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A special Ferrari 250 GT SWB SEFAC  and the gentlemen drivers who lead it to victory.

November 22, 2019

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A special Ferrari 250 GT SWB SEFAC  and the gentlemen drivers who lead it to victory.

November 22, 2019

 

(Above: Winning Numbers Exhibit at the Bruce Meyer Family Gallery Petersen Auto Museum)

 

 

On a recent visit to the Petersen Auto Museum, I spent some time in the Bruce Meyer Family Gallery which houses some of his collection. The exposition focuses on winners – of all shapes and nationalities, but among this hall of greats one car stands out to me on a personal level. There on its white podium, its silver rubenesque bodywork gleaming in the spotlights, stands a 1961 Ferrari 250GT SWB Berlinetta Competition Coupe SEFAC, which won its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and first overall at the Coppa Intereuropa at Monza in 1961, with more wins and podium finishes in 1962.

 

By the early 60’s Enzo Ferrari realized that not only were the “Garagisti”[1] (as Enzo Ferrari liked to call Cooper, Lotus and other new mainly British independent teams who he said couldn’t build engines) catching up with the Scuderia in Formula One but old rivals Aston Martin and Jaguar too were becoming a challenge again in sportscar racing.  Something had to be done to maintain the upper hand.  But there was a problem – money. 

 

Since the beginning in 1947, Enzo Ferrari had concentrated his energies on winning races at all costs while building road cars had provided the funding for his efforts. By the late 50’s selling limited series hyper – exclusive sportscars with coachwork hammered out on English wheels by the skilled employees of the likes of Vignale, Boano and Pinin Farina was no longer enough. In response, Enzo commissioned his favorite; Pinin Farina to create something a little less exclusive which could be produced in larger volumes and make more money. The 1959 250 Pinin Farina coupe was the result and by 1960 335 exemplars had been sold which in Ferrari terms qualified as “selling like hotcakes”. [2]

 

 

(Above: 1959 Ferrari 250 GT Pinin Farina Coupe)

 

The coffers were now relatively full, but it was time for an update to the aging 250 Tour de France racing GT car and so seven examples of the 250 GT “Interim” were built in 1959, to test Pinin Farina’s newest design. After chassis 1519GT came third in its class in the 1959 Tour de France, the Commendatore deemed it worthy and adapted to a new shorter wheelbase chassis the 250 GT SWB was born. 

 

The car was a monumental success both on the track and off with a total of 176 built in both road-going and racer form with either steel or aluminum bodies. Nevertheless by 1961 Enzo was once again short of cash. So, for the first time in Scuderia Ferrari’s history the company went public under the name Ferrari SEFAC S.p.A. (Società Esercizio Fabbriche Automobili e Corse Ferrari). [3]

 

 

 

 (Above: Ferrari 250 GT "Interim"- chassis number 1519GT)

 

As fresh funds began to pour in from investors eager to own part of the Legend of Maranello; Giotto Bizzarini, Carlo Chiti and two young engineers; Gian Paolo Dallara and Mauro Forghieri began work on the successor of the 250 GT SWB, the now legendary 250 GTO Ferrarissima. But in the meantime, there were races to win and so Ferrari made 8 to 20 exemplars of a “hot rod” version of the 250 GT SWB called SEFAC. (The numbers differ because up to 20 cars got the Tipo168 B Engine but not all the other improvements.)  With a lightened chassis, aluminum body and a high output Tipo 168 B Colombo V12, with 46 DCF Weber Carbs it was unbeatable [4]

 

Bruce Meyers’ gleaming silver example of this legendary car on show at the Peterson Museum is serial number 2689 and is the most famous of all of them. At the hands of its first owner, Belgian steel magnate Pierre Noblet and his French friend and shipyard owner Jean Guichet.[5] it won its class at Le Mans in 1961 right behind two Ferrari works Testarossas.

 

 

(Above: Ferrari 250 GT SWB SEFAC serial number 2689 owned by Bruce Meyer)

 

 

Noblet and Guichet had risen to the top of European sports car racing during the 1950’s driving either in their own cars or for various established teams such as Gordini and Abarth and later Ecurie Francorchamps and Bizzarini. Noblet and Guichet would go on to field a 250 GTO at Le Mans in 1962 coming second overall and winning their class again. In 1963 in a Ferrari 330 LMB Jean Guichet and Nino Vaccarella were less lucky when the engine failed. [6]

 

 

(Above: Ferrari 250 GTO of Pierre Noblet and Jean Guichet at Le Mans and Jean Guichet and Nino Vaccarella next to their Ferrari 330 LMB chassis 4381 SA)

 

Pierre Noblet would continue racing until 1966 for Bizzarini and Ecurie Francorchamps while Jean Guichet’s skills were noticed by the Commendatore himself and he won Le Mans outright for Ferrari in 1964 in a 275 P - again paired with co- driver Nino Vaccarella. From there he raced two more Le Mans for Ferrari but without success. In the following years, Guichet drove a multitude of cars for different teams including Porsche, Alpine and Matra and many of the established Ferrari privateer teams. In 1970 he was set to drive a works Ferrari 512S but abandoned the undertaking after a serious crash during testing. At the age of 43, Prototype racing was becoming too dangerous and so he moved to rallying, partnering with Jean Todt (later to become head of Peugeot Sport and Team Manager of Scuderia Ferrari during the Schumacher Era) as navigator and winning the 1979 Argentina Rallye in a Peugeot 504.[7]

 

(Above: Ferrari 275 P on its way to any overall win at the 1964 Le Mans with Jean Guichet ad Nino Vaccarella, the drivers standing next to their race winner many years later and finally Jean Guichet and getting out of the Peugeot 504 with which he won the 1979 Argentina Rally as his co-driver Jean Todt looks on with back to camera.)

 

Jean Guichet did give Le Mans one more shot in 1975 in BMW’s first Art Car; a BMW 3.0 CSL painted red and yellow by artist Alexander Calder. Unfortunately, he and his teammates Sam Posey and Hervé Poulain did not finish.[8]