Ferrari 250 GT LWB Berlinetta 'Tour de France' by Carrozzeria Scaglietti
Of all of Ferrari’s series-produced berlinettas, none can compare to the car that started it all, the 250 GT long-wheelbase berlinetta from 1956–1959. The dual-purpose road/race car’s 2,600-millimetre wheelbase became the foundation for numerous 250 GT series that followed, and the long-running Colombo 2,953-cubic centimetre V-12 was never in a more ferocious state of tune than in the beautifully styled long-wheelbase berlinetta.
Mechanical considerations aside, the 250 GT berlinetta’s sensational Scaglietti bodywork, designed by Pinin Farina, conveyed pure racing gravitas veiled in unequalled sporting elegance. This was a car that looked every bit the part, a role that was conceived by management to revive less-dangerous sports car racing following the Le Mans disaster of 1955. One of the earliest 250 GT berlinetta examples, chassis number 0557GT took 1st place at the 1956 Tour de France, a new multi-day 3,600-mile course that consisted of six circuit races, two hill climbs, and a drag race. The victory was exactly what Ferrari management had been hoping for, and they were only too happy to give their tacit approval of the moniker “Tour de France” to unofficially describe the car. The TdF nom de guerre soon proved to be quite apropos, as Olivier Gendebien drove one to 1st overall at the French race for the next three consecutive years.
The 250 GT LWB TdF bodywork steadily evolved during production and is now classified in four distinct series, most easily characterized by the rear c-pillars, or sail panels. Of 79 total TdF examples made between 1956 and 1959, the first 14 cars had no vents in the sail panel. Nine second-series cars featured 14 louvers on the sail panel, followed in mid-1957 by 18 cars with three vents on the sail panel, and a revised nose featuring recessed, covered headlamps. Starting in 1958, a final, fourth series with single-vent sail-panels was produced in a quantity of 36 examples.
In very early-1959, the LWB TdF received one final subdivision of minor modifications before giving way to an interim body suggestive of the forthcoming 250 GT SWB. This first group of 1959 250 GT examples was actually a subset of the 1958 fourth-series cars that featured one sail panel vent, to which they added uncovered headlamps mandated by a change in Italian regulations. The new uncovered lights were also adorned with chrome bezels, a decorative cue hinting at the berlinetta’s evolving identity as an elegant road car. A small handful of these 12 cars that were built for export were ordered with covered headlamps, reducing the known total of 1959 uncovered-headlamp series-four TdFs to approximately nine examples.
Though the aesthetic merits of each of the TdF series are highly subjective—every tifosi has his favourite—many enthusiasts would argue that this final muscularly haunched, uncovered-headlamp iteration was the best-looking TdF of all. These twelve cars, comprising chassis numbers 1143GT through 1401GT, marked the final incarnation of the revered Tour de France, which was soon replaced by an interim body that yielded the 250 GT SWB at the Paris Salon in October.
247 bhp, 2,953 cc single overhead camshaft V-12 engine with three Weber 36 DCL3 carburettors, four-speed all-synchromesh manual gearbox, independent front suspension with unequal-length A-arms and coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and parallel trailing arms, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 102.4 in.
Part of the RM Auction event in London, 2012.
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Cymon Taylor