The Ferrari 250 GTO is a homologated GT car which was produced by Ferrari from 1962 to 1964 for homologation into the FIA's Group 3 Grand Touring Car category.
In May 2012 the 1962 250 GTO made for Stirling Moss became the world's most expensive car in history, sold on auction for $38,115,000. In October 2013, Connecticut-based collector Paul Pappalardo sold chassis number 5111GT to an unnamed buyer for a new record of around $38 million. The numerical part of its name denotes the displacement in cubic centimeters of each cylinder of the engine, whilst GTO stands for "Gran Turismo Omologato", Italian for "Grand Touring Homologated." When new, the GTO cost $18,000 in the United States, and buyers had to be personally approved by Enzo Ferrari and his dealer for North America, Luigi Chinetti.
In total, 39 250 GTOs were manufactured between 1962 and 1964. This includes 33 cars with 1962-63 bodywork (Series I), three cars with 1964 (Series II) bodywork similar to the Ferrari 250 LM and three "330 GTO" specials with a larger engine. Four of the older 1962-1963 (Series I) cars were retrofitted in 1964 with an updated (Series II) body.
In 2004, Sports Car International placed the 250 GTO eighth on a list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960s, and nominated it the top sports car of all time. Similarly, Motor Trend Classic placed the 250 GTO first on a list of the "Greatest Ferraris of All Time." Popular Mechanics named it the "Hottest Car of All Time."
The 250 GTO was designed to compete in GT racing, where its rivals would include the Shelby Cobra, Jaguar E-Type and Aston Martin DP214. The development of the 250 GTO was headed by chief engineer Giotto Bizzarrini. Although Bizzarrini is usually credited as the designer of the 250 GTO, he and most other Ferrari engineers were fired in 1962 due to a dispute with Enzo Ferrari. Further development of the 250 GTO was overseen by new engineer Mauro Forghieri, who worked with Scaglietti to continue development of the body. The design of the car was a collaborative effort and cannot be ascribed to a single person.
The mechanical aspects of 250 GTO were relatively conservative at the time of its introduction, using engine and chassis components that were proven in earlier competition cars. The chassis of the car was based on that of the 250 GT SWB, with minor differences in frame structure and geometry to reduce weight, stiffen and lower the chassis. The car was built around a hand-welded oval tube frame, incorporating A-arm front suspension, rear live-axle with Watt's linkage, disc brakes, and Borrani wire wheels. The engine was the Tipo 168/62 Comp. 3.0 L V12 as used in the 250 Testa Rossa. This engine was an all-alloy design utilizing a dry sump and six 38DCN Weber carburetors. It produced approximately 300 horsepower and was very reliable, proved by previous competition experience with the Testa Rossa. The gearbox was a new 5-speed unit with Porsche-type synchromesh.
Bizzarrini focused his design effort on the car's aerodynamics in an attempt to improve top speed and stability. The body design was informed by wind tunnel testing at Pisa University as well as road and track testing with several prototype cars. The resulting all-aluminium bodywork had a long, low nose, small radiator inlet, and distinctive air intakes on the nose with removable covers. Early testing resulted in the addition of a rear spoiler. The underside of the car was covered by a belly pan and had an additional spoiler underneath formed by the fuel tank cover. The aerodynamic design of the 250 GTO was a major technical innovation compared to previous Ferrari GT cars, and in line with contemporary developments by manufacturers such as Lotus. The bodies were constructed by Scaglietti, with the exception of early prototypes with bodies constructed in-house by Ferrari or by Pininfarina (in the case of s/n 2643 GT). Cars were produced in many colours, with the most famous being the bright red "Rosso Cina".
The interior of a 250 GTO is extremely basic, emphasizing the car's racing intentions. The instrument panel does not contain a speedometer, seats are cloth-upholstered, and no carpeting or headliner is present. Cockpit ventilation is provided by exterior air inlets. The exposed metal gate defining the shift pattern became a Ferrari tradition that was maintained in production models until recently (due to the exclusivity of paddle-shift gearboxes across the range).
Various differences are visible between individual 250 GTOs, as a result of their handbuilt production process and updates and repairs throughout each car's competition history. Differences in air intake/vent configuration are common among cars. Modifications to the original bodywork were performed by the factory, Scaglietti, or other body shops, usually after crashes or according to a racing team's wishes.
In 1964, Ferrari tasked Mauro Forghieri and Mike Parkes with redesigning the 250 GTO's bodywork. The resulting design (called the GTO '64 or Series II) was very similar to the 250 LM, although without that model's mid-engined configuration. Minor modifications to the engine, gearbox, chassis, and interior were also incorporated into this new design. Three new cars were produced to this specification in 1964, and four earlier 250 GTOs were retrofitted with the 1964 modifications by the factory.
Three 330 GTO specials were made using 400 Superamerica 4.0L motors. They used the same chassis and body as the 250 GTO, although distinguished by a larger bonnet bulge. These cars were used briefly for racing and testing by Scuderia Ferrari before being sold to private customers.
