Model history: Form and function can be combined very well in automotive design, the Ferrari 250 GT SWB underlines this like few others do. Considered by many as Ferrari's and Pininfarina's best looking car, the SWB took the first four places in its class at the 1960 Le Mans 24 hours race, completely blowing competition from Aston Martin and Chevrolet away.
Introduced at the 1959 Paris Motorshow, the SWB used a body very similar to those of the 250 GT LWB Interim Berlinetta campaigned throughout the 1960 season. The largest visual difference between the two is the lack of the Interim's fixed rear quarter windows on the SWB. The new chassis was similar in design to the 250 GTs raced in the 1950s but the wheelbase was shortened by 20 mm to 2400 mm, hence Short Wheelbase (SWB). A wheelbase of 2400 mm is considered as the ideal length, to allow for good cornering characteristics (the shorter, the better) and straight-line stability (the longer, the better). It is not a coincidence that the most successful racer ever, the Bugatti Type 35, has a 2400 mm wheelbase. Another major improvement was the replacement of drum brakes by discs, all around. This was the first time the factory equipped discs appeared on a 250 GT.
Under the bonnet a revised V12 engine (Type 168) was installed. Although its displacement and bore and stroke were exactly the same as the first of the 250 GT engines, it was a completely different engine, a result of 6 years of development. The Type 168 engine was closely related to the Type 128DF engines used in the Interim Berlinettas of 1959. The sump, oil pump, timing chain casings and oil filters were updated or replaced by new parts compared to the 128DF engine. Larger Weber Carburetors were also fitted, breathing was further assisted by the installation of 250 TR derived intake and exhaust ports. Competition engines were good for around 260 - 275 bhp (referred to as the 280bhp engine) and the street engines good for 220 - 240 bhp (240 bhp engine).
Ferrari's stronghold on international GT racing continued in 1960; the new SWB Berlinettas being nearly unbeatable. The Tour de France was a complete whitewash, with SWBs filling the first three places at the end of the 5500 km marathon. At Le Mans the domination was even more complete; four SWBs were on the top of the GT-class leaderboard. Overall or class victories were further scored at Monza, Spa, the Nürburgring, Monthlery and in the Tourist Trophy. Determined to continue the dominance, Ferrari refined the SWB for the 1961 season.
Cars produced after 1960 can be easily identified by the removal of the 'kink' in the top edge of the side windows. Other modifications mainly seen from late 1960 cars onward are the relocated fuel filler cap, fatter wheel arches and the ventilation vent in the roof instead of the rear window. Some competition cars used a lighter tubing for the chassis and were equipped with a very powerful engine. These cars are commonly referred to as 'Comp/61' or 'SEFAC Hot Rod'. Fitted with larger valves and rather oversized Carburetors, the Comp/61 engine produces well up to 300 bhp.
Ferrari's dominance in GT-racing was complete in 1961, with GT-class victories all over the world and a clean sweep of the first four places at the Tour de France. Although extremely successful, there was a big drawback of the SWB's design; it shared its aerodynamic characteristics with a rock. After just two years of racing, the SWB was already up for replacement. After a winter's worth of testing the result was the 250 GTO. It was equipped with a more aerodynamic body and a full blown 250 TR engine.
Chassis 2439 GT was one of the very potent Comp/61s, recognisable by the bug deflector and the exhaust cover. Such a cover was made mandatory by the ACO (Le Mans organizers) to prevent fires while refueling. It was raced with a lot of success in period by its Swedish owner. It is seen here at the Bonham's 2004 Gstaad Ferrari sale, where it was offered for sale.
Chassis 2701GT was one of the Works cars until it crashed heavily during the trials for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Fully rebuilt by the factory it was sold to Count Carlo & Masalmo Leto di Priolo who raced Comp/61 in Italy throughout 1962. After its retirement from contemporary racing, chassis 2701GT changed hands many times. Its most recent custodian is an American enthusiast, who has used on both sides of the Atlantic. He is seen here during the 2004 Tour Auto.
In the early '70's, I was stationed in Germany with the USAF. In 1973, I was getting ready to ship back to the States. One day, when going through base housing, I noticed a Ferrari 250 GT. As Ferraris were a rare sight on base, I stopped to have a look. An officer came out of his home and approached the car and me. We talked Ferrais for a while, and I asked where he had purchased the car. He said that there was a gent in Switzerland that specialized in exotic cars and such and that if I was interested, I should contact him. The gentleman's name was Rob del la Rive Box. I contacted Rob and asked if he had a 250 SWB in inventory. He said that he had one on consignment that belonged to a friend of his. The asking price was right at $5400 US Dollars. He said that the car was in "OK" condition,and said that if I was really interested, he could find me another one in better shape and "possibly" in better shape. I said OK. As it got closer to my ship out date, I called Rob to see if he had found me a car, no, not yet. Just before I shipped out, I called Rob once more and asked about the friend's car, but it was a no response on both counts. It ended up being a case of waiting too long. When I got back to the States, I wrote Rob to see what he had in inventory, which was limited to a 330 single headlight. I may have been interested in the 330 but the cost had went up considerably - well beyond what my pay could afford on military pay. When I came back to the States, I bought a copy of Autoweek, who used to use the next to the last page for special cars. In that issue, the car of the month was a 250 SWB. The article started off saying, "If you can find one for less than $100K, buy it....". So close, yet so far.