Muscle cars are generally American, but for the Ferrari 250 GTO, I can make an exception. With its features fitting the specifications of an actual muscle car – overwhelming speed and a light body – the fact that it is European can easily be looked over.
The Ferrari 250 GTO was created by Ferrari in 1962 and remained in production until 1964 as an addition to the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s Group 3 Grand Touring Car Category. The GTO stands for Gran Turismo Omologato, meaning “Grand Touring Homologated”, while the 250 denotes the displacement each of its engine’s cylinders can make in cubic centimeters. IT was pegged at $18,000 at the time of its release in the United States and every buyer had to be personally approved by North American Ferrari dealer Luigi Chinetti and Ferrari owner himself, Enzo Ferrari.
Only 36 units of the Ferrari 250 GTO were made from 1962 to 1963 and a Series II was introduced in 1964. The 1964 model slightly deviated from the original model, with only three models ever produced. These three were modified with bodies from the ‘62/’63 model to make the total number of 250 GTOs go up to 39. The car placed eighth on the Top Sports Car of the 1960s list released by Sports Car International in 2004. Similarly, it placed first in the Greatest Ferraris of All Time list of Motor Trend Classic.
Designed to compete in GT racing, the Ferrari 250 GTO was based on the 250 GT SWB. It had a 3.0L V12 engine installed into the chassis of the 250 GT SWB. The rest of the car was made of typical 1960s Ferrari makeup – A-arm front suspension, live-axle rear end, hand-welded tube frame, Borrani wheels, and disc brakes. It had a basic interior with no speedometer installed in the instrument panel.
The Ferrari 250 GTO made its racing debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1962. It was driven by Formula One World Driving Champion Phil Hill and Belgian Olivier Gendebien. It had a second overall finish behind the Testa Rossa, which made both drivers slightly annoyed by being given a prototype GT instead of a full blown Testa Rossa themselves. However, they changed their minds when the car won the over 2000cc class of the International Championship for GT Manufacturers in 1962, 63, and 64 for Ferrari. The 250 GTO was one of the few front-engined cars to remain at the top level of sports car racing. By the 1970s, they were already used as road cars or, at most, regional racing cars.
From the late 1970s to 1980s, the Ferrari 250 GTO rose in value as it was touted as the most valuable of all Ferraris. From its humble starting price of $18,000 in 1962, the prices went as high as $13,000,000 in 1993 before it fell with the car market crash of the late 1990s. After that crisis, prices have steadily risen to a peak of $10,000,000 in 2004. The most expensive 250 GTO sold had a colorful history in itself. It was once owned by a drug dealer before being passed around by various influential families all over the world.