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1961 Ferrari 250 GTE news, pictures, specifications, and information

There's a lot of history behind Ferrari's current 2+2, the 612 Scaglietti. For as long as Ferrari has been a household name, the company has offered a 2+2 car with a luxurious and inviting interior to complement its awesome performance, and the 612 is but the latest in a long line of great GTs. The car credited with beginning this grand tradition of grand touring is the 250GTE of the early 1960s.

Since its founding in the late 1940s, Ferrari had been developing a reputation for producing some of the finest racing machinery available. Ferrari road cars, too, were quickly becoming famous. When, in 1952, the first of Ferrari's 250-series cars debuted, the Modenese firm had launched a platform that was to underpin some of the fiercest racers and fastest street cars of its time. That the 250 chassis was the foundation of Ferrari's first series-production 2+2 meant that the 250 GTE was not only the car that launched a successful Ferrari mainstay, but also a vehicle representing one of the furthest developments of the legendary 250 line.

As such an important car to the Ferrari story, it would be understandable to expect the 250 GTE to be an exceedingly valuable vehicle in today's market. This is not the case. A decent GTE can be purchased for around $100,000. Not cheap, but that's pocket change next to the prices commanded by some other 250-series cars, for instance the California and Lusso. The high sales of the GTE may have brought great profits to Ferrari, allowing for the automaker to build even faster, more glorious racing cars, but the GTE itself was rather staid next to its contemporaries. Ferrari had purpose-built racers to compete with, so the GTE's racing pedigree is lacking. The high volume of production that made the GTE successful also diminished its exclusivity. With racing heritage and exclusivity being two key factors that make expensive Ferraris expensive, it's not difficult to see why the 250 GTE is not one of the more valuable Ferraris of its era.

That the 250 GTE is not a particularly pricey Ferrari should not diminish its greatness. With 955 made, the GTE was the hottest selling Ferrari that had ever been produced, and there was good reason for its sales success. The car had everything customers could want—speed, comfort, and a bloodline directly linked to some of the most incredible sports cars available.

The 250 chassis came in two standard wheelbase lengths, and the GTE was based upon the longer of the two. To free up additional space for the passenger compartment, Ferrari moved the GTE's engine forward 200mm as compared to its placement in a standard long-wheelbase 250. The GTE had a longer rear overhang than other 250 models, again to allow for greater interior space. These changes provided the GTE with a cabin that really was suitable for four adults. Cabin trimmings were fine, with full carpeting, yards of leather, and a full complement of Veglia gauges.

Pininfarina, a design house that has been consistently and deeply involved with the design of Ferrari products throughout the Prancing Horse's history, was responsible for the 250 GTE's body. Pininfarina's styling incorporated the roomy cabin gracefully. The look was elegant and cohesive, and did not appear at all like an existing body that had simply been stretched to cover a larger interior. Everything about the design appeared clean and uncompromised, a great stylistic achievement for any 4-seater based upon a 2-seater's platform. It would take decades for Ferrari to conceive another 2+2 with the same graceful, well-integrated look of the GTE.

Three variants of the 250 GTE were produced. The Series I was first unveiled in June of 1960 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and released for sale October of the same year at the Paris Salon. The later Series II, released in 1962 and lasting through early 1963, was almost identical to the earlier model, save for a few subtle changes to the dash design. The Series III model featured more notable changes when it arrived a few months into 1963. Its driving lights were situated directly beneath its headlights and flanking the grille, whereas Series I and II cars had driving lights mounted within the grille itself. At the rear of the car, vertical taillight lenses were used on the Series III. These lenses replaced the taillight assemblies of the Series I and II, which used three small, circular lenses per side mounted on vertical, chrome-plated panels. Some mechanical changes were also made to the Series III, including a boosted compression ratio.

The engine powering all series of 250 GTE was a gem of a mill, designed by the illustrious Italian engineer Gioacchino Colombo. A V12 displacing just 2,953cc, Colombo's oversquare engine produced 240bhp at a lofty 7,000rpm. Cylinder heads were borrowed from the spectacular Testa Rossa. The compression ratio was 8.8:1 for Series I and II cars, increased to 9.2:1 for the Series III. Triple downdraft Webers sat atop Colombo's creation. This was a race-bred engine in true Ferrari tradition.

The V12's maniacal tendencies appeared to be tamed by the 250 GTE's plush cabin and overdrive transmission, though. An engine that should have been fussy and temperamental was made as well-mannered as possible so that its use in the GTE would not be incongruous with the car's luxurious feel. In a feat of engineering excellence that few if any other automakers could match, Ferrari created a supremely comfortable and spacious automobile with the heart of a race car. This was the charm of the 250 GTE, and the singular characteristic that has made every Ferrari 2+2 since a work of excellence.

