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1960 Ferrari 250 GT Prototype EW by Bertone

The unique car presented here, chassis no. 1739 GT is the third 250 GT SWB Berlinetta built. It was commissioned by Dottore Enrico Wax of Genoa, Italy. Wax’s company, Wax and Vitale SpA, were importers, mostly of alcohol, into Italy. Their products included Johnnie Walker, Enzo Ferrari's favorite scotch, and Moet et Chandon champagne. Wax was a personal friend of Enzo Ferrari and was considered one of the wealthiest men in Italy.

Dott. Wax ordered many cars from Ferrari for his personal use. All were "speciales" or had a host of unique features. He liked extensive brightwork – stainless steel, polished nickel, and chrome – evident throughout all his Ferraris and perhaps this one.

The story behind the commissioning of the 1739 GT came from former Ferrari Vice President Amerigo Manicardi, who related that Dott. Wax expressed interest in 1959 in a speciale during a meeting with Enzo Ferrari if he would allow him one of the first new short wheelbase chassis under construction. Il Commendatore walked him across to the Competition Department, where he pointed to the first chassis in a line of just three. Ferrari said that although it had been designated a works team car, it would instead be immediately assigned to the account of Dott. Wax. That chassis was a 1739 GT.

As a Ferrari works car 1739 GT's intake and exhaust ports of the cylinder heads had been ground out and polished and had other competition details like velocity stacks, aluminum firewall, drilled transmission mount for lightness, polished leaf springs, solid spring bushings, and much more. The 280 hp engine had a 9.8:1 compression ratio, the same as later Le Mans-prepared SEFAC hot rods. This car also had red cam covers, similar to the Testa Rossa, and is the only known GT equipped with these. The 1739 GT was also the first Ferrari fitted with SNAP exhausts.

Chassis no. 1739 GT was sent to Bertone on 7 January 1960 to be fitted with a one-off body designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, who was just 21 years old at the time. Giugiaro would go on to start his own business, Italdesign. Bertone was founded in 1912 by Giovanni Bertone. His son, Giuseppe, known as "Nuccio," took over the Turin company after the end of World War II. Nuccio was a gifted designer and constructor and continued the fine tradition of the carrozzeria, building the company from its humble beginnings into a significant business. Bertone had made coachwork for only one Ferrari previously, a 166 Inter. 1739 GT was exhibited at the XLII Turin Motor Show in November 1960. The quality and artistry of this one-off coachwork were quite exceptional.

1739 GT was fitted with a brushed stainless steel roof, rockers, and front and rear valances. It also had a one-off wire mesh grille, headlight covers, and Ferrari's first-ever rear window defroster. Additionally, the hood and fenders could be flipped forward to expose the entire engine and front chassis – a configuration referred to as a "clamshell.” The interior featured rolled, pleated, and fully adjustable folding seats, a unique “pistol grip" gear lever, electric windows, and full-fitted luggage. A particularly unique interior design feature is the central placement of the speedometer and tachometer, which predated the similar design found in the 250 GT Lusso by three years!

An oversize Ferrari emblem graced the hood, and the side of the car was badged with Enrico Wax's initials "Prototype EW" 1739 GT was also the first Ferrari to be fitted with Campagnolo cast magnesium wheels. This car significantly influenced later Ferraris, particularly the 250 GT Lusso. Battista's" Pinin" Farina was unrestrained in expressing his admiration for the design of this car and acknowledged borrowing liberally from it for future creations.

The build sheets show that the engine, gearbox, and rear axle were completed during the summer of 1960. The date of manufacture on the heritage certificate issued by the factory is 17 October 1960.

Enrico Wax sold the car in 1961, and the Tacchini family owned it before being exported to America in the seventies. The car remained in the US throughout the eighties and nineties and underwent a total restoration by Steven Tillack from 1982 to 1983. Lance Hill, a Hollywood screenwriter, acquired the car in 1998 and it was again subject to a complete restoration over several years. More recently, the vehicle has been part of a famous collection and shown at some of the world's best-known Concours and events.

Ferrari historian Stan Nowak said of this car, "Possibly the one Ferrari that possesses all the criteria to contend for Best in Show at any major international Concours, including Pebble Beach. One-off coachwork, influential design, debut at International Salon, commissioned by prominent personality, built on special chassis, great bright work, impeccable history."

Carrozzeria Bertone made just two coach built 250 GT SWB Ferraris. Both are unique. This car is in fabulous condition, with incredible detail throughout. It is a Pebble Beach entrant and award winner, voted "Most Elegant of Show" in 1983. It would continue to be a show stopper at all the best events and make a centerpiece for any significant collection.

An incredible amount has been written about this car, but Auto d'Epoca summed it up. "Arguably the most spectacular and important of coach-built Ferraris – combines classic Ferrari elements of the sensuous form with a racing soul."


Images: RM Auctions