Total Production: 356
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