Top ten Ferrari oddities. Chinetti wasn’t alone in trying something a little bit different, as Gary Axon discovers. Photography Lat/Marzotto family archive/RM Auctions/Ron Kimball/the Abbott Register. Ferrari – the epitome of exotic elegance, sporting style and performance with panache. Or at least that is usually the case, as demonstrated by the growing interest and recent record prices achieved by a number of rare and stunning examples. The romance of most models bearing the Prancing Horse badge is truly desirable and highly sought-after.
The list of head-turning beauties to emerge from Maranello is a long one, with most being the work of the stylists at Pininfarina. From front-engined GTs such as the 250 and Ferrari 375MM family and the later 456 to mid-engined sports cars such as the timeless 246 Dino, the Italian marque has enjoyed a long history of design excellence.
A few unusual examples of this revered marque, however, are more Bela Lugosi than bella. Some were the result of wealthy customers wanting to go their own way, others were an attempt to create something that would be more effective in motor sport. All of them, however, demonstrate the dangers of trying to improve on something that should be left well alone. It just goes to show that money can buy you many things, but good taste isn’t always one of them.
1 1953 Abarth 166MM/ 1953 Spyder
Upon ordering his 166MM (chassis 0262M), Italian Giulio Musitella cancelled the planned Vignale coachwork – deemed too heavy for competition – and commissioned Carlo Abarth to design a lighter, more-streamlined body. The 53 Spyder was the result, weighing 275kg less than the Vignale-bodied 166MM, thanks to removable aluminium body panels hung on to a supporting frame. Musitella took the Abarth to a class victory in the 1953 Targa Florio and an overall win in the Notturne di Messina 10-hour race, as well as second in the 1954 Rio de Janeiro GP. Soon after completion, the Abarth body was replaced by Scaglietti coachwork, and only recently has the car been returned to 1953 Spyder spec.
Anorak fact The only other Abarth to wear Prancing Horse badging is 2009’s 695 ‘Tributo Ferrari’ edition.
2 1956 Ghia 410 Superamerica
Underthe guidance of its renowned styling chief Virgil Exner, Chrysler commissioned Ghia to design and build a number of increasingly wild concept cars during the 1950s. This exposure to excess clearly left its mark on the coachbuilder, culminating in its outrageous 410 Superamerica. With huge fins, knee- bashing wraparound windscreen, lashings of chrome and overt transatlantic styling, Ghia’s interpretation of Maranello’s range-topping V12 chassis was extreme, and far removed from Ferrari’s ideal, but this one-off found a willing buyerinthe USA.The coupe was styled by Mario Savonuzzi, adopting a look that Exner would have approved of. Anorak fact The Superamerica was the last of several (more restrained) Ferraris built by Ghia.
3 1952 Abbott 212 Export
Looking more Morris Minor than Maranello, Abbott of Farnham’s stodgy four-seater convertible on a 212 Export chassis (number 0165EL) was created for future Grand Prix star Mike Hawthorn’s TT Garage, and is often cited among the ugliest Ferraris ever created. Shown at the 1952 Earls Court Motor Show, the uninspiring 212 boasted a huge rear overhang, a drab wooden ‘mantlepiece’ dashboard and ‘bird in flight’ wheel arch motifs. Not surprisingly, this body remained unique and, in fact, no longer exists – 0165EL was rebodied as a 1951-style barchetta in 1986. Anorak fact Robert Jankel of Panther Westwinds fame was the only other notable British coachbuilder to rebody Ferraris, including a Daytona shooting brake.
4 1968 275P2 Speciale
This dumpy effort was designed by Luigi Chinetti Jnr and illustrator Bob Peak, then built by Giovanni Michelotti. The 275P2 Speciale was something of a let-down to onlookers at its 1968 New York Auto Show unveiling. Vaguely reminiscent of Thunderbird 2’s dropdown transportation pod, this one-off began life in 1963 as a 250P Fantuzzi Spyder. One year on, chassis 0812 was upgraded to 275P specification, but sustained fire damage in 1965.
Michelotti used this base for his gullwing Speciale but, arguably in the interests of good taste, it was rebodied to Fantuzzi specin 1988. Anorak fact Michelotti penned various 166, 212 and 225 bodies for Vignale during the ’50s.