Sources:

Apen, John. '1962 Ferrari 250 GTE 2+2.' Sports Car Market (2008): n. pag. Web. 22 Jan 2010. .

'Ferrari 250 GTE 2+2.' QV500.com n. pag. Web. 22 Jan 2010. .

By Evan Acuña
Production of the 250 Series began in 1954 and continued on through the early part of the 1960's. There were numerous variations of the 250 and would ultimately become Ferrari's most successful line of vehicles to date. The 250 is also recognized as the first Ferrari to ever receive disc brakes. This did not take place until the end of the 1950's. Also, the 250 was the first four-seater.

Ferrari's were custom built cars. They were not mass-produced. Ferrari provided the engine and chassis while Italian coach builders provided the body. This meant the specifications varied. Engines also varied in horsepower rating, torque, and displacement. This was no different for the 250 GT which saw many different variations in body style and body types.

Ferrari built the road-going Ferrari's to fuel his passion for racing. Many of the vehicles he built for the road had a competition model. That is, a modified version of the road-going model. An example of this was the 1959 short-wheel base (SWB) Berlinetta (Berlinetta which means coupe) and given an aluminum body. It was debuted in October 1959 at the Paris Salon. GT cars were road-legal vehicles that could also be taken to the track and compete without the need for modifications. Although this was their purpose, Ferrari realized that many customers would not race their vehicle, but rather wanted the power and performance that sports cars offered. To comply, Ferrari built these cars to be powerful and luxurious. The vehicles could still be run on the track, mostly on requiring the adoption of stickers and complying with any safety requirements.

The 250 road-going vehicles mostly shared two wheelbase sizes, a 2400 mm and 2600 mm. The 2400 wheelbase were referred to as the SWB (Short wheel base) while the other was the LWB (long wheel base).

The base engine was a Colombo 60-degree, single-over-head cam, 'vee' type 12-cylinder, with aluminum alloy block and heads, and cast-iron cylinder liners. The displacement was 180 cubic inch (2953 cc). Horsepower production was around 220-260. The front suspension was independent with double wishbones and coil springs. The rear suspension was a live axle.

The first 250 introduced was the 250S and available in either berlinetta or spider configuration. Introduced in 1952, they were powered by a 3-liter Colombo engine producing about 230 horsepower.

At the 1953 Paris Motor Show, Ferrari introduced the 250 Europa and Export. These were the only models in the series that were powered by a Lampredi v-12 engine also seen in Formula 1. The 250 Export had a 2400 MM wheelbase, similar tot he 250 MM. The 250 Europa had a larger, 2800 mm wheelbase which allowed more interior room. During their short production lifespan, only 18 examples were produced. Pininfarina and Vignale were tasked with creating the coachwork.

In 1954 four specialty built 250 Monza were built for racing. They shared many similarities with the 750 Monza's, but were equipped with the 3-liter Colombo engine.

At the 1957 Geneva auto show, Ferrari displayed their 250 GT Cabriolet. Coachwork was courtesy of Pininfarina; the wheelbase was 2600 mm in size. In 1959 the second in the 250 GT Cabriolet series production began after only 36 examples being produced.

From 1957 through 1959 Ferrari produced the 250 GT Berlinetta 'Tour de France' (TdF). The name had been given for the 10-day automobile race. Originally the engine produced 240 horsepower but was later modified to 260 horsepower. Carrozzeria Scaglietti was responsible for creating the bodies based on Pinin Farina's design.

Scaglietti was responsible for constructing the 1957 250 GT California Spyder. These sat atop a long, 2600 mm chassis and aluminum was used throughout the body in efforts to reduce the overall weight. In total, around 45 examples were created before they were replaced by the SWB version in 1960.

There were 250 examples of the 250 GT Berlinetta SWB produced. Production began in 1959 and used the shortened, sportier wheelbase. Giotto Bizzarrini, Carlo Chiti, and Mauro Forghieri were responsible for the development. Some were built for racing while others were meant for daily transportation. Horsepower ranged from 240 to 280. Steel or aluminum bodies were used. The steel bodies were suited for the road-going vehicles, also known as Lusso. The racing trim vehicles were powerful and had low weight. They were vary competitive and are regarded as the most important GT racers of its time. In 1961 the SWB Berlinetta captured the GT class of the Constructor's Championship.

