Mechanical and natural beauty - 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO and Pacific Ocean bluff
By Tim Scott
My infatuation with the Ferrari marque goes back to the 1970s, and my ‘formative’ years. As a poorly eleven year-old, stricken by appendicitis and hospital-bound, my dear Mother’s approach to a quick and happy recovery was to arrange for me to sit in a 308 GT4 on a local dealer’s forecourt. A red Ferrari paddock jacket duly followed that Christmas.
Fast forward thirty-odd years, and I make my living photographing all manner of classic and exotic cars. I can say with sincerity that I still get the same thrill from being around pulse-quickening vehicles as I did way back in the 70’s as a young man with a shiny red polyester jacket on his back.
However, despite some memorable encounters with the finest examples of my favourite marque (250 SWB, California Spyder, Pontoon-Fendered TR), my personal automotive infatuation had thus far remained elusive: the 250 GTO.
This was to change with an email early in August from a friend who also happens to own a fine 250 GTO. He asked me to join him as co-driver on a day’s leg of the 2011 Quail Rally, two weeks hence, during Monterey week. To hell with playing it cool, I was typing my reply barely before I’d finished reading his original email.
And so the great morning came, as I stood before a familiar shape, shrouded by a cover. Unveiled in an underground car park, like a secret tryst!
This is history, chassis number 3505GT. This is the very Ferrari 250 GTO that humbled Jim Clark in his Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato at Goodwood’s legendary Tourist Trophy race in 1962, Innes Ireland at the wheel (the car still proudly bears his tartan colours on its nose). It won the race, harried all the way by Graham Hill and Mike Parkes in similar Ferrari GTOs.
Thirty years of longing and admiration, always from afar, has come to this. So, with a deep breath, I open the door and enter. This is a very workman-like cockpit – bare transmission tunnel and exposed spaceframe, plexiglass sliding windows and a distinct lack of sound-deadening materials. All the better for savouring what is to come.
The key turns, four ‘Snap’ exhausts bark into life, and the GTO’s three hundred horses are awakened. There is much to enjoy about this remarkable cacophony, and there is surprise too – the GTO’s sexy, sinuous beauty belies the mayhem of mechanical noise from within. So much so, in fact, that I’m handed a pair of headphones and intercom, and, with that, we’re off.
I’d like to say I remember details about the scenery, but the truth is, it was a blur. I was far too smitten, like a clumsy teenager on a first date.
Sir Michael Kadoorie launched the Quail Rally in 1997 as a means for owners of the types of cars that might be seen on the lawns of his Quail Motorsports Gathering event to enjoy the extraordinary roads and scenery of the area. Our day starts with assembly on the lawn of the Quail Lodge, and a fine breakfast. Our fellow travellers today include Mercedes Gullwings, a 7-Litre Cobra and a Ferrari 250 GT SWB. Brian Redman is at the wheel of an ex-Tour de France Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Competizione. Excellent company! Then, back to business, and the motoring can begin.
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The first leg takes us inland through Carmel Valley, and its numerous vineyards. I’d like to say I remember details about the scenery, but the truth is, it was a blur. I was far too smitten, like a clumsy teenager on a first date.
There is so much to marvel at with the Ferrari 250 GTO. That it’s one of the great all-time shapes in automotive history is well established. No compromises were made in its styling as a purpose-built race car, and yet it is, unusually for a race car, beautiful. The view forward from the cockpit across the bonnets triple bulges is mesmerising.
The real revelation, however, is how apparently docile and manageable the whole experience can be. Nick Mason once famously commented that in the midst of a cruel winter, when none of his normally dependable daily fleet would start, his GTO willingly performed school-run duties in the snow. There is no sign whatsoever of high-temperament or drama, just a calm and very characterful efficiency.
Needless to say, as the valley roads headed up towards the hills of the Santa Lucia Coastal Mountains, the GTO now had a chance to really stretch its legs through the winding passes. Incredible roads, snaking high through the mountains, and the cabin is soon filled with smiles – two guys from London re-enacting the Targa Florio in California!
We drop down through the mist into Lucia, and lunch at a stunning Pacific-side spot called Point 16. The homemade lemonade is a welcome coolant – we’re both drenched in sweat. Delicious food is served al-fresco by the Pacific Ocean, and we’re treated to the awe-inspiring sight of a Californian Condor being released into the wild, its ten foot wingspan propelling it skyward with ease.
The opportunity seemed almost too good to be true.
Lunch over, and one final, magnificent highlight remains. The drive north up Pacific Highway 1, and Big Sur. I hope my photographs have done justice to the combined majesty of the GTO and California’s epic Pacific stretch. The opportunity seemed almost too good to be true.
And so, there it is – truly the experience of a lifetime. The Ferrari 250 GTO returns to its temporary subterranean home, and preparation for its Sunday meeting on Pebble Beach’s manicured lawns with twenty of the thirty nine GTOs manufactured in all. Amongst their number, chassis 3729, the very car that Graham Hill had piloted to second in the Goodwood TT. Hill, despite his best efforts, failing to grasp victory from Innes Ireland in the pale green winner. Fifty years later – the legend remains undimmed.
My heartfelt thanks to Eric, and to Sir Michael Kadoorie, the organiser of this fine event.
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