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250 GT SWB California Spyder
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  Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder

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Country of origin:Italy
Produced from:1960 - 1963
Numbers built:51
Designed by:Scaglietti
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:May 19, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionAfter its introduction in the 250 GT Europa of 1955, the Gioacchino Colombo designed three litre V12 engine went on to power a host of road and racing cars for almost a decade. It was particularly successful under the bonnet of the long wheelbase (LWB) GT racers, which after the 1956 victory were nicknamed 'Tour de France' or 'TdF'. In down tuned form it powered Ferrari's first 'production car', the 250 GT Boano Coupe. When the stunning 250 GT Pinin Farina Cabriolet was launched, the 250 GT line-up appeared to be complete. Two of Ferrari's most important distributors, Luigi Chinetti in New York and John van Neumann in California, convinced Enzo Ferrari it wasn't. What they wanted was a drop-top version of the 'TdF'. Chinetti and Neumann felt that there was a market for a racer for the road, which the luxurious Pinin Farina Cabriolet did not fill.

It would have been easiest to have Pinin Farina design and body the new car, but they were too busy with the Cabriolet production. Instead Scaglietti was chosen to execute this new California Spyder, which was designed by Pinin Farina. Scaglietti was mainly responsible for the bodies of Ferrari's racers and the California Spyder project was one of the rare Scaglietti bodied road going Ferraris. Except for a number of competition specials, the bodies were constructed from steel, which was easier to use and cheaper than the aluminium used in the 'TdF' bodies. All Californias used the same design, except for the headlights, which could be ordered open or covered.

As requested by Chinetti and Neumann a full competition chassis was used for the California, similar to those for the 'TdFs'. When the Short Wheelbase (SWB) chassis of the 250 GT was introduced in 1959/60, it was also adopted for the California Spyder, with minimal change in exterior design. Even more important was the choice of engines available for the California. Apart from the regular road spec V12, Ferrari offered the 'hot' competition engines as well, which were good for well over 250 bhp. Over the years the engines evolved and the Californias were always equipped with the latest specification of the Colombo V12.

Ferrari's gamble paid off and around fifty of each wheelbase was constructed between 1957 and 1963. Not only was it a sales hit, the aluminium bodied competition specials were also quite successful. Already very desirably, the value of these fabulous machines has risen quickly in recent years and in August of 2007 two LWB examples sold for nearly $5 million. It got even 'worse' at RM Auctions' 2008 Maranello sale where a finely restored example changed hands for the silly and record breaking amount of $10 million. Although more a result of a bidding war than a reflection of the current California Spyder market, it will no doubt effect future sales.

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  Article Image gallery (37) Chassis (1) Specifications User Comments (3)