One-off racer-style rebody of a 250 GT for the USA. Story by Richard Heseltine. Images by RM Sotherby’s.
CURIOSITIES FROM THE AMAZING WORLD OF ITALIAN CARS
Along time ago, before ‘matching numbers’ entered the auction house lexicon, it wasn’t unusual for an old Ferrari to be chopped and changed, silted and reconfigured. More often than not, it was in a bid to make a hard-to-sell car appear that bit newer and sexier.
Le Mans hero and US East Coast marque concessionaire Luigi Chinetti was a master at reclothing old models and moving them on for a profit; witness the car seen here. While it may have countless sports-racer reference points stylistically, this shapely confection was born as a 250 GTE 2+2. Chassis 2235GT arrived Stateside in 1961, Chinetti selling it to an Argentinean gentleman shortly thereafter. By 1964, it was back with Chinetti Motors and looking a little careworn. It was at this juncture that the racer/dealer commissioned Carrozzeria Fantuzzi to rework the car with an outline reminiscent of contemporary Ferrari competition sports cars.
That was no easy task, but company principal Medardo Fantuzzi was no ordinary coachbuilder. For starters, he had previously run the Maserati bodywork department as a freelancer. He went on to become an officially-recognised, metal-wielding partner of Scuderia Ferrari from 1958-1965, the outline of this car purportedly mimicking a trio of competition Ferraris intended to race in the 1963 running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. They never made it as far as France. What’s more, one of the bodies from this small run was later transplanted onto a different chassis, just to irritate future historians.
The dramatic outline, penned by an unheralded artiste, featured a much longer nose which was vaguely reminiscent of the 275 GTB. In profile, it was pure 275 P, the cropped Kamm tail serving only to heighten the sense of it being a racer for the road. However, while the history of this car and other ostensibly similar Fantuzzi Ferraris have often been conflated, 2235GT was never intended for even light competition use. It was, nevertheless, treated to a performance upgrade. Former works Ferrari technicians Alberto Pedretti and Alfredo Caiti of Modena Sportscars worked their magic on the V12 up front (while the name may scream Italian Motor Valley, this concern was actually based in Manhattan).
The engine was rebuilt to full Testa Rossa-spec, complete with six gurgling twin-choke Weber carburettors. Power output was claimed to be in the region of 300hp.
Chinetti displayed the finished car at the November 1965 Import Car Show in San Francisco, and then at the March 1966 New York International Automobile Show. It received the biggest mention of any car on display in Road & Track’s review of the latter event, reporting: “Ferrari roadster with market basket handle roll bar is an attractive car, but turned out to be an older model with [a] new body by Fantuzzi.”
The car was then sold to New Yorker Michael Stone who retained it for four years before selling it on. This one-off Ferrari subsequently passed through countless hands, its original metallic silver hue making way for ‘resale red’ at some point during the mid to late 1970s. The attractive front and rear quarter bumpers were also denuded along the way. In 2016, it was sold at auction for just over $1 million.