Henri Oreiller had a hunger for life, to the point of racing through his existence and constantly upping the high-adrenaline ante in a thrilling, but dangerous, game. In France they called him the “madman of downhill” since the time when, aged just 23, the whole world admired him on the slopes at St. Moritz at the 1948 Winter Olympics, where he became the first French Olympic champion.
In partnership with the eclectic Jo Schlesser, a Madagascar-born French businessman who was crazy about racing. Henri participated in the 6,000km 1962 Tour de France Automobile, where they came second in their beautiful Ferrari 250 GTO - chassis number 3851 GT - which Schlesser had taken delivery of just a few days before at Maranello.
Technicians at the Classiche department were painstaking in their quest to get every detail of the car correct, referring back to original photos and documentation from the 1960s
Their near-win saw the silvery berlinetta adorned with a French tricolour lengthwise along the middle of its bodywork. But sadly, just two weeks later at another race, Oreiller lost control and crashed into the corner of a house. The GTO bent in two and trapped the poor French driver, who was killed instantly. Schlesser took the damaged car back to Maranello, where it was repaired and given a red livery, before being sold.
The recipient of the seventeenth specimen of the only thirty-six 250 GTO ever built was one Paolo Colombo, a gentleman driver with a passion for hill climbs who raced it in Scuderia Trentina colours, before giving the 3851 GT to a companion on his adventures, Ernesto Prinoth, from Urtijëi in South Tyrol.
After a year, he gave in to persistent offers from Fabrizio Violati, a young man from a family of Roman entrepreneurs, who had a boundless passion for Ferrari, selling him the GTO.
The car has lived a long and fascinating life, being passed from one Ferrari enthusiast to another, being raced, crashed, repaired and cherished
Violati kept the purchase secret from his parents in a garage far from home, and drove it only at night. The Roman aficionado and driver kept the 250 GTO for a long time, always with the original registration plate, MO 80586. When Violati passed away, his ‘Maranello Rosso’ collection was divided up and the GTO put up for auction. It was to be bought by its current owner, the London-based Brazilian entrepreneur Carlos Monteverde, in 2014. In 2018 Monteverde tasked Ferrari Classiche with its accurate restoration.
The collector asked the experts at Maranello to restore the car to the condition in which it was delivered to Jo Schlesser all those years before: light grey metallic bodywork, rear twin exhaust, remade nose. For this last detail, the technicians had to refer to documentation from the time, including photographs. As they were hand-built, each GTO was slightly different from the other: in part due to customer requests, but mainly because the panel beaters produced bodywork by hammering sheets of aluminium into shape over wooden forms. In the case of the 3851 GT, the headlights weren’t the Marchals fitted to other GTOs, but were by Cibié, the French brand that sponsored Henri Oreiller.
The 250 GTO's engine was given a complete overhaul to return it to former glory, the competition-spec 3 litre V12 now purring like the first day rolling out of Maranello
The additional full beans were rectangular, but had a more solid edge (the Marchals ‘disappeared’ into the bodywork) and the hint of a sort of visor at the top. Given the essential, almost spartan, character of this icon among Ferrari GTs, the seats kept their original blue cloth. At the mechanical level a thorough overhaul sufficed for the classic competition-specification 3-litre V12 (to which Violati had previously given extra power), with the chassis, suspension, axle, transmission and braking system receiving the same treatment.
The magnificent outcome represents a glorious return to the past and honours the sensational debut of a car that may not have been fortunate for its earliest drivers, but was redeemed by the love of those with the passion to unleash its power for 45 years running. In anticipation of a future still brilliant and as yet unwritten.