Ask an automobile enthusiast what the greatest name in cars is and most will answer "Ferrari". No other company can come close to Ferrari's record when it comes building fast, exciting and passionate cars.
If Ferrari makes the greatest cars, what then is the greatest Ferrari? Most followers of the marque would answer "GTO". Amongst a history of cars that defined style, speed and excitement, the GTO is the ultimate.
In the Beginning…
The Ferrari GTO is the direct descendant of the Ferrari 250 GT. The lineage goes back to October 1954 with the introduction of the Europa GT. The Europa GT evolved into the 250 GT SWB (Short Wheel Base) as seen in the above photo with with number 33 (s/n 2733) leading GTO s/n 3909 GT. Enzo Ferrari claimed the GTO was only part of the 250 GT SWB series (of which many were produced) as his justification for the GTO's homologation.
It shouldn't take too long to conclude that the most desired Ferrari is also the most expensive. In the early 1990s, when prices for rare and classic cars were at a fevered pitch, an example sold for $15,000,000. Now that sanity(?) has returned to the market, a GTO was recently bid to $7,700,000 at an auction but went unsold. The price for a new GTO was about $23,000 which may seem ludicrous now but was a lot in 1962; so much that it probably was the limiting factor when it came to production quantity.
The Ferrari GTO is a dual purpose car. These are cars that are designed for both the street and race track. In this great tradition, an owner could drive the car to the track, race it, and then drive it home. It is a fact that characteristics that make a car excel on the race track do not make for a good street car and what makes a good street car will make a car uncompetitive on the race track. In the early 1960s, technology was such that succeeding in both areas was possible.
How many were made?
Part of the lure of the GTO is its exclusivity; only 39 were built. In theory at least 100 should have been built, as this was the number required to qualify the car at the time for international sports car racing. In fact the letters "GTO" stand for "Gran Turismo Omologato" which translates into "Grand Touring Homologated" or "approval" for racing. It was either Enzo Ferrari's name or his inscrutable charm that enabled the rule makers to let the technicality slip by.
You may have heard conflicting accounts of exactly how many GTOs came from the Ferrari factory, with 40, 36, 33 or 32 as oft heard numbers. For the record, this is the breakdown:
32* 250 GTOs with the series 1 body
3 330 GTOs with the series 1 body
3 250 GTOs with the series 2 body
1 250 GTO with LMB bodywork
*Not counted as part of the 32 is s/n 2643 GT, the GTO prototype built by Pininfarina on a 250 GT SWB chassis. This is why the total Ferrari GTO count is sometimes listed as 40.
Ferrari also produced four cars with a special body known as 330 LM Berlinettas similar to s/n 4453 SA above. They were larger and heavier than the series 1 and series 2 GTOs and reports indicate that they felt heavier when driven.