In an era when Ferrari was turning out some lackluster road cars, the 250 GT SWB became a yardstick, the car against which all other GTs were judged and one of the finest Ferraris ever. Of the 167 made between 1959 and 1962, 74 were competition cars—their simplicity made them one of the most competitive sports racers of the Fifties.
Built around a tubular chassis, the V12 3.0 engine lives at the front, along with a simple four-speed gearbox with Porsche internals. But it is that delectable Pininfarina-sculpted shape that is so special. Tense, urgent, but friendly, those smooth lines have none of the intimidating presence of a Testarossa or Daytona. The SWB stands alone as a perfect blend of form and function —one of the world’s prettiest cars, and on the track one of the most successful.
The SWB won races from Spa to Le Mans, Nassau to the Nürburgring. Which is exactly what Enzo Ferrari wanted. “They are cars,” he said, “which the sporting client can use on the road during the week and race on Sundays.” Happy days.
Soft, compact, and rounded, Pininfarina executed the design, while Scaglietti took care of the sheet metal. The result was one of the most charismatic cars ever produced.
Gently tapering nose is a masterpiece of the panel-beater’s art.
Instead of air cleaners, competition cars used filterless air trumpets.
Fender air scoops helped to cool the engine.
Expansive rear window sat above enormous 27-gallon (123-liter) fuel tank.
The SWB sat on elegant, chrome-plated Borrani competition wire wheels.
The V12 power unit had a seven-bearing crankshaft turned from a solid billet of steel, single plug per cylinder, and three twin-choke Weber DCL3 or DCL6 carburetors.
The car has perfect balance. Shape is rounded and fluid, and the first 11 SWBs were built in alloy, though these rare lightweight models suffered from stretching alloy. Road cars had a steel body and aluminum hood and doors.
STRAP ’EM IN
The 250’s roll cage and modern seat belts were nods to safety, but understandable considering that progressively more power was extracted from the V12 engine.
The 250 GT is a polished gem, hugging the road limpet low. Front combines beauty and threat with steely grin and squat wheel-arch-filling attitude. Nothing is exaggerated for effect.
Unlike this race car, road cars had vestigial front bumpers and the prancing horse badge in the grille.
Two sets of aggressive drainpipe twin exhausts dominate the SWB’s rump and declare its competition bloodline. For many years the 250 GT dominated hill climbs and track meets all over the world. The SWB 250 GT was the ultimate racer.
Huge alloy gas cap was to allow fast fill-ups.
Despite the movie star exterior, the interior is a place of work. Functional dash is basic black with no frills. Sun visors were notably absent. The cockpit was snug and airy but noisy when the key was turned.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Ferrari 250 GT SWB (1959–62)
PRODUCTION 167 (10 RHD)
BODY STYLE Two-seater GT coupe.
CONSTRUCTION Tubular chassis with all-alloy or alloy/steel body.
ENGINE 2953cc V12.
POWER OUTPUT 280 bhp at 7000 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Four-speed manual.
SUSPENSION Independent front coil and wishbones, rear live axle leaf springs.
BRAKES Four-wheel discs.
MAXIMUM SPEED 147 mph (237 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 6.6 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 16.2 sec
A.F.C. 12 mpg (4.2 km/l)