Record Ferrari 250 GT
The Lusso is regarded as the most beautiful of all Pininfarina's creations on the 250 GT chassis. It is a true Granturismo, combining high performance with contemporary levels of elegance. Chassis 4965GT left the factory in September 1963, destined for Paris dealer Franco-Britannic for delivery to Robert Blouin, who specified light blue (Azzurro) coachwork with red leather. Blouin decided to race his Lusso not merely at club level, as two others were, but at FIA Championship events
He first campaigned it in the Grand Rallye de l'Ouest in France in March 1964. On 17 May, Blouin drove in the grueling Grand Prix de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium but DNF'd. One week later he raced, this time at Montlhéry for the Prix de Paris, with unknown results.
On May 9, 1965, he entered the Lusso in its most important event, the Targa Florio, with a co-driver named Sauer. While they completed the ten 44-mile laps, they were not classified, as Jess Pourretrelates in his definitive book Ferrari 250GT Competition Cars: "The Frenchmen…drove Blouin's Lusso from Normandy to Sicily to enter the Targa…Near the end (of the race), Blouin encountered a gravely wounded competitor and stopped to pick him up and deliver him to the next Red Cross point. This put him out of contention as far as allowed time was concerned."
On May 16, 1965, Blouin again entered at Spa for the annual GT Championship GP. He placed either 6th or 16th overall, either way a respectable result considering the opposition included Ferrari LMs, GTOs, and the Shelby Cobra Daytona coupes. Blouin retired from competition thereafter, and in February 1969, the car was sold to a lady in Paris. It remained with her for more than two decades, before passing to Ralph Bruggmann of Switzerland and competing in the 1998 Tour Auto retrospective. It was acquired soon afterwards by French enthusiast Cazalières, running at Monza in the 2000 Shell Ferrari Challenge and the Le Mans Classic before finally joining the present owner's collection. So its eligibility for most historic events is beyond doubt.
This Lusso is offered in faultless condition. Its engine was replaced by another, which was restamped with the previous engine number. It has covered only 300 kilometers since a rebuild, with new pistons, rings, and bearings; the rear axle is rebuilt with new crown and pinion, whilst the transmission has been stripped and checked. The chassis is believed accident free. The new silver gray paintwork is immaculate, and the interior, trimmed in deep burgundy leather, is believed to be original. A period roll bar is fitted, plus racing belts, battery cut-out, and safety fuel tank. Offered with old French and Swiss registrations, FIA papers, and documents relating to its racing past, this is a special Berlinetta with a unique history.
The SCM Analysis
This car sold for $595,400 at Bonham's May 2006 Monte Carlo auction, probably a new record for a Lusso.
The catalog description uses a little hyperbole when it calls it a Lusso "Competition." And perhaps the "competition" history detailed above influenced the bidders to bid these astronomical sums for what is a nicely repainted, non-original-colors car.
It appears to be a normal Lusso, and no evidence of any competition features, such as higher compression ratio, lightweight rods and pistons, or special exhaust is mentioned—even though these were among the many well-tested, homologated competition mods developed for the type 168 engine used in the SWB Berlinetta, predecessor to the Lussos.
As DeRosa wrote in Ferrari GT Cars, about the 1965 Targa entry: "They asked to be entered for the Targa. After getting tangled up in some red tape, they were finally allowed to start. Pourett described their race preparation; the car had only seat belts and a fire extinguisher as racing modifications."
One determinant of value of any Ferrari is how successful it or variations of the model were when raced, doubtless the reason for the catalog's breathless, flowery description of the races Blouin entered. It's an attempt to give the car a racing aura that it simply doesn't have.
Why Blouin even chose to race a Lusso is a mystery. By 1965, the Targa was won by a rear-engined 275 P2, and a 250 LM was eighth. The era of the front-engine competition car was coming to an end. And for the serious amateur racer, there were plenty of reasonably priced ex-competition cars available.
Ed Niles, an L.A. Ferrari aficionado who imported many great Ferraris, tells of buying an SWB Berlinetta SEFAC "Hot Rod" in 1966 in decent condition for $3,500 (www.ferrarichat.com/velostrada/issues/200510/Niles_2733GT.htm).
Perhaps Blouin went "racing" for the same reason some people choose to enter non-competitive cars in concours. It's a good way to get a parking space and an inside vantage point. To paraphrase the late Lloyd Benson speaking of JFK, "I knew Ferrari competition cars, and you, sir, are no Ferrari competition car."
In the mid-'80s, I had the good fortune to race against the late Dr. Franz Mayr-Melnhoff and his Lusso. Dr. Melnhoff, who was described by Marcel Massini as the "richest Austrian," owned ten Ferraris and was a competitive driver with plenty of seat time at tracks all over the world. I had sold him the rather tired Lusso, I thought, for him to use for Atlanta airport transportation, but after FAF rebuilt and "hotted" up the engine, he unexpectedly entered the vintage races at Road Atlanta.
A very good driver, he could with great valor pass my TdF in turns, but when we hit the straights it was good bye, Lusso. Just as with steel SWB Berlinettas, the Lusso was too well trimmed and heavy to compete with any alloy-bodied 250. The fact was apparent to the other 350 Lusso buyers, but not Blouin.
So we have a beautiful Lusso with a non-original engine and, as SCM's man at the auction Richard Hudson-Evans reported, "a lovely paint job, in non-original colors, panel and fit perfect, bright work unblemished, seat leather darkened, Borranis rim finish scruffy. Refurbished apparently pre-1998. Engine presumably replaced much earlier but recently rebuilt."
So is it worth $600,000 dollars? Yes, under the following circumstances. Figure that a decent Lusso is now a $400,000 car any day of the week. For an extra $200,000, the new owner has a car that will be accepted into the competition section of nearly any vintage event in the world, especially in hard-running European ones like the Tour Auto and the Modena Cento Ore. No, he doesn't have a chance of a podium finish unless every other car in the class runs off a cliff, but nonetheless, he gets to run with the big dogs instead of the pantywaists back in the TSD/regularity sections.
Further, he has a car that, with its distinctive competition livery and the notoriety of the Bonhams sale, will mark him instantly as a player. And after all, in vintage events, being a player and running with hairy-chested cars is what it is all about. And well worth a $200,000 premium over a run-of-the-mill Lusso.
Years Produced: 1962-64
Number Produced: 351
Original List Price: $13,375
SCM Valuation: $350,000–$425,000 (at time of print)
Tune-up Cost: $2,000
Distributor Caps: Two @ $400 each
Chassis #: 4965
Chassis # Location: Front frame tube
Engine # Location: Engine rear mount
Club Info: Ferrari Club of America, Box 720597, Atlanta, GA 30358
Web Site: http://www.ferrariclubofamerica.org
Alternatives: 1960–62 steel 250 SWB, 1958–63 Aston Martin DB4, 1952–55 Bentley R-type Continental