Lifestyle

Better Berlinetta


The Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta was considered one of the greatest sports cars of the 1960s

Sold new in Italy to A. Demetrialdi in May 1961, this 250 GT SWB "Lusso" was imported into Switzerland in April 1963 and entered for its first race by its new owner, Daniel Siebenmann of Switzerland, at the "Auvergne 3 hours" in France, where it finished 23rd (pictured in Jess Pourret's "Ferrari 250 GT Competition," page 132). In 1963 and 1964, Siebenmann raced the car at several hillclimbs in Switzerland.

Siebenmann sold the car and it was exported to the U.S., where it remained until 1979 when Swiss broker Charles Gnädinger re-imported it to Switzerland. It was in this period when a replacement engine (#4467, from a 250 GTL Lusso) was fitted. (Additionally, a newly-cast block from the Ferrari Classiche center is included. See below for details.--SCM.)

In 1984, it was acquired by a Ferrari collector in Geneva and continued its race history (1998 Tour Auto). In December 2001, the car was sent to Tony Merrick's GTO Engineering Ltd. for a technical check and race preparation (fitting a roll cage and safety devices). In spring 2002, the 250 GT SWB changed hands again. In the hands of its new Swiss owner it was raced regularly at the Shell Historic Ferrari Maserati Challenge from 2002 until 2005, and at the Tour Auto and Tour d'Espana. It also participated in the 2002, 2004, and 2006 Le Mans Classics with Henri Pescarolo (2004) and François Fillon (2006) behind the wheel.

The race history is well documented and accompanying the car is a thick folder of period and recent photos, bills, result lists, and event programs. Equipped with the necessary alterations like outside filler cap, integrated fire extinguisher, and roll cage, the car has current FIA papers. Since 2002 it has been meticulously serviced by Graber Sportgarage AG and all work is well documented with invoices available (over $318,000).

The car is well sorted, in excellent condition, and ready for any track event or even a Sunday afternoon cruise. #2563 is currently Swiss-registered.

The SCM Analysis

This SWB sold for $1,762,300 at the Geneva Sportscar Auction on October 7, 2006. The price paid was at the low end of today's ever-escalating values, currently $1.7m to $2.2m for a "street" steel-bodied SWB. Prices for these cars have been increasing monthly, and SCM estimated last year's increase at 20 to 32%. So what are the principal factors influencing prices of SWBs?

With SWBs, as with many Ferrari models, variations in engine, body material, and chassis are all-important. To paraphrase George Orwell: All SWBs are equal, but some SWBs are more equal than others.

There were 165 (some say 167) SWBs produced, starting in 1959. It's called the SWB because while the chassis was similar to its predecessor, the LWB Berlinetta, commonly referred to as the TdF, the SWB used an 8" shorter wheelbase. Two major types of SWBs were made, the Competizione for racing and a more luxurious version suitable for road use, which the factory called the Lusso (not to be confused with the 1962 to 1964 250 GTL Berlinetta Lusso).

The competition version evolved into further sub-classes. The most famous derivatives were the 20 (some sources say 22 or 23) factory-built SEFAC Hot Rods. The remaining cars are a mix of steel and aluminum bodies with alloy cars predominantly used for competition, due to their weight advantage. About 90 steel cars were built.

The competition cars were powerful, light, and competitive, and in 1961 the SWB captured the GT class of the Constructor's Championship. They are regarded as the most important GT racers of the time. But even for non-factory-built "comp" cars, competition history helps to elevate their value.

The V12 that powered them was a direct descendant of Colombo's original 1.5-liter design. The street version was designated Tipo 168. Displacement was 2,953 cc; horsepower was 220 to 240 at 7500 rpm, with a compression of 9.2:1 and three Weber 36 DCS carbs. The 280-hp competition version, Tipo 168 B, got a 9.7:1 compression ratio, larger 40 DCL or even 46 DCF carbs, bigger valves, and lighter pistons and connecting rods. They also had lightweight "elektron" castings, and alloy-finned gearbox housings.

The auction catalog described this accurately as a steel street SWB with some limited competition history early on and a period replacement block. The extensive recent vintage racing history added little to its value.

Was the value influenced much by the replacement engine? An interesting scrap of information in the catalog says: "Included is a new 250 SWB engine block of the type 168, delivered in early 2006 by Ferrari Classiche in Maranello, allowing to put the engine back to its original 250 SWB configuration as delivered and fitted by the factory in 1961."

What does this mean? To the purist the car is not a "numbers-matching car." But the engine transplanted from the later Lusso is presumably a type 168 and is very close to being identical to the engine originally installed--thus most purveyors of the faith would deduct only minor points or dollars for this replacement. It would be far different if an engine of the wrong type, or--heaven forbid--an engine from a different make had been used.

Engine replacement and the effect on value has been debated by collectors forever. But now we have another curious interpretation of what makes a car original, brought to us via the well-meaning Ferrari factory's new "Ferrari Classiche" division, which is offering a "Certification" document based on a car's adherence to factory records as determined by a rigorous inspection process at a location of their choosing. The process starts with a $630 application fee. And for cars manufactured prior to January 1980, a subsequent fee of up to $6,300.

For official certification, the car's engine must be deemed authentic. It either a) must be the one originally installed, or b) the same type as originally installed but from another car of the same type. In this case, the implication is that the 1964 Lusso engine is not sufficiently close to have Ferrari Classiche issue a Certification of Authenticity. Instead they are recasting engine blocks with the "original casting molds" and are requiring that a new engine block be purchased for around $38,000. Around which the factory will build a new engine--from scratch, probably another $30,000 or more. It will then be stamped with their "Classiche" number in lieu of the original number.

So you take an original block of the period out and substitute a newly cast block with modern alloys and the factory says now you are "Authentic." This is an interesting twist on the age-old argument of "authenticity." The Ferrari factory is saying that a car is "more authentic" if the non-original but correct type engine is replaced with a new casting, made in their foundry, than if it carries a block of the period. Most collectors find this interpretation--while beneficial in bringing into production long unavailable components--very curious. Only time will tell how the market will sort this out. Perhaps having a certificate will play a major role in market valuation in the future, which will then drive the market toward "official" Ferrari replacement blocks rather than period-cast blocks.

Finally, condition strongly influences price and SCM's auction reporter, Julian Shoolheifer observed it was "in very, very good and nicely presented condition overall. Viewed on a staged area to set it off and allowing a really good look. Perfect black leather interior, but with Willans race harnesses and a full roll cage. Some delaminating at the edges of the glass and some slight micro blistering on some chrome parts. A large bubble in the paint by the fuel filler." And of course there is the claimed $318,000 spent on recent maintenance.

So overall it was a very nice specimen and probably a good buy, with a new certified block as a bonus. And as time passes, this surely won't be the last time the whole issue of the new Ferrari certification program will be raised. If nothing else, it will make for some interesting barside discussions.

Years Produced: 1959–62

Number Produced: 75 Comp, 90 street approx.

Original List Price: $14,000

SCM Valuation: $1,500,000–$1,800,000 (at time of print)

Tune-up Cost: $2,000

Distributor Caps: 2 @ $400 each

Chassis #: 2563

Chassis # Location: Front frame tube

Engine # Location: Engine rear mount

Club Info: Ferrari Club of America, Box 720597, Atlanta, GA 30358

Web Site: http://www.ferrariclubofamerica.org


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