This is the Ferrari 250 GTE that was the official safety car of the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans, later that same year it made a memorable appearance in the French comedy film Pouic-Pouic starring Louis de Funès and Mireille Darc.
The car still retains its original matching-numbers body, chassis, engine, gearbox, and rear axle, and it’s still wearing its factory-correct color combination of Blu Sera over a Grigio leather interior.
Fast Facts – The Ferrari 250 GTE
- As the story goes, the Ferrari 250 GTE was developed at the request of Enzo Ferrari himself, who needed a car that could comfortably accommodate himself, his driver, his wife, and their beloved pet dog. It would become the first four-seat Ferrari produced on a large scale.
- The body was designed and built at Pininfarina on a long wheelbase Ferrari 250 GT chassis, inside there was a 2+ 2 seating arrangement with space for adults in the rear seats, and there was ample trunk space for luggage.
- Power was provided by the legendary Colombo V12 engine, a long-running staple in the Ferrari model family, and the 250 GTE was produced over three series between 1960 and 1963 with almost 1,000 made in total. These high sales figures greatly helped Ferrari’s finances in the early 1960s.
- The car you see here is one of the most historically significant examples of the Ferrari 250 GTE, it was the official safety car of the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans and it appeared in the popular 1963 French comedy film “Pouic-Pouic.”
Designing A Practical Ferrari: The Ferrari 250 GTE
The Ferrari 250 GTE is said to have been developed at the request of Enzo Ferrari who wanted a car with four seats to accommodate himself, his driver, his wife, and their dog. It would become the first four-seat Ferrari produced in significant numbers, almost 1,000 were sold, and it greatly helped the Italian automaker’s finances in the early 1960s.
Longtime Ferrari allies Pininfarina were tasked with developing the body, they started with the same 2600mm wheelbase as the 250 GT Coupe and the Cabriolet. The 3.0 liter Colombo V12 was then fitted 200mm further forward in the engine bay to make additional space for a large cabin, and the body itself measured in at 300mm longer and 60mm wider than its 250 GT stablemates.
Unlike most road-going Ferraris the 250 GTE made its public debut not at a major motoring show, but at the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans as the official course car. The vehicle used was a pre-production prototype however it looked largely the same as the eventual production car, and its appearance at the world famous endurance race no doubt helped its sales.
Over the course of the production run the 250 GTE would become a best-seller for Ferrari, though it would never reach the same level of acclaim or desirability of some of its much rarer siblings, like the 250 GT SWB and the 250 GTO.
Many examples of the 250 GTE were converted into replicas of the 250 GTO, and many others fell into disrepair, so finding a good all-original example can be a challenge. The practicality of the GTE makes it a popular classic in Ferrari circles, and perhaps the ideal 250 GT for proper grand touring.
Above Video: This is the original British Pathe highlight reel of the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans, it features many drivers and cars from the legendary race, and it also shows you what it was like to be one of the 250,000+ spectators.
The 1963 24 Hours Of Le Mans
The 1963 24 Hours Of Le Mans would take place in mid-June, it was the 10th round of that year’s World Sportscar Championship season, and it would be utterly dominated by Ferrari – with cars from the Italian automaker taking all of the top six places when the checkered flag fell.
The race would be won by a Italian drivers Ludovico Scarfiotti and Lorenzo Bandini piloting a Ferrari 250 P, they were followed across the line by a Ferrari 250 GTO, and then by a Ferrari 250 P, a Ferrari 250 GTO, a Ferrari 330 LMB, and a Ferrari 250 GTO/LMB.
Interestingly, the 250 P that won the race shared the same engine as the race’s safety car, a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTE that was also powered by a 3.0 liter Ferrari Colombo V12 – though of course it was in a far milder state of tune.
The 1963 Ferrari 250 GTE Shown Here
As noted in the introduction above, this is the 1963 Ferrari 250 GTE that was used as the official safety car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race of the same year.
It left the Ferrari factory in Maranello on the 30th of January 1963 and by the 11th of March it was in the capable hands of coachbuilder Henri Chapron for a series of modifications that included crests, flag stands, lighting, and various other additions specifically for its use at Le Mans approximately 12 weeks later in June.
Interestingly, after its use at Le Mans the car was featured in the 1963 French comedy film Pouic-Pouic, still with all of its additions for Le Mans in place on the car. The car then passed into private hands, it was bought by Christian Fifis in 1970, he would keep the car and maintain it in original condition for over 50 years.
After his passing the car sat for a number of years before it was bought by the current owner, who promptly spent €12,000 recommissioning the car with FB Motors of Haute-Savoie, France. Today the car retains its factory-correct Blu Sera paintwork, the well-preserved Grigio leather interior, and those original Chapron-style fixtures from Le Mans in ’63.
It’s now scheduled to roll across the auction block with RM Sotheby’s on the 9th of June, with the car fittingly being offered at the Circuit 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images: Kevin Van Campenhout ©2023 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
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