Just look at this compact, well-proportioned, simple yet beautiful Pinin Farina-bodied coupe. Its lightweight aluminum skin is stretched so tightly over its tubular steel chassis that it fairly pings when you touch it. The front fenders are largely unadorned, save for a clear boneline that runs from the top of the front wheel arch to the trailing edge of the doors. The rear fenders are more aggressively haunched, with muscular, flowing shoulders. The rear end is mostly feature-free, and while there is a recessed provision for a license plate, that’s hardly this 1955 Ferrari 250 GT’s purpose; there could be little question that this is anything but a race car.
Witness the lack of bumpers, lavish chrome trim or other such accoutrements. Exterior lighting is spare. A small hood scoop feeds a trio of unfiltered Weber carburetors, while a pair of openings just below the main grille aid engine cooling. An aluminum quick-fill fuel cap sits near the middle of the rear deck, which does not open to allow access to the space behind the seats.
The car’s cabin is equally purposeful. The all-metal dash is painted body color and wears no padding or upholstery. (My eye is drawn to the unusual left-right bat-switch-style turn signal mounted in the center of the dash, an always-amusing touch found in many early Ferraris). The door panels are trimmed in leather, and leather pulls open the doors from the inside. The steering wheel, with its polished-and-drilled aluminum frame and wood rim, would be considered a luxury touch today, but it was simply business as usual for a European racing car in the mid-1950s.
Carpeting? For what? Most of the rest of the cabin’s riveted metal panels are painted a business-like satin gray. Dropping into the low-back seat reveals brake and clutch pedals sprouting from the floor on small stalks, along with an ungated shifter topped with an aluminum knob. The seats are trimmed in a soft, matte black leather, although it’s likely the original hide would have been a bit firmer and shinier.
Much more important: This thing is loud! Turn the key, thumb the starter and the edgy Gioacchino Colombo-designed 3-liter V12 engine lights with a frenzy of exhaust, intake sucking sounds and lots of cam, timing chain and valvetrain noise. It pops and sputters a bit as the fluids warm, but shows good manners from the start—although docile isn’t a term you’d apply to this car.
I’m dying to get a taste of this Ferrari’s performance. But first: What exactly is this tidy Faberge Egg of an early competition car?