31 October 2012

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Lot 134

1958 Ferrari 250 GT Coupé by Ellena

  • Chassis no. 0861 GT

Sold for £235,200

250 bhp, 2,953 cc SOHC alloy V-12 engine with triple Weber Type 36 DC13 downdraught carburettors, four-speed synchromesh transmission, front independent suspension with unequal-length wishbones, coil springs and tubular shock absorbers, live rear axle with leaf springs, Houdaille shocks with axle location by twin trailing arms, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 102 in.

• A genuine matching-numbers example

• Recent Ferrari Historic Racing and Colorado Grand participant

• Rare survivor; one of 50 built, of which only 15 are known to remain in original condition

Designed by Pinin Farina, the late-1950s “Boano” and “Ellena” berlinettas are generally considered to be Ferrari’s first series-built grand touring cars. These further developed the Pinin Farina Ferrari theme of simple, elegant lines and proportions with a minimum of brightwork and trim.

Pinin Farina designed their first Ferrari as early as 1952, and by the mid-1950s, they had truly established the Ferrari “look”, as exemplified by the Boano/Ellena GT series. Design cues included the long, low hood and the signature oval radiator opening, traits which by the mid-1950s had secured Principal Ferrari Design House status for the Turin firm.

Eighty-two cars in the first series were built by Carrozzeria Boano. At the end of 1957, Mario Boano left his company to set up Fiat’s styling department, and his son-in-law, Ezio Ellena, took over with Boano’s old partner, Luciano Pollo. Thus, the renamed Carrozzeria Ellena built a further run of 50 Ferrari 250 GTs, now referred to as “Ellena” coupés. Improvements included a two-inch raised roofline, providing more head room and better body proportions, and the adoption of a standard four-speed gearbox shift pattern, larger brakes, a ZF steering system, and the fitment of a single distributor to the engine. As befits a production car, passenger comfort as well as luggage accommodation were much improved from the previous Europa GT model, and panel and trim fit were described in period road tests as “superb”.

Also impressive was the performance provided by the famed Colombo-designed V-12, three-litre engine, which produced between 240 and 290 horsepower depending on its specification. Griffith Borgeson’s complimentary January 1958 Sports Cars Illustrated road test of the Richie Ginther, Lime Rock race-winning 250 GT, which listed for $10,975, called it a “Grand Touring masterpiece—without comparables—except other Ferraris”. In summary, the road test described a perfect blend of racing car performance with the manners and appointments of a luxury automobile. The “perfect seating position, silence at speed, the fully synchronized transmission, engine flexibility, rock-like solidity, predictable handling, and gigantic brakes” further impressed Borgeson, not to mention the styling, which he labelled “contemporary Italian conservative, beautiful without being the least bit gaudy”.

The top speed was listed at 127 to 157 mph, depending on the final drive gear ratio, with the road test car’s 4.57 gears providing a 0–60 mph time of 5.9 seconds. Such performance is not surprising since the mechanical specifications of an Ellena, the engine, gearbox, rear, suspension, brakes, wheels, and tyres, are the same as that of Ferrari’s GT racing car, the Tour de France. Even interior aspects like the steering wheel, instrument panel, gauges, and door hardware were identical to its glamorous sister cars of the period, the “TdF” and the LWB California Spyder, many of which owe their lives today to a donation of vital parts from a Boano/Ellena coupé.

This aspect, coupled with the minimal build numbers, means a very low survival rate for the 250 GT Boano/Ellena series. It is estimated that only about fifteen 250 GT Ellenas remain in their original form. Although marketed as Ferrari’s luxury grand touring car, these 250 GTs also distinguished themselves in competition, running in the Mille Miglia, scoring an Alpine Rally GT Class win, and securing a remarkable overall victory in the 1957 Acropolis Rally.

The factory build sheets for Ferrari number 0861 GT indicate that the construction of this car was commenced on 7th January 1958, with the testing procedure being signed-off on 14th April 1958. The first owner was Antonio Fiorani in Modena, Italy. Later, it was imported to the United States by Luigi Chinetti Motors in New York. By 1969, Bradley Balles, of Dallas, Texas, spotted it in Evanston, Illinois. The price was $3,250, and Balles purchased number 0861 GT on 3rd January 1970 and kept it until he sold it to the present owner in 2002—an ownership period of 32 years. Late in the Balles ownership, “Blackie”, as he named the Ellena, was given a full body and interior restoration. In the spring of 2002, the present owner commissioned a total mechanical restoration from Andy Greene Sports & Vintage Race Cars in Georgia.

In April 2004, the car was entered in the North Carolina Highlands Classic Rally as part of its “break-in” procedure. “Blackie ran perfectly—great speed and sound, sports car handling, excellent fade-free brakes, and perfect normal gauges, plus room for all of my wife’s luggage”, reported the delighted new owner. Back at Greene’s shop, minor rectifications were carried out before Blackie’s biggest adventure: two days on the race track! On the 9th and 10th of July, it was accepted to race in the drum brake class of the Shell Ferrari Historic Races held at Lime Rock Park, Connecticut. Again, the Ellena put on a perfect performance, finishing First in Class, and it was given “The Special Achievement Award”, a large silver and gold plate presented by Ferrari of America and Piaggio/Aero.

January 2005 found Blackie at Moroso Motorsports Park in Florida for another Shell Historics event, later that year earning another two First in Class trophies at Lime Rock Park in the same series. No less than four First in Class awards are listed for this Ellena’s 2006 Lime Rock Ferrari Historics, and in 2007, the Ellena was entered in the Lime Rock Park Vintage Festival, scoring a Second in Class and 8th overall in its feature race, while setting a flat 1:15 lap time around this tight circuit. The wonderful “dual purpose” nature of these early 250 GT Ferraris is perhaps underscored by the fact that Blackie was driven to and from the events, while all of the competition arrived in trailers.

In 2008, this Ellena GT completed the Colorado Grand in fine style, at one time being clocked at 130 mph! Since this excellent adventure, Blackie has been occasionally driven on sunny afternoons, with a service and check-over by the Ferrari experts at Bill Pollard’s Sport-Auto Inc. in Connecticut, which was carried out in 2011. This splendid Ferrari is now absolutely “turn-key” and ready for further curve-straightening escapades.


Please note that this vehicle is eligible for import into the UK at a reduced rate of 5% VAT.

Alexander Weaver

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Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

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Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more