The Ferrari 250 GT SWB was the definitive dual-purpose sports car.
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If any single car can truly represent the Ferrari legend, it would be the Ferrari 250 GT SWB. This is one of history’s great “dual-purpose” machines, a car that could be driven to the racetrack, win the class or the race outright, then driven home.
The Ferrari 250 GT SWB was the culmination of Ferrari’s continual development and refinement of the 250 engine and chassis in the second half of the 1950s. It also represented Pinin Farina’s ongoing experimentation with the berlinetta (fastback) theme that started with 1947’s Ferrari Cisitalia 202.
The result was a shape so pure, so well-balanced that Sergio Pininfarina called it “the first of our three quantum leaps in design with Ferrari.”
The model’s official debut was 1959’s Paris Auto Show. SWB referred to its “short wheelbase” of 94.5 inches (2400mm), some 7.8 inches (200mm) shorter than its predecessor Ferrari 250 GT models. The decrease was intended to improve handling and cornering speeds, and indeed, the little two-seat coupe fashioned a storied racing career.
The Ferrari 250 GT SWB had a shorter wheelbase, improving handling.
To demonstrate the car’s dual-purpose nature, the Ferrari 250 GT SWB was available with a body of steel or lightweight aluminum. The engine came in various states of tune, suspensions were set up for road or track, and the interior could be fitted with luxurious leather or stripped out for competition.
The Ferrari 250 GT SWB’s shape is an all-time Pinin Farina classic. But other coachbuilders showed their wares on the chassis, most as rebodies.
The only factory-sanctioned non-Pinin Farina SWBs were by Carrozzeria Bertone, Pinin Farina’s sole rival in terms of size and prestige as the 1960s began. The first (chassis 1739 GT) was presented at 1960’s Turin Show and had attractive but conventional styling. The second (3269 GT) appeared at 1962’s Geneva show and was one of the most beautiful Ferrari one-offs, its “split-nostril” front end derived from Ferrari’s fastest race cars of the period.
This Ferrari 250 GT SWB was the last of the dual-purpose cars by Ferrari.
As the 1960s progressed, it became ever more difficult for a road car to compete at the highest levels of motorsport. From here on, Ferrari’s street and racing machines would evolve along divergent paths. The fast, beautiful Ferrari 250 GT SWB marked the passing of an era.
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