, built from 1953 to '54 - amounted to fewer than 20. Before the advent of the Europa, Ferrari had built road-going coupés and convertibles in small numbers, usually to special customer order using a sports-racing chassis as the basis. Ghia and Vignale of Turin, and Touring of Milan were responsible for bodying many of these, but there was no attempt at standardisation for series production and no two cars were alike.
The introduction of the 250 Europa heralded a significant change in Ferrari's preferred coachbuilder; whereas previously Vignale had been the most popular carrozzeria among Maranello's customers, from now on Pinin Farina (later Pininfarina) would be Ferraris number one choice, bodying no fewer than 48 out of the 53 Europa/Europa GTs built. Pinin Farina's experiments eventually crystallised in a new Ferrari 250GT road car that was first displayed publicly at the Geneva Salon in March 1956.
The styling of the Geneva show car chassis number 0429GT, sister to that offered here was influenced by Pinin Farinas Superamerica as confirmed by the factory build sheet. With the Series 2 variant of the 410 Superamerica, Ferrari switched from a 2,800mm wheelbase chassis to one of 2,600mm, and this shorter dimension would be used for all members of the 250GT family from the Europa GT onwards with the exception of the competition orientated SWB and GTO models. As well as the handling advantages conferred by the shorter wheelbase, the 250GT was equipped as standard with the more compact Colombo-designed 3.0-litre V12 engine, which replaced the Superamericas bulkier Lampredi unit.
However, the Pinin Farina was not yet in a position to cope with the increased workload construction of its new factory at Grugliasco had only just started - resulting in production being entrusted to Carrozzeria Boano after Pinin Farina had completed a handful of prototypes. Minor modifications were made to the chassis, engine and gearbox of the production Boanos, simplifying the production process.
The 250GT represented a significant departure for Ferrari. Driver and passenger comfort were taken seriously for the first time; the interior was more luxurious, seats were broader and there was less noise intrusion. By this time there was also synchromesh in the gearbox which, combined with a softer ride and light steering, was exactly what was expected by the increasingly important North American market.
The car offered here, chassis number 0435GT, is the fourth of approximately nine (expert opinion differs with regard to the exact number) 250GTs completed by Pinin Farina before production was transferred to Boano. The factory build sheet, a copy of which is available for inspection, shows that 0435GT left the factory in October 1955 and was completed at Pinin Farina early in April 1956. It also shows that 0435GT received the esperimentale Porsche synchromesh gears, making it certainly one of the very first Ferraris to benefit from this desirable feature.
Indeed, the vendor has confirmed that Porsches advanced synchromesh makes this car a joy to drive, unlike many of its contemporary rivals.
Cantelli, the first owner, registered the Ferrari in Italy in August 1956 and later that same year the car was registered in Switzerland where it has remained ever since. 0435GT was known to Ferrari enthusiasts in Switzerland in the 1980s and 1990s when it belonged to Jean-Pierre Oberson, of Fribourg, a former mechanic and Ferrari connoisseur.
Purchased by the current vendor in 2006, 0435GT was driven and enjoyed throughout the summer of 2007 before being consigned to renowned specialists, Carrosserie François Cointreau, of Pellouailles les vines, near Angers, France for a complete restoration of the body. Previously red with black interior, the car has been repainted in its original grey metallic livery. Interestingly, 0435GT has a dashboard in black crackle finish, characteristic of the contemporary 250 Tour de France model, rather than the body-coloured painted dash of most other 250GTs, but such individual variations were not at all unusual on these essentially bespoke prototipo styling exercises.
Its restoration only completed in March 2008, the car took part in this years prestigious Tour Auto event in April, driven by the vendor on competitor number 34. Maintained by Edgar Jean-Mairet in Geneva, it is presented in excellent condition throughout and offered with Swiss Carte Grise.
More refined and practical than any previous road-going Ferrari yet retaining the sporting heritage of its predecessors, Pinin Farinas 250GT is a landmark model of great historical significance, of which 0435 is a unique example.