The Ferrari 250 Gran Turismo Omologato (GTO) needs little introduction as the most iconic, most habitable, street-useable, race-winning, World Championship-winning – and simply gorgeous – closed two-seat Coupe car from the world-famous Maranello factory. The GTO was developed to contest the 1962 3-litre class FIA GT World Championship series of classical endurance racing events. Selective production at Maranello and in the Scaglietti body plant in Modena ran on through the 1963 FIA GT World Championship and – sure enough – the Ferrari 250 GTO won the World title both seasons in succession.
Over the long decades since then, the Ferrari 250 GTO has commanded ever-increasing interest from the car connoisseur and art investor alike. Valuable levels have been achieved by the relatively few examples that have come to market over the past 20 years. Offered at the 2014 Bonhams Quail Lodge auction is nothing less than GTO chassis serial 3851GT, fresh from the longest-term single ownership of any one of these mouth-watering, completely desirable and much-coveted Berlinettas.
Overall, the Ferrari factory manufactured 39 cars which may be considered within the rarefied GTO family. Four of the core group of 35 cars with 1962-63 style bodywork were later converted into lower, flatter, longer-nosed GTO/64 body form. So 31 of the 250 GTO/62-63 series have survived, of which only 28 cars have the 3-litre V12 engine as true 250 GTOs, and three 4-litre V12 engines as 330 GTOs. Offered at the 2014 Bonhams Monterey Classic Car Week auction is the 17th of the 3-litre true 250 GTOs, first completed and campaigned right at the end of the 1962 International race season, and then as rebuilt fresh and ready for a new ownership, and a resumed career, in 1963.
Ferrari 250 GTO chassis 3851GT offered here was acquired by young Italian enthusiast Fabrizio Violati 49 years ago, in 1965. He was scion of a wealthy family with considerable business interests in agriculture and mineral water bottling and distribution under the brand name Ferrarelle. In essence the genial, hard driving Roman became the fourth owner that 3851GT had during its young life.
The car was the 19th Ferrari GTO to be completed and invoiced by the Maranello factory, having been signed-off initially there on September 11, 1962. Since two of the preceding examples had been 330 GTOs with 4-litre engines instead of the GT-homologated 3-litre 250 units it may be regarded as the 17th 250 GTO. It was finished in metallic pale grey with lengthwise red, white and blue centerline stripes and was collected by its first owner, the experienced and rugged 34-year-old French privateer Jo Schlesser.
He committed it immediately to competition in the annual Tour de France Automobile, run that year from September 15-23. Schlesser was to co-drive the car with his 36 year-old friend Henri Oreiller. While Schlesser was then building his reputation as a leading French circuit-racer, the Parisian Oreiller was already a national celebrity. He had been a member of the French Resistance during the Second World War, and took up competitive skiing after 1945. He was nicknamed the ‘Parisian of Val d’Isere’ or ‘The Madman of the Downhill’ and – representing France in 1948 at the first postwar Winter Olympics in St Moritz – he won two gold medals and a bronze, to become the Game’s most successful athlete. He won the flagship Downhill ski race with a time fully four seconds faster than the silver medalist, added a second gold medal in the combined event and then a bronze in the special slalom. He competed in the 1950 World Championships at Aspen, Colorado, finishing fourth there in the newly introduced giant slalom. He also competed in the 1952 Winter Olympics at Oslo, Norway, before retiring from competitive skiing at the age of 26 – to pursue his alternative interest in motor racing and rallying.
The route of the 1962 Tour de France Automobile comprised some 5,500kms – 3,418 miles – and the event would be decided by circuit races at Rouen-les-Essarts, Le Mans, Albi, Clermont-Ferrand, round-the-houses in Pau, at Reims-Gueux and in Belgium at Spa-Francorchamps. Add grueling against-the-clock hill-climbs at Mont d’Or, the Col de Braus, Mont Ventoux, Chamrousse and Mont Revard – plus punishing public-road grinds within strict time limits between venues and the magnitude of this amazing test of man and machine is self-evident.
Twelve assorted Ferrari 250 GTs disputed top honours. Drivers of the latest GTOs were favourites to win, but as model authority Jess Pourret observed: “First of all the GTO drivers were all out for the kill and they took chances at times that the car couldn’t take. Meanwhile (Andre) Simon….determined to win after so many years of trying hard, had his already year-old (250GT SWB) completely overhauled at SEFAC and drove with minute attention to details. For once, he controlled his strong aggressiveness and ended up winning in front of the GTO of Oreiller and Schlesser (in 3851GT), who had divided the work, one doing the hill climbs, the other the circuits…”
For the French privateers this debut success in their new car was a great result, but second time out – at Montlhéry Autodrome in the October 7 Coupes du Salon race meeting poor Henri Oreiller crashed fatally. The car was badly damaged after hitting a trackside building, and a mourning Jo Schlesser returned it to the factory for repair to as-new condition and subsequent re-sale.