5 2004 Sbarro SB1 Tornado
The idea of mixing the best of a 1950s Ferrari with a 550 Maranello sounds appealing. In reality, the cocktail left something to be desired. The nose of Sbarro’s SB1 Tornado was intended to recall the 250 Testa Rossa, blending via a wraparound ‘screen into a bold tail that more resembled a Chevrolet Corvette than anything from Italy. Sbarro had built many commendable Ferrari specials since the late 1960s, but sadly the Tornado was a low point. Anorak fact Other unusual Sbarro Ferraris include the 1986 Super 8, which featured a 308 engine mounted amidships in a ‘hot hatch’ body.
6 1950 Fontana 166MM / 1951 212 Export Berlinetta
Conceived by Scuderia Marzotto, with distinctive bodywork by Carrozzeria Fontana of Padua, this unusual early Ferrari – originally on a 166MM chassis, then a 212 Export – was built very much against Enzo’s wishes. Giannino Marzotto was brave enough to challenge II Commendatore’s views on the aerodynamic properties of his sports cars, and insisted that his rotund coupe would be more efficient in competition. Marzotto’s opinions were partially vindicated by some racing successes, including a few outright victories. In terms of aesthetics, though, the berlinetta won little praise, with its cylindrical front resembling a 1950s vacuum cleaner. Anorak fact The Fontana berlinetta is more commonly known as ‘Uovo’ – Italian for egg.
7 1983 Michelotti 400i Meera S
With the passing of Michelotti Design’s gifted founder Giovanni in early 1980, the Turin styling studio’s crown really slipped, as is evident in the unresolved Meera S of 1983. Although it was quite neatly proportioned, this car – which was based on a 400i automatic – was afflicted by odd design details, strange angles and panel gaps that were large enough to drive a chariot through. The Meera was commissioned by Prince Saud – son of the King of Saudi Arabia – for a preferred lady friend. As the last Michelotti Ferrari, it incorporated a number of cutting-edge features for its time, including dual-zone air-conditioning and an in-dash camera that was intended to replace the conventional rear-view mirror. Anorak fact The Meera S is possibly the first and only car to be fitted with wipers on every window – front, rear and side glass!
8 1989 Colani Testa D’Oro
Far-sighted industrial designer Luigi Colani has applied his signature’ fried egg’styling to all manner of machines since his first automotive offering in the mid-1960s, but few have achieved the drama of his 1989 Testa d’Oro concept. Offered for sale that year at $500,000, Colani’s flat-12 Testarossa-based dramatic ketchup spill failed to attract any takers. He persevered with the basic platform, however, with support from German engineer Lotec, to evolve the Testa d’Oro into a twin-turbo 750bhp World Speed Record machine. In 1991, it set a new best for a vehicle with a catalytic converter – 351kph (218mph) on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Anorak fact Testa d’Oro is Italian for ‘Golden Head’ .
9 1966 Drogo 330GT 2+2 Navarro
In 1967, wealthy Italian nightclub owner Norbert Navarro commissioned celebrated Ferrari modifier Piero Drogo to rework Pininfarina’s stylish 330GT 2+2 bodywork. His extreme ‘facelift’ looked like a regular 330GT wearing a pre-production disguise to prevent snooping photographers getting the scoop of the year. With substantial overhangs fore and aft, the one-off Navarro was given an elongated ‘anteater’ snout, with a lengthened tail that included huge buttresses, sloping away to form a substantial pair of tailfins – rather passe by 1967.
Anorak fact The Navarro was originally known as the ‘Golden Car’ but was resprayed red before being returned to gold.
10 1956 Boano 250GTB Geneve Cabriolet
While more restrained than Ghia’s 410 Superamerica, Boano’s one-off 250GT Cabriolet (plus two matching coupes) of the same year is still a tad flamboyant by Ferrari standards. With a strong nod to Detroit – especially the Ford Thunderbird – and extravagant tailfins, the sole soft-top Boano 250GT differed wildly from the more demure ‘Ellena’ coupes that the Brescia-based carrozzeria built on the same chassis. Named in honour of the Geneva Salon, where the car made its debut, it was later exhibited at the 1956 New York Auto Show, prompting local enthusiast Bob Lee to buy it on the spot. Having personally visited Enzo Ferrari in Italy the previous year, Lee was advised to buy direct from the factory, rather than through American agent Luigi Chinetti. He did so, and has owned the Boano ever since: “When Enzo Ferrari sells you a car, you keep it!” Anorak fact Enzo himself made the decision to sell the Geneve for $9500 in 1956, despite it costing the factory more than $20,000 to build.