250 California Spyders

Discussion in 'Vintage (thru 365 GTC4)' started by Robertb, Sep 15, 2004.

  1. Robertb

    Robertb Formula 3

    Nov 19, 2003
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    Robert
    I am looking for information/pics of the various different California Spyders- it is my favourite historic Ferrari (started when I saw Ferris Bueller's Day Off, years ago!).

    I love them, but don't know the detail about them, and would like to know/see how the model evolved.

    Anyone able to point me in the right direction?

    Many thanks

    Robert.
     
  2. Boxer 512

    Boxer 512 Formula Junior
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    Seb King
    Rob,

    Here's a brief historry from, (I think), QV - If you want to know more PM me, I have all the current files for all the California Spyder's and their owner's. Aswell as som more obscure data ?

    Best Regards,

    Seb

    250 GT California Spyder History

    It is widely known that the concept for Maranello's immortal 250 GT California was devised by Jon von Neumann who owned Ferrari Representatives of Hollywood. His idea was for a convertible version of the 250 GT LWB Tour de France and Neumann was fully supported by North American Ferrari impresario, Luigi Chinetti. Enzo Ferrari too was convinced and the new model became designated California in homage to the market where it was envisaged most examples would be sold. These 250 GT California's were constructed to an abundance of alternative specifications and it is unlikely that any two were wholly identical.

    We can separate the model into those examples constructed on Ferrari's long wheelbase chassis from the 250 GT Tour de France and later models that featured the short wheelbase chassis from the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta. Both Tour de France and SWB Berlinetta's were competition machines used to great effect around the globe, California's ranking alongside these great cars as part of an elite group of ultra desirable Ferrari's. In addition to having long and short wheelbase California's, further differentiation depended upon the particular chassis, engine and body combination. Meanwhile, it was decided from the outset that the most suitable chassis for the California would initially be Ferrari's Tipo 508 C frame (hence C Series), as used concurrently for the aforementioned Tour de France Berlinetta's (and Series I 250 GT Pinin Farina Cabriolet's). A welded tubular steel chassis with a wheelbase of 2600mm, the frame was traditional Ferrari – simple, rigid and reliable and can be regarded today as a work of art in itself. Together with the C Series chassis, a standard single overhead camshaft, inside plug, Tipo 128 C engine was used, again sourced from the 250 GT Tour de France. Displacement of this 60° V12 was 2953cc thanks to a bore and stroke of 73mm x 58.8mm respectively, maximum power of the wet-sump unit being recorded as 240bhp when running a 9.2:1 compression ratio and three Weber 36 DCL 3 carburetors.

    Capable of a top speed in excess of 135mph and accelerating to sixty in around 6.5 seconds (depending upon gear ratios), the 250 GT California had all the necessary requirements for a hugely desirable automobile. Around this time during the late fifties, Ferrari were working very closely with Pinin Farina but it was actually Scaglietti of Modena that designed and built bodywork for the California. They used steel save for the doors, bonnet and boot lid (all fabricated from aluminium), but while much credit rightly goes to Scaglietti, the Modenese carrozzeria borrowed heavily from period Pinin Farina renderings although the overall effect was more rakish than the Turin designers work.

    A continuous line from the headlights back to the curved rear wing gave Scaglietti's design effortless simplicity while details like the ovoid front grille and rear wings raised above the deck lid lent the California just the right balance of style and aggression. For the prototype, Scaglietti used more or less the same interior components as those found in the concurrent Tour de France Berlinetta. However, subsequent examples were all completed with fixtures and fittings often unique to the California and, in many cases, unique to one particular chassis. All though combined the essential period Ferrari ingredients of a wood rimmed and aluminium spoked Nardi steering wheel, the restrained use of leather and carpeting and a crackle black dash. None were originally finished with an open gate transmission, some early examples having their carpeting substituted for simple black rubber mats. The prototype California (0769 GT) was completed in late 1957 but took some six months to develop into a satisfactory machine, this car subsequently being sold to George Arents (business partner of Luigi Chinetti) who, on the East Coast of America, tested and raced the car in local events. The first production 250 California was completed by Scaglietti towards the end of June 1958 and delivered to Chinetti in New York shortly afterwards.

    It was not long, however, before further revisions were implemented and after the completion of nine steel-bodied California's on the Tipo 508 C chassis with corresponding Tipo 128 C engines (including the prototype), the tenth California built (chassis 1011 GT) arrived with a Tipo 128 D engine and 508 D chassis (hence its D Series nomenclature). The D Series chassis differed to the C only in it's minor relocation of spring mounting points and some additional chassis bracing to improve rigidity. Tipo 128 D engines retained the inside plug set up of the 128 C, the only changes of any note being a strengthened crankshaft and con-rods. Bizarrely, it was not until December of 1958 (18 months after the first prototype was completed), that the 250 GT California was then given it's formal debut.

    Displayed at Ferrari's Annual Press Conference, chassis 1085 GT (a competition car, see Part 2 for more information) most obviously featured an all-new open headlight nose treatment that was clean, elegant and stylish. Meanwhile, another body variation was made available in early 1959 when a glassfibre hardtop fabricated by Scaglietti could be specified. But despite having been an exceedingly elegant addition, only a few owners took the option up and today, these rare components are much sought after. Later on in the year, October to be precise, the first 250 GT California to be fitted with Dunlop disc brakes was constructed on chassis 1497 GT following trial runs on the Grand Prix machinery of the period. Then three street 250 GT California's were subsequently fitted with hot Tipo 128 F, outside plug, twelve-port engines that were also used in a couple of Competizione models (again see the next section). It was not uncommon for 250 GT California customers to request some competition components to be fitted to their road car – anything from hot cams to a complete Competizione specification engine having been available. The best way to determine the exact specification of a particular California is to consult the original Ferrari build sheets as these will illustrate exactly what needs to be known. The long wheelbase 250 GT California continued in production until the spring of 1960.

    Chassis 1085 GT, the 15th California Spyder built, was ordered by Luigi Chinetti on behalf of Jon von Neumann who bought it for racing. This, the first California purchased solely for competition use, came suitably modified over more standard examples. To begin, there was a lightweight, all aluminium body fitted with an externally mounted Monza quick fuel filler cap protruding from the rear deck. 1085 GT was also the first California to feature Scaglietti's new open headlight nose profile.

    During 1959, a number of similarly modified California's were constructed, often with the same competition oriented revisions such as Ferrari's ‘130’ racing camshafts, higher compression ratios, cold air pan carburetor surrounds and velocity stacks on hot Weber 40 DCL 3 carburetors. Maximum power on such specially prepared engines would typically be increased up to around 260bhp and when combined with a substantial reduction in weight, these racers could really fly. Three different types of engine were used for the lightweight Competizione's, the Tipo 128 D, Tipo 128 F and the Tipo 168. Three of the nine received Tipo 128 D motors, two with the Tipo 128 F and four with the Tipo 168 (see accompanying index). Both the Tipo 128 F and 168 were built almost exclusively for competition use with outside plugs and 12-port heads capable of providing 260bhp at 7000rpm - only three street