Lifestyle

Ferrari's Coup


Designed to be elegant and conservative rather than sporty, the 250 GT Pinin Farina Coupe was Ferrari’s first series production car

When the 250 GT Europa was launched at the 1954 Paris Salon, it was described as the first series production car for Ferrari. The 3-liter cars were in production for 10 years. The 250 series encompassed a whole range of models catering to everyone from wealthy gentlemen to ambitious racing drivers. The 250 Pinin Farina Coupe introduced at the 1958 Paris show replaced the 250 Europa, also a Pinin Farina design.

The coupe was a milestone for Ferrari. Using proven 250 GT components, all 353 Coupes were bodied by Pinin Farina at its new Turin manufacturing facility. The combination of competition-derived engines and chassis with quality bodies made the coupe Ferrari's best seller by 1959.

This car, #1617, was delivered in September 1961 as the 241st built.

It has had four owners, and in 2004, the car competed in the Liege-Rome Rally. It currently shows 44,000 miles, and when inspected by a Christie's specialist, the bodywork was straight with good panel fit, though a few minor imperfections were evident. The car started "on the button" and performed faultlessly.

Although not a concours example, it presents very well, and all mechanical components are reported to be in good working order. The heads were rebuilt around 2004 and the car was serviced 1,600 miles ago. With the majority of components similar to or shared with some of the most valuable and desirable Ferraris, this

250 GT provides comfortable, competitive touring and is ideal for a host of European events. The estimate is $120,000–$190,000.

The SCM Analysis

This "notch back" coupe sold for $152,400 at Christie's February 2007 auction at Rétromobile in Paris.

The was a higher price than any achieved at recent auctions, and for an average condition PF coupe without major restoration bills or vetting at an important judged event. Two years ago this price would have bought a very nice PF Cabriolet.

Donald Osborne, Sports Car Market's man on the scene, observed: "Good paint, shows some sinkage and some orange peel. Variable panel fit, both doors slightly out at rear edge. Good chrome, which has light scratches and pitting on bumpers. Very good seats, slightly soiled, carpets stained in places. Red is not the best color in my opinion, but this car seemed clean and honest, and it presented better than the description above might indicate. These are much better drivers than conventional wisdom states, and values have jumped in the past few years."

Donald's judgment about color corresponds with the factory's perceptions, since 169 cars were painted gray, silver, or white. Only two of the 353 were painted Rosso Corsa (racing red), and one had a silver roof--one of 32 that received two-tone paint. These subdued colors were consistent with the nature of the car.

Not meant to be a sporty Ferrari

It was never meant to be a low-cut sporty Ferrari, but rather an elegant, conservative GT. Enzo Ferrari reportedly wanted to stabilize his company's finances and asked Pinin Farina to design a practical coupe with proper heating and ventilation that could be built in series. Introduced at a Milan press conference in 1958, Pinin Farina's staid design eschewed fender vents for clean lines and adopted a notchback three-window greenhouse with a panoramic rear window. The oval grille was gone, replaced by a long narrow grille flanked by protruding headlights.

Because of its conservative styling, the PF coupe has never been popular with Ferrari collectors and has often been one of the most affordable Ferraris. This meant that by the early '70s, most were in deplorable, neglected condition, and many were parted out to support more desirable 250s or to become the basis for replicas. It is estimated that fewer than half of the original 353 survive.

All cars in the series had the classic 3-liter Colombo single overhead cam V12 engines, detuned from the competition version. All had the same LWB 102.4-inch tubular steel chassis, almost identical to the chassis used on the competition 250 Ferraris. By 1959, as the coupe continued to sell, some important updates were implemented. Around s/n 1499, after about 200 had been produced, Dunlop disc brakes replaced the traditional drums. A little later, the much improved outside spark plug engine, Tipo 128F, was fitted to s/n 1527 and the cars that followed. The 4-speed transmission was dropped in favor of a 4-speed with electric overdrive. These changes made the later cars much better drivers and stoppers.

Using the Thorson collectibility scale, (February,"Race Profile," p. 65), where does this Ferrari fit?

First, was it special when new? Well, it was expensive, at $12,600; it cost as much as a very delectable selection of other Ferraris. It was the same price as an alloy-bodied Tour de France, and more expensive than an LWB California. Even a Testa Rossa was comparably priced and available, if you had the right racing license and a good team. Sort of reminds me of the lucky-unlucky guy who inherited his dad's 365 GTC/4 bought new 35 years before. The father chose it because, while it was more expensive than a Daytona Spyder or even a leftover NART Spyder, it was more civilized.

Second, was the PF coupe ever associated with special events or people? I may have missed them, but I don't recall any stories about Rubirosa romancing his lady of the week in his PF coupe, and of course there is little competition history, let alone any victories. So on the second scale, the PF coupe is pretty low in the Ferrari hierarchy.

Vast numbers sacrificed for parts

Third, rarity. It outsold all other models available in the late '50s and all models preceding it. When the first prototype, s/n 0843, was finished, Ferrari had produced fewer than 800 cars since its founding ten years earlier, so the sale of 353 cars in a little over two years was very significant to Ferrari's cash flow. Because of the vast numbers sacrificed for parts, they are now somewhat rare.

Finally, what's its fun quotient? Well, parts and service are readily available, if not cheap. It would probably be admitted to most of the international driving events, maybe after languishing on the waitlist. It will probably not be Pebble Beach material anytime soon, but most other events would welcome it. And it is a V12, makes all the right sounds, and should impress almost everybody at the local cruise night. So maybe it's a 50–60 percentile car.

Is it worth $153,000? The Ferrari Market Letter shows this model to have the highest increase in its Asking Price Index of any Ferrari over the last two years, close to 100%. Are we seeing a "bubble" in prices of second-tier Ferraris, similar to the 1986–90 period? Or is this vindication for the bottom-fishing theory of investing, that buying the cheapest house on a great block is the best way to go? Only time will tell, but meanwhile, it will be a great tour car, and as the prices of all old V12s continues to climb, this may be the new price of entry to the club.

Years Produced: 1958–60

Number Produced: 353

Original List Price: $12,600

SCM Valuation: $125,000–$175,000 (at time of print)

Tune-up Cost: $2,000

Distributor Caps: $400 each

Chassis #: 1617

Chassis # Location: Front frame tube

Engine # Location: Right rear engine mount

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

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

Alternatives: 1955–58 Mercedes 300Sc coupe, 1962–65 Porsche 356 Carrera 2 GS coupe, 1961–62 Aston Martin DB4 Series V coupe,

Investment Grade: C


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