In 1960 a Scaglietti 250 GT Spyder California SWB was shown at the Geneva Motor Show. Built as a replacement for the LWB and based on the 250 GT SWB, around 55 examples were produced.

The Ferrari 250TR was produced from 1957 through 1958 during which only 19 examples were created. The 'pontoon' fender body was designed by Scaglietti and the power was supplied through a Colombo 12-cylinder engine mounted at a sixty-degree angle and outfitted with six Weber 38 DCN carburetors. Power was sent to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual gearbox. With 300 horsepower, the 800 kg vehicle was able to achieve a 168 mph top speed. From 1958 through 1961, the 250 TR was entered in 19 championship races where they emerged victorious ten times.

The 250 in 250 TR represented the unitary displacement while the TR was an acronym meaning Testa Rossa. Testa Rossa translates to 'red head' which referred to the color of the engine's cylinder head.

The 250 TR series was built to capture the world championship which was experience questionable times. During the 1955 24 Hours of Lemans a fatal accident occurred and the Commissione Sportiva Internazionale (CSI) began investigating ways to make the sport safer for the drivers and the spectators. Their efforts were escalated in 1967 when another fatal accident occurred at the 1957 Mille Miglia. The committee decided upon a displacement limit but they were in disagreement on the size; the proposed figures ranged from 3 to around 3.5 liters.

1958 was the introductory year for the new regulations, which had been announced during the later part of 1957. Ferrari had been building, testing, and racing the 250 GT which had performed well during the 1957 Mille Miglia. The Colombo V12 260 horsepower engine received a larger bore, camshaft, and other improvements resulting in a 3.1 liter displacement and 320 horsepower. Testing continued throughout the 1957 season in both body configuration and mechanical components.

Ferrari had anticipated the new engine size regulations and thus had been sufficiently prepared to capture the world championship. Due to the potential of negative publicity caused by the fatal accidents, other manufacturers, such as Aston Martin, Lotus, Cooper and Jaguar, were hesitant to continue racing. Ferrari believed their closest competitor would be the powerful and technologically advanced Maserati 450 S which featured a quad-cam eight-cylinder engine.

Ferrari quickly began capturing victories during the 1958 season. The 250 TR was a solid vehicle thanks to the preparation and testing. The steel tubular ladder frame was of traditional Ferrari construction; a DeDion rear axle was used on the works racers. Customer cars were outfitted with a live axle. Drum brakes were placed on all four corners of the car. The engine had been modified to comply with regulations and to fit in the engine bay. In reality, the vehicle was an outdated car having only the benefit of proper planning and proven technology. Most cars featured disc brakes which provided superior stopping power. The Colombo engine dated back to the beginning of Ferrari and was antiquated in comparison to the modern power-plants.

Nearing the close of the 1958 season, the competition began to rise. Aston Martin had a lethal combination, a 3 liter DBR1 racer and Stirling Moss as the driver. Even though the Aston Martins did score a victory at Nurburgring 1000 KM, Ferrari was able to capture the World Championship. The legendary Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien easily capture a third victory for Ferrari at the grueling 24 Hours of Lemans. The 250 TR works cars were referred to as TR58, to distinguish them from the customer TRs.

For the 1959 season, the vehicles received slight modifications which made the vehicle lighter and more powerful. The big news was the use of Dunlop disc brakes. The engine received coil valve springs and the horsepower increased slightly to 306. A Colotti designed five speed gearbox replaced the four-speed unit. Pininfarina was tasked with designing a new body and the construction was handled by Fantuzzi. As a result of the improvements, the name was changed to TR59. At their inaugural race, the TR59 finished first and second. This streak did not last and at the end of the season, it was Aston Martin who emerged as the world champion. The TR59 was plagued with reliability issues mostly due to the gearbox. The vehicles were forced to retire early from races, including Le Mans.

For the 1960 season, the TR was modified slightly to comply with new regulations and to rectify the transmission issues. These vehicles are commonly referred to as the TR59/60. Aston Martin had withdrawn from the championship which left no factory opposition for Ferrari. Porsche and Maserati provided competition, especially at Targa Florio and the Nurburgring 1000 km where they scored victories. At Le Mans, Ferrari finished first and second and captured the word championship, beating Porsche by only four points.

For the 1961 season, Ferrari introduced the mid-engined 246 SP. The TRI61 was given a new spaceframe chassis and was able to capture victories at Sebring 12 Hours and Le Mans. With victories between the 246 SP and the TRI61, Ferrari once again captured the world championship.

The CSI implemented stricter rules for the 1962 season which meant the TR was unable to score points for the factory. It was still allowed to race for the overall victory.

By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2007
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