The 250 Sperimentale Is The Best Ferrari You've Never Heard Of
Last September, I was admiring a couple of 250 GT0s at the Chantilly Art & Elegance show when a bright blue car caught my eye. And once it had grabbed my attention, it never let go of it, even in the context of a car show featuring the two aforementioned 250 GT0s, but also the Breadvan, a 250LM, a Le Mans-winning 250TR or a 312PB, not to mention the Bugatti Atlantic.
So saying that for me, that car was the highlight from that incredible event is quite the declaration of love.
Of course, the 250 family is probably the most legendary Ferrari series ever made. Each car there is iconic in its own right: you have, of course, the GTO, but also the SWB, the Lusso, the Breadvan, the California, the Testarossa, the LM, the Tour de France... All of which are famous and incredibly valuable cars. So how come I had never heard about the gorgeous Sperimentale before I saw one at this year's Chantilly Art & Elegance?
Well, there's an obvious rarity problem first. As its name suggests, the Sperimentale was an experimental car, of which only 5 were made. Today, only one appears publicly on occasion: the most famous and most used one, the one I saw at the Chantilly event.
Essentialy, the Sperimentale was a testbed for the future GTO, so much so that this example became known as the 'GTO prototype'. It used a modified 250 Berlinetta chassis, and a heavily improved engine. That engine drew a lot from the one used in the 250TR, most importantly its dry sump which helped lower the car's center of gravity as well as help make the bonnet lower and thus more aerodynamic.
Aerodynamics were a big focus of this developpement car, as it was seen as the main issue with the regular 250 SWB. And it shows: where the SWB, although gorgeous, was a pretty conservative car with its round headlights and somewhat dated design, the Sperimentale is all sleek curves and strategic air outlets.
This was very important, as Ferrari's main target at the time was Le Mans and its very long straights. The car was actually raced there as a part of the developpement program, although it retired midway through the 1961 race. Remarkably, after Ferrari was done studying it, it privately raced at Daytona where it won its class in 1962.
That focus on low drag also saw the implemetation of what you could call a very early longtail concept. But although drag was indeed improved, during practice at Le Mans drivers complained of some instability at high speed, which prompted the Ferrari team to tack the rather improvised spoiler you can see on the back of the car.
I think that's a big part of the car's charm too: very sophisticated and flowing Pininfarina body, and then some sheet of metal just slapped on the boot. I have to say that this glorious French blue livery also helps a lot. It's a shockingly beautiful car.
Eventually, developpement work paid off in the shape of what's probably the world's most famous classic car, the 250 GTO, directly hailing from the ideas tested with the Sperimentale.
So you've got a rare, gloriously beautiful car with a fascinating history. Which, again, begs the question: why is it so obscure?
I love this car so much. I said it before, I absolutely consider it my favorite Ferrari ever now. And I hope that was this slightly too wordy article, I've helped spread the word about this incredible piece of Ferrari history.