Words: Jason Barlow
The 250 GT passo corto is one of the most revered cars in the history of Ferrari. We drive it to find out why
The short piece you are reading here has two major disadvantages. The first is that the car we’re discussing, a Ferrari 250 GT passo corto (Competizione), chassis no. 2735, has a history so rich 500 words isn’t going to get close to doing it justice.
Secondly, it’s a Ferrari V12, one of the great Ferrari V12s in fact, and a racing model at that, so it makes a sound equivalent to Maria Callas performing La Traviata in Lisbon in 1958, or Jimi Hendrix unleashing another solo in Monterey in 1967. Take your pick. But make sure you watch the accompanying film so that you can appreciate it.
The car is owned by Clive Beecham, a man who regards himself as more of a curator than a collector, and someone with meticulous history and cuttings files on the cars he owns. Since these also include the 1950, ex-Gianni Agnelli Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta, and a quite magnificent Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-type that finished second in the Le Mans 24 hours race in 1957, we’re talking highly significant history here.
So to his 250 GT passo corto. If the livery looks familiar, then it’s because the car was campaigned by Johnnie Walker whisky heir Rob Walker, and still wears the Scottish national dark blue and white stripe colours his adventures in motorsport made so famous.
Walker had a close association with the great Stirling Moss, and this particular car was ordered by Walker for Moss to drive in the 1961 Le Mans 24 Hours race. Indeed, it was delivered direct to La Sarthe from Maranello, where Moss and co-driver Graham Hill ran as high as fourth – a remarkable achievement given that Ferrari was campaigning full-blooded sports prototype 250 TRI/61s – before an errant blade on the cooling fan damaged the power unit.
Following an engine rebuild in Modena, David Joliffe, one of Walker’s mechanics, drove the 250 GT passo corto through the night and across the Alps back to Silverstone for the British Empire Trophy a month later, where, with the minimum of preparation and in the nick of time, Moss duly qualified on pole and went on to win the race.
There were further wins for the duo at the Goodwood TT, the Nassau TT, and the Peco Trophy at Brands Hatch. By shortening the 250 GT chassis, increasing its power output, and constructing a fabulously pretty body from aluminium, Ferrari had demonstrated the innate competition potential of its engineering once again. For a road car, the 250 GT passo corto was made of stern stuff.
Chassis 2735GT enjoyed further adventures. These included hiding an international fashion model in the boot to get her across the Italian border, being rebodied by Piero Drogo, and suffering a nasty accident in the late 1960s. Completely restored and Classiche-certified, Clive Beecham has owned the car since 1984, and has proven to be the perfect custodian for this highly significant piece of Ferrari history.
Not just because he understands the historical provenance, but also because he regularly enjoys the car. As you can see here. Turn up the volume…