While that accident occurred on October 7, 1962, the factory repair of 3851GT progressed rapidly through the following winter and the car was sold to a new Italian owner, Paolo Colombo, in time to reappear as early as April 7, 1963, in national hill-climb competition. Paolo Colombo was an enthusiastic gentleman driver who contested that year’s Italian national championship hill-climb series under the Scuderia Trentina banner.
His Ferrari 250 GTO debut was made on April 7 at the near-unpronounceable VI Stallavena-Boscochiesanuova hill-climb, in which he set third fastest time in his class and placed 7th fastest overall. He then competed in no fewer than 14 further hill-climb rounds during that summer-into-Fall season. In 3815GT he scored Gran Turismo class victories in 12 of those events, many of them at venues whose fame is written deeply into the history of European motor sport. These outstandingly challenging and prominent climbs are presented in italics in the following list of Colombo’s wins with 3851GT: Castell’Arquarto-Vernasca, Bologna-Raticosa, the Coppa Consuma, in the major Alpen-Bergpreis at Rossfeld (Germany), in the Coppa Asiago, Vezzana-Casina, Bolzano-Mendola, Trento-Bondone, Trieste-Opicina, Aosta-Pila, Cividale-Castelmonte, Ascoli-San Marco and Coppa Fagioli climbs. At the towering Mont Ventoux in southern France, Paolo Colombo made a tiny error during his 13-mile climb and for once 3851GT was beaten into only second place in class.
At the end of that year fellow amateur owner/driver Ernesto Prinoth made Colombo an irresistible offer for his ultra-successful 3851GT and into 1964 he, as its new owner, embarked upon an energetic programme of mixed hill-climbing and circuit racing.
Born in 1923, Ernesto Prinoth was a highly regarded businessman/engineer who relaxed at the weekends by indulging his interest in motor sport. He had launched his automotive garage business in Gröden in 1951 and during the winters spent much of his time amongst the ski fraternity at Val Gardena. Fascinated by snow vehicles, he began developing mechanized snow groomers and produced his first P60 prototype in 1962. Sno-cats and snow groomer production followed and Prinoth AG survives to this day and is highly-regarded within its field. Ernesto Prinoth competed in Formula 1 racing during 1961-62, driving his privately-owned Lotus-Climax 18 as a Scuderia Dolomiti and later Scuderia Jolly Club entry.
He then gave up single-seater racing to campaign this ex-Colombo Ferrari 250 GTO 3851GT under the Scuderia Dolomiti Bolzano banner. Starting at Stallavena-Boscochiesanuova on April 5, 1964, and ending the year by winning his class yet again in the Preis von Tyrol aerodrome race at Innsbruck, Austria, on October 4, he won his GT Category six more times – at the major Trento-Bondone and Trieste-Opicina climbs, and in the Coppa Citta Asiago, the Trofeo Amoco, and at Cividale-Castelmonte.
Ernesto Prinoth also won his class and placed second overall in the year’s Preis von Wien circuit race at Aspern aerodrome outside Vienna, Austria, and set second fastest GT time at the Coppa Consuma.
On September 6, 1964, he returned to International circuit racing in the important hour-long Coppa Inter-Europa GT race supporting that year’s Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix at Monza Autodrome. During the race he crashed 3851GT, rolling it into the trackside undergrowth. Its cabin roof caved-in, its body panels were extensively dented but the undergrowth cushioned the worst of the impact.
The damage proved to be largely cosmetic and within a mere three weeks 3851GT was repaired to raceworthy trim in time for Prinoth to re-prepare it in his engineering workshops in time to score that circuit-racing class win and to finish second overall in the Innsbruck aerodrome race.
It was during the following winter into 1965 that Prinoth considered whether his successful, but now well-used and decreasingly competitive 250 GTO, should either be cannibalized for its V12 engine to be used in a racing power boat, or to sell it complete.
Fabrizio Violati stepped forward as an eager young buyer. A racing fan from childhood, he had been born in Rome on June 17, 1935. He joined the family firm after earning a degree in geology, and became general manager of the business, which produced and marketed such mineral water brands as Sangemini and the innovative, naturally-carbonated Ferrarelle: “Still, sparkling, or Ferrarelle?” as TV advertisements caroled into the 1970s. The company would eventually be sold to Danone in 1987.