My Car Quest

May 16, 2021

Classic Art On Wheels: Remembering History – The 1963 Ferrari 250P

Would you believe that I once rode in one being used as a street car?

by Wallace Wyss –

Ferrari built the 250P (prototype) to compete in the newly created prototype class of the World Sportscar Championship. He had resisted going mid-engine in race cars for years but when he saw the English doing it, he acceded.

Ferrari 250P

The 12-cylinder, had been in his front engined cars but this was the first mid-engine effort. The 250 P was a strong runner from the get-go. Ferrari first rolled it out at the 1963 12 Hours of Sebring and took an overall victory with chassis 0810 co-driven by John Surtees and Lodovico Scarfiotti. The other 250 P, shared by Willy Mairesse, Nino Vacarella and Lorenzo Bandini placed second. Along with the 330 TRI/LM and the 250 GTO, Ferrari stunned the racing world, taking the first six places overall.The 250P would later decimate the competition at the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the 1963 Nürburgring 1000km. Only four were built in total.

Ferrari had developed it when he heard of Ford building the Ford GT. Ferrari had the 250 GTO but it was fast becoming obsolete because it was front engined. The 250P started in 1962 with a remodeled 246SP that had a longer wheelbase at 94.5” to accomodate the new V12 3 liter Testa Rossa engine.

Ferrari 250P

The 250P was clothed with a Pininfarina designed body but they were able to get only four done in time for the upcoming season in 1963. Before the Nurburgring race, these cars were refitted with an overhung clutch behind the gearbox axle assembly instead of being directly behind the engine flywheel, which was inverted.

My Ride

The one I had a ride in was converted to a 330P (a larger engine size) “in period” when they were still current race cars. It was owned by a Los Angeles man named Ken Starbird.

I was a staffer at Motor Trend and urged by the assistant art director Chuck Queener, (who became famous in Ferrari circles for his Ferrari art) to go on one of the Malibu runs. I showed up in a 1970 1/2 Pontiac Trans Am which I thought could keep up, I was wrong. Oh, I could accelerate with them at the lower speeds but the power steering fluid boiled and I was out of the event, realizing a muscle car that could win on Woodward Ave. was no match for a purebred race car bred to dominate the Sarthe.

Ferrari 250P

“When I had a ride in a 250P through Malibu, it was just an old Ferrari, not worth any more than a Comp Daytona”, says the author/artist.
Painting by Wallace Wyss

At some point during a coffee break I cadged a ride in the Ken’s 250P and was shocked at how rudimentary it was. I was surprised it was right hand drive, I was thinking how plain and unadorned the dashboard was–a polished bit of aluminum (probably painted black for racing) with a few gauges. The windshield was plexiglass. The rollover hoop looked thin and I doubted it could hold the weight in a rollover. But it was all machine–when he accelerated, you could feel the power throughout the chassis. The Ferrari Owner’s Club had a few such race cars fielded by their members along with street cars in Los Angeles, on these runs. Two or three 250GTOs, a couple 250LMs. Today all multi-million dollar cars.

But in 1970, you have to remember these were obsolete race cars and for some reason the police didn’t blink an eye when you drove them on the street. Steve Earle got the idea of renting the Laguna Seca Race Track for he and his buddies to drive their racing Ferraris on and thus the Monterey Historic Races was born.

Ferrari 250P

A close match to Starbird’s car is this 250P at Le Mans. But Starbird’s car did finish first at Sebring. Painting by Wallace Wyss.

Looking back I can see a little bit of the soul of the Ferrari 250P can be found in any open mid-engine Ferrari. The modern ones still have the DNA of their ancestors. True, they are not so rough and ready but I cherish the memory of riding in one that once raced at Le Mans through the mountains high above the sea…

Ferrari 250 GTO

I’d guess the Series 2 Ferrari 250 GTO was a little less drivable in the city than the Series1 but there’s nothing like someone asking you “where did that race?” when you can answer “Le Mans.” Painting by Wallace Wyss.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR/ARTIST: Wyss is preparing art like this for Concorso Italiano in August. A list of art available now can be ordered by writing Malibucarart@gmail.com

 
 

 

 

The 250P specs are as follows:

Engine
Type rear, longitudinal 60° V12
Bore/stroke 73 x 58.8 mm
Unitary displacement 246.10 cc
Total displacement 2953.21 cc
Compression ratio 9.5:1
Maximum power 228 kW (310 hp) at 7500 rpm
Power per litre 105 hp/l
Valve actuation single overhead camshaft per bank,
two valves per cylinder
Fuel feed six Weber 38 DCN carburettors
Ignition single spark plug per cylinder, two coils
Lubrication dry sump
Clutch multi-plate

Chassis
Frame tubular steel
Front suspension independent, unequal-length wishbones,
coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension independent, unequal-length wishbones,
coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers, anti-roll bar
Brakes discs
Transmission 5-speed + reverse
Steering rack-and-pinion
Fuel tank capacity 130 litres
Front tyres 5.50 x 15
Rear tyres 7.00 x 15

Ferrari

Summary
Classic Art On Wheels:  Remembering History - The 1963 Ferrari 250P
Article Name
Classic Art On Wheels: Remembering History - The 1963 Ferrari 250P
Description
In 1970 you have to remember these Ferraris were obsolete race cars and for some reason the police didn't blink an eye when you drove them on the street.
Author

Comments

  1. Magic!

  2. Robert Feldman says

    Wallace,
    Living in New Jersey, I was fortunate to be at the Simeone Museum when 250P #21 was on display about two years ago. It is very rare to see a 250P with only 4 built, and you are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to ride in one considering that most of us never will! This is an awesome car!

  3. SKIP HINOJOS says

    I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED ALL THE FERRARI “P” CARS.

  4. SKIP HINOJOS says

    PS; ONE MAJOR SPECIFICATION MISSING FROM THE LIST IS, WEIGHT OF THE CAR???

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