“Perhaps more than any Ferrari before or since, here was a car equally at home on a race track or a boulevard. A quick change to colder plugs, racing tyres and the addition of a roll bar and the SWB berlinetta could contest its class at Le Mans or Sebring…” – Motoring historian Hans Tanner writing in his definitive volume on the marque, Ferrari
The Ferrari 250 GT Short Wheelbase
The lines of a Ferrari 250 GT short-wheelbase berlinetta (‘SWB) speak unambiguously of potency and power. And like ‘GTO’ and ‘Testa Rossa’, ‘SWB’ (Passo Corto in Italian) immediately conveys to knowledgeable Ferraristi everything that is great about the most desirable cars from Maranello: a strong competition pedigree, first owners from Il Commendatore’s personal address book and, above all, world-class performance on road or track.
The design by Pininfarina, wrought in metal by the craftsmen at Scaglietti, is often hailed as one of the most beautiful shapes ever seen, its swooping curves effortlessly combining a pugnaciously aggressive nose with a finely balanced side profile and gently rounded haunches.
Revealed to the public at the 1959 Paris Motor Show, the immortal SWB was a more compact, faster and lighter development of the all-conquering 250 GT Tour de France. The SWB was the first production Ferrari to have disc brakes and was a true dual-purpose GT: alloy Competiziones dominated the race track, while only slightly more civilised steel Lussos were the LaFerrari of their day.
The cars scored class wins at Le Mans in 1960 and 1961, and overall Tour de France victories in 1960, ’61 and ’62 (when André Simon’s car beat eight new GTOs). Stirling Moss won the Goodwood Tourist Trophy two years running in Rob Walker-entered SWBs: in 1961 he lapped the entire field.
Marque historians consider that no more than 165 SWBs were built. After an initial run of pure competition cars with all-alloy bodies, over a two-year period Ferrari offered the more refined steel 250 GT SWB Lusso (‘luxury’) to its best clients. The doors, bonnet and boot were still alloy, and the cars had carpeted boots, a generally higher level of trim and better sound deadening in the cabin. All had front and rear bumpers and glass side and rear windows.
The Tipo 168, triple-Weber, 2,953cc motor was tuned for better driveability and produced a reliable 220 – 240bhp, enough for ferocious acceleration dependent on gearing. The engine had 12-port, Testa Rossa-style cylinder heads and still used many semi-competition components. The gearbox was a four-speed, by Ferrari, cast in iron rather than alloy to dampen mechanical noise
Eligible for all the best events and with instantly recognisable lines, the scintillating 250 GT Short Wheelbase Berlinetta remains in many experts’ opinion the finest-ever Ferrari road car.
This motor car
Chassis 3087 GT was built in what is considered the ‘second series’ of SWBs, those completed from March 1961 until the final cars were delivered in early 1963. These can be recognised by slightly larger grilles, a straighter side window upper profile to the top of the windscreen, a roof mounted rear air vent and ‘fuller’ rear arches. The fuel filler cap moved from a position on the boot lid to the rear wheel arch.
‘3087 GT’ was delivered on 12th December 1961 to well-known Bolognese entrepreneur Otello Ferretti, father of the champion powerboat racer, yacht builder and 1960s Lamborghini concessionaire Norberto Ferretti. As a high profile local businessman Otello knew Enzo Ferrari personally, explaining why this car was a direct factory sale and not supplied via a dealer as was customary.
In the mid to late 1960s the SWB was exported to the USA – Norberto remembers his father keeping it three or four years, and it originally having an outside 'corsa' fuel filler cap. It remained Stateside until 2008, in the hands of a select number of notable collectors including 250 Testa Rossa-owner Bill Rudd of Reno, Nevada, inveterate SWB-driver Charles ‘Chuck’ Reid of Houston, Texas, and Illinois-based Ferrari specialist John Hajduk.
In 1998, still in America but now in the ownership of German collector Heinrich Fries, ‘3087 GT’ became a regular on the show circuit, gaining awards at prestigious concours d'élégance. Passing into new hands shortly afterwards, the car was the subject of a comprehensive, concours-standard restoration by official agent Shelton Ferrari of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, believed to have cost $600,000. Afterwards it was used sparingly and displayed at events such as the Cavallino Classic where it was recognised with Platinum Awards and the coveted Excellence Cup.
The present British owner, scion of a great business and car collecting dynasty, purchased ‘3087 GT’ in 2008, garaging it alongside other significant classic and modern Ferraris including perhaps the world’s most famous 250 GT Lusso and 275 GTB/4. While in his tenure it has been restored to its stunning original colour combination of Grigio Conchiglia with red leather upholstery by Luppi.
Ferrari Classiche inspected the car in April 2010, confirming its matching chassis, engine and gearbox numbers and original bodywork, the sole variation noted as replacement of the rear axle. A FIVA identity card was issued on 8th December 2008. UK registered with the very apt ‘5WB’, the car has been shown selectively at top-tier concours and enjoyed a spirited run on the 2011 Ferrari Tribute to the Mille Miglia for post-1957 Ferraris.
One would be hard-pressed to list five all-time great collectors’ cars without including a Ferrari 250 GT Short Wheelbase. This example, equally at home purring across Villa d'Este's iconic lakeside terraces or driving hard down Highway 1 to catch the sunset at Big Sur, is surely one of the finest.