Gran Turismo Omologato, the Ferrari par excellence, turns 60

The 250 GTO, a masterpiece of automotive craftsmanship, is the most iconic Ferrari ever.

The concept of Gran Turismo was first introduced by Maserati shortly after the war. With its front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, this four-wheeler was beautiful to look at, exciting to drive even on long journeys and, if need be, very high-performance on track. However, the idea of a Gran Turismo designed solely for racing was conceived by Enzo Ferrari. In 1960, he asked engineer Giotto Bizzarrini to design a light, fast berlinetta in anticipation of the new sporting regulations. The requirement was simple: the car should feature the engine of the already successful 250 GT series and be able to beat its racing competitors – the Jaguar E-Types. The final power output of the modified 12-cylinder engine was 300 PS at 7500 rpm, and the car weighed 880 kilograms, about the same as a latest-generation Smart ForTwo.

With such an exceptional engine, the body could not be any less impressive. The bodywork of the unprecedented Ferrari 250 GTO - an acronym for Gran Turismo Omologato - is not simply the result of the inspiration of a talented designer. Whoever designs road cars has to deal with a multitude of sometimes contradictory requirements: performance and safety, comfort and size, cost and efficiency, to name but a few. These parameters changed radically when developing a thoroughbred racing car, where power, high-speed control and handling were essential.

When the first GTO was unveiled in 1962, sixty years ago, the insiders were pleasantly surprised by the way the new car looked. The GTO featured a body that, while very appealing, still served the racing purpose for which it was designed. Sergio Scaglietti, then Head of the Centro Stile, had worked in total freedom, without paying too much attention to the trends of the moment.


The curvature of the front wheel arches, the long nose, the lights – each element contributed to carving in the space a meaningful, timeless and intriguing allure. The low roof that descended in a single movement towards the curvature of the rear spoiler – the first on a road car – the muscular flanks, the lowered stance and the side air vents were a delight to anyone who admired it. You could look at it from any angle, height, perspective, front, back – the line of this racing machine was extraordinary. Then as well as now. 

No particular stylistic interventions were necessary on the GTO’s interior, also because the two seats bolted to the floor were the only detail of the cockpit that was soft to the touch. All the instrumentation was inside a very basic dashboard placed in front of the driver’s eyes, who could hold in their hands a three branch Nardi steering wheel in lightened aluminium with a wooden grip. Thanks to the classic spherical gear knob, the five gears could be engaged by sliding the long lever through the chrome selection grid; the metal elements of the cab were well aligned, welded and riveted; the windscreen was wide and the windows were made of plexiglass.

Ferrari GTO. Courtesy Archivio Quattroruote
Ferrari 250 GTO. Courtesy Quattroruote archive

Today the price of the 36 + 3 units produced up to 1964 has skyrocketed. A GTO could easily be exchanged for a painting by Rothko, if you prefer, by Magritte. Not a casual exchange, because this iconic and influential car on the world car scene is a work of art in its own right. A few years ago, the Court of Bologna upheld the petition filed by the Maranello company to protect its design from any possible form of imitation, effectively transforming it into an artistic masterpiece. 

Due to the evolution of materials and changing racing safety regulations, the Ferrari 250 GTO was the last true Gran Turismo racing car, marking the end of an era. This was a car that you could keep parked in your garage, drive to the track, use to win the race of the day and then drive home as if nothing had happened. This static but above all dynamic work of art has fascinated the imagination of car enthusiasts and newcomers alike for six decades.

Opening image: Ferrari 250 GTO. Courtesy Quattroruote archive

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