Argue all you want about the greatest car ever made. Go ahead, duke it out. Chances are when the dust settles the Ferrari GTO will get the most votes.
But why is this the one car that makes young boys swoon, old men smile, and billionaires weep? What is it about this beautiful beast that is so compelling? Who knows? Who can explain love? Or lust?
As we wrote 15 years ago for the car’s 40th birthday, the GTO is a car built expressly for racing. The letters stand for Gran Turismo Omologato, a sort of homologation special required of sanctioning bodies for a “production car.” With only 36 of these in the world, a car that sold for $23,000 in 1962 is now valued in the tens of millions—and generally regarded today as priceless.
Giotto Bizzarrini was the first head engineer on the project. “In those days, the early 1960s, the new Aston Martin and the new Jaguar E-Type arrived on the market, one after the other. At Ferrari we feared that these new cars might create problems for our Berlinettas,” Bizzarrini remembered. “One morning Enzo Ferrari called us in his office in Maranello. He briefly explained his project and asked us for a car that may be more modern, not quite as tall, lighter and without the problems the Testarossa experienced at Le Mans. He asked for a new car that might be more competitive than our present lineup but, above all, more competitive than the new British rivals.”
Amid internal tumult at Ferrari, Mauro Forghieri ended up in charge of the GTO project. “We wanted to build a car that combined a beautiful shape with good technical contents, and I believe we were successful. The work was massive and fast, as usual, and in the spring of 1962 we began to deliver to customers,” Forghieri says. “Reviews were immediately many and positive. It was a fast car, but also one easy to drive. In an era when cars were beginning to have the engine in the back, the 250 GTO Berlinetta was the last racing Ferrari with the engine in front.”
Working on general principles laid down by Bizzarrini, Sergio Scaglietti devised one of the most beautiful shapes ever draped over a V12 engine. Drivers clad in light blue and beige driving suits first piloted the Ferrari GTO at Le Mans, Sebring, Solitude and in the Tour de France.
It won a lot of races.
Decades wore on, the GTO legend grew and the Ferrari GTO frenzy of the 1980s saw values rise, closing in now on $40 million, if one should ever come to market.
Surprisingly, though, these are not kept in basement vaults of air-sealed helium. Owners drive them. Over the decades, some longtime owners have become close acquaintances from rallies and related events. The 40th anniversary reunion was held at Chateau de Gilly in the French vineyards of Dijon. Last week’s event was in Tuscany. Twenty of the 36 GTOs ever built gathered in Italy last week and rallied through Tuscany, lapped Mugello, paraded around the track at Fiorano and finished up at the factory in Maranello. Bene! Bene! May the beautiful cars continue to be driven.