The 330 LMB is sometimes considered a GTO variant. These cars used a 4.0L 330 motor and a modified 250 GT Lusso chassis/body. Four were produced in 1963.
Three 275 GTB/C Speciales were built in 1964/65. Despite their origins as competition versions of the 275 GTB, they are sometimes considered developments of the 250 GTO due to similarity of configuration and bodywork.
The Ferrari 250 GT SWB Breadvan was a one-off racing car designed for Scuderia Serenissima by Bizzarrini after his departure from Ferrari. It was developed specifically to compete against the then-new 250 GTO. Although based on the earlier 250 GT SWB, the Breadvan provided an opportunity for Bizzarrini to develop the ideas he had first explored with the GTO, such as lower and more aerodynamic bodywork, incorporation of a dry sump, and radical lightening of the entire car.
FIA regulations as they applied in 1962 required at least one hundred examples of a car to be built in order for it to be homologated for Group 3 Grand Touring Car racing. However, Ferrari built only 39 250 GTOs (33 of the "normal" cars, three with the four-litre 330 engine sometimes called the "330 GTO"—recognizable by the large hump on the bonnet—and three "Type 64" cars, with revised bodywork). Ferrari eluded FIA regulations by numbering its chassis out of sequence, using jumps between each to suggest cars that did not exist. When FIA inspectors appeared to confirm that 100 examples had been built, Enzo Ferrari shuffled the same cars between different locations, thus giving the impression that the full complement of 100 cars was present.
The car debuted at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1962, driven by American Phil Hill (the Formula One World Driving Champion at the time) and Belgian Olivier Gendebien. Although originally annoyed that they were driving a GT-class car instead of one of the full-race Testa Rossas competing in the prototype class, the experienced pair impressed themselves (and everyone else) by finishing second overall behind the Testa Rossa of Bonnier and Scarfiotti.
Ferrari would go on to win the over 2000cc class of the FIA's International Championship for GT Manufacturers in 1962, 1963, and 1964, the 250 GTO being raced in each of those years.
The 250 GTO was one of the last front-engined cars to remain competitive at the top level of sports car racing. Before the advent of vintage racing the 250 GTO, like other racing cars of the period, passed into obsolescence. Some were used in regional races, while others were used as road cars.
From the late 1970s to the late 1980s, classic car values rose rapidly and the 250 GTO, touted as the Ferrari that most completely embodies the characteristics of the marque, became the most valuable Ferrari.
A 250 GTO (4757GT) belonging to the deceased Robert C. "Chris" Murray, a drug dealer who fled the United States in 1984, was seized by the FBI and sold in a sealed auction in 1987 for approximately $1.6 million. Murray bought the car in 1982 from a Beverly Hills dealer with $250,000 in cash from a backpack full of $20 and $50 notes. In 1989, at the peak of the boom, a 250 GTO was sold to a Japanese buyer for $14.6 million plus commission. By 1994 that example changed hands for about $3.5 million. In 2008, a British buyer bought a 250 GTO that formerly belonged to Lee Kun-hee of Samsung Electronics at an auction for a record £15.7 million. In May 2010, BBC Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans bought chassis number 4675 GT for £12 million. According to Octane Magazine, the Ferrari 250 GTO bearing chassis number 5095GT was sold by British real estate agent Jon Hunt to an unknown buyer. It has been disclosed that the buyer was Carlos Hank Rhon of Mexico, a member of one of the most influential families within the PRI ruling party. In February 2012, in what is believed to be the largest single car transaction in the United Kingdom, a Ferrari 250 GTO sold for over £20 million (approx. US$31.7 million).
Scarcity and high prices led to the creation of several replica 250 GTOs on more common Ferrari chassis. Misrepresentations of the original cars, offered for sale at full market value, have been reported.
The price development of the GTO, all in US dollars is:
1962–4 (new): $18,500
1965 (Dec): $10,500
1968 (Jun): $6,000
1969: $2,500 (Kruse International auction)
1971 (Jan): $9,500
1971 (Jul): $12,000
1973 (Jul): $17,500 (£7,000)
1975 (Dec): $48,000
1980 (Mar): $180,000-200,000
1985: $650,000 (Number 3987GT)
1987 (Oct): $1,600,000
1988 (Jul): $4,200,000
1989 (Jul): $10,000,000
1990 (Jan): $13,000,000
1993: $3,000,000-3,500,000 (Number 4219GT)
1998: $6,000,000 (Number 3729GT)
2000: $7,000,000 (Number 3413GT)
2004: $10,600,000 (Number 3223GT)
2010: $26,000,000 (Number 3943GT)
2012 (May): $38,115,000 (Number 3505GT)
2013 (Oct): $38,000,000 (Number 5111GT)
Prices fell substantially during the car market crash of the early 90s, resulting in the most recent lows of $2,700,000 in September 1994, and $2,500,000 in May 1996. Prices began to climb again in the late 90s, and reached about $7,000,000 by 2000. They reached $10,000,000 again in 2004. Since 2013 the most recent record is quadruple that of the $13 million paid in January 1990.