Ferrari 250 GT Series I Cabriolet

During the mid-to-late 1950s, Ferrari was in a state of transition; increased racing costs meant that Ferrari needed to sell more road-going models to help pay for its extensive racing activities. In the past, although road-going Ferrari models were certainly offered, they were essentially hand-built. Variations to suit the wishes of individual customers were common, keeping costs high, volumes low, and rendering them quite unprofitable.

The very first of these new luxury cabriolets was actually debuted by Boano at the Geneva International Auto Salon in 1956 – at the same time as the arrival of the coupe that was to provide the mechanical base for all the cabriolets.

Meanwhile, the 250 GT Cabriolet (referred to now in hindsight as the Series I) was introduced at the Geneva International Auto Salon in 1957. It was conceived as Ferrari’s semi-luxury touring car and was thus given better interior appointments and more soundproofing than the California Spyder.

The very first example, finished in red, was given to legendary racing driver Peter Collins. It was startlingly beautiful, with a number of special features of which the most obvious was a cut-down door on the driver’s side. It was a nod to a traditional styling element from British sport roadsters. Of course, the day finally came to return the car to the factory, and Collins complied – with a fresh coat of British Racing Green!

It was also a pioneering car in another respect. Following his ownership, the factory used his car to fit a number of experimental features and test them, including a set of Dunlop disc brakes.

Its chassis and drivetrain may have been strikingly similar to Ferrari’s racing cars, but the high standard of fit and finish, as well as the car’s complete instrumentation, luxurious leather interior, and many other passenger amenities, set it apart. The Cabriolet was based upon the 250 GT Coupe, which was also presented as a luxury-touring machine, with its body produced by Pinin Farina.

The new 250 GT Series I Cabriolet was a sensation. While the Cabriolet appeared to be somewhat longer than the Coupe, thanks to a stylish “kick-up” just behind the doors and the elegant rear fenders, the Cabriolet and Coupe actually shared nearly identical overall dimensions. Mechanically there was little difference between an early California Spyder and the first Pininfarina Cabriolets. Performance, too, was quite comparable.

Series I Cabriolets are truly one of the last undiscovered treasures of the Ferrari convertible world, especially when one considers that the market now values the nearly identical SWB California Spyders in the high seven-figure range.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August of 2010 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California.

260 bhp, three-liter single overhead camshaft Colombo V12 engine, triple Weber carburetion, four-speed manual gearbox with overdrive, independent front suspension with coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers, rear live axle with semi-elliptic springs, parallel trailing arms and telescopic shocks and four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 102.3".

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Stephen Goodal

Gallery: Ferrari 250 GT Series I Cabriolet