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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ferrari 250 P5, 0862, 33/3 and Other Numbers

By the mid 1960s, Ferrari’s racing program encountered some turbulence. Following the infamous “palace revolt” of 1961 (where several key personnel permanently walked out of the factory, undoubtedly throwing Enzo’s mojo way off), things soon recovered by Ferrari's overachieving to win Le Mans from 1960 to 1965. Ferrari’s NART 250LM won in 1965 (driven by Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory) but a red car was never to win at Le Mans again: The 330 P3s for Le Mans 1966 did not equate to winning positions, certainly influenced by the departure of then-top driver John Surtees in a team management dispute just prior to the race.

The subsequent 1-2-3 formation victory finish by Ford’s GT40s at the 1966 Le Mans cast a long shadow over Maranello, with the crowning achievement of Enzo’s defeat embodied in the Ford victory, unsettling him to deeply personal levels. Not merely symbolic, the GT40 was a vendetta realized --clearly signifying who had really “won” in the soured deal between Enzo and Ford (the latter of which was to buy Ferrari’s factory production).

Immediately following the 1966 losses, Enzo set out to win for 1967 in the Formula 1 Championship (Ferrari 312) and Sports Prototype Cup (330 P3s with tipo 603 gearboxes, jettisoning the unreliable ZF units of the prior year). Ferrari’s P3s and P4s won the World Championship for 1967, with the 312s not winning the ’67 F1 championship due to fatalities and injuries.

Although ultimately choosing not to participate in the Prototype Cup for 1968 due to regulation changes, the P4s were modified to race later in the ’67 season in the North American Can-Am series and then in 1968 to race in Australia; 1969 in South Africa. However, this gap year in Ferrari’s prototype program created an opportunity to work on other things, including a 6.0 litre Can-Am barchetta and a show car for publicity purposes. The show car is the item of interest here:

Enter the 250 P5 Berlinetta Pininfarina Speciale, debuting at the Geneva Motor Show for March 13, 1968. Under the direction of Leonardo Fioravanti, Pininfarina created an eight-headlamp berlinetta body initially mated to chassis 0862 (whose original function was to house a newly developed, but not yet running, 180º 2.0 litre V12 engine, intended initially for use in an aircraft, but ultimately used in Ferrari “Tipo 600,” a Sports-Prototype barchetta that became the 212E).

During the course of the year on the show circuit, things changed and Ferrari needed to develop a usable race car. P5’s chassis 0862 was commandeered and rebodied and raced as the Ferrari 212E Dino in the 1969 European Hillclimb Championship (driven to unbeaten victory by Peter Schetty). Seeking somewhere else to go, P5’s body was then placed upon an Alfa Romeo 33/3 chassis whereupon it received a facelift and Alfa badging.

The more conservative styling of the Alfa version likewise made the P5 less of a show concept and more of a usable road-going car. Yet the physical P5 was gone forever, restyled, rebadged, lost in the mists of time. However its legacy can be found to be prominently alive today: As it was borne in a “gap year,” so was the P5 an element that bridged a gap between distinct Ferrari identities, a coming of age within the Enzo era cars.

To illustrate, many of the P5’s styling cues resurfaced years later on iconic Ferrari models, such as demonstrated in the side-straking/air-directing motif --the main identifier of the 1980s/90s Testarossa, 512 TR, 512 M. This also appears on the Mondial and 348. Aerodynamic cues and body surfacing found on the P5 can be seen to echo in the F50, featuring nose vents at the base of the windshield. The general aerodynamic shape, a glass window over the engine, wheel arches, and airflow management over, through, and away from the body foretold the future as Ferraris modernized, becoming more and more wind tunnel reliant.

Monday, June 18, 2012

250 GTO-esque Rebody by Drogo on GTE Chassis

                                           (above photo: Ferrari 250 GTE #2493GT, body by Drogo, in-period)

The challenge: What gives this Ferrari away as not being a re-bodied GTO?

This discussion began because someone (erroneously) thought this car was an in-period re-body of a wrecked GTO. The question is the following: What can be seen in this photograph that evidences the fact that the car could not have been a re-bodied GTO even if you knew nothing of its history?

Some information about the car: This is neither a replica nor an "almost GTO" iteration by the factory. It is a re-body by Drogo. Therefore, using the above photo only (body by Drogo as applied to 250 GTE #2493GT) --what visual clue proves it could not have been a replacement body on a GTO chassis? 

While formulating your guess, remember that the body is a complete re-do and does not define the car's chassis and serial number in any way, yet the answer is in plain sight. Can you determine why this is not a GTO from its outer appearance? I will tell you that you CAN determine why this car is not a 250 GTO. 

Note: Those who already know and have been told by Stephen Mitchell, on another forum, please do not give it away. Let others have their chance to decipher the mystery. 

Enjoy ;)

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Gateway

Vintage Ferraris. They comprise the realm of the heritage of one of the most acclaimed carmakers in all history. There is something unequivocal about the aura of a handmade car, and that it is Ferrari only enhances this condition. The smell of the mechanical components can be experienced both within and without the car, the oil and gas and rubber blending into a single complex intoxication. Yet there is a staggering simplicity in the moments of pure enjoyment standing before the car. And more still from behind the wheel.

Enter the Ferrari 250 GTO: Inside, the simplicity abounds. The stark interior awaits the pilot, all business but embellished sparingly with moments of luxury: The Nardi wheel, the gauge cluster, are fixtures shining and lush. Blue seats, spartan inner doors and floor pans greet the visitor. And it is clear: Work is done in here but it is an elite type of work, a driving ambition elevated to an artform. 

The period atmosphere permeates the cabin despite myriad refurbishments and restorations. The car is from another epoch, yet its storied past emerges quite alive among the antique parts and structural elements. It is old enough to be a generation removed from younger enthusiasts, but modern enough in its timeless form and level of performance. Perhaps the most important and salient icon adorning the interior of the GTO is the object mounted atop the transmission tunnel –the gated shifter assembly.

Even within the handmade era, no other shift gate design is shared with the GTO. It is as unique to the car as each GTO is to each other. The chrome face of the gate beckons reverence as well as proper use. All six positions on the mechanism extend from the transmission beneath it, standing in a repose that pierces the silence with echoes of the V12 being taken through its paces, in races long run and celebrated. Thousands of shifts, thousands of gears, thousands of vignettes lost to time are released and flow through the gate.

And then ensconced in the driver’s position, firmly planted in the seat, with a turn and push of the key –the start of the engine heralds the next movement in the symphony. Hearing the "snick" with the lever going into first, a movement in the hips and leg gently brings the revs up from the 1000rpm idle. Hands on wood and polished aluminum, feet on pedals feeling the chassis –with this the car moves, and another chapter in history points the way to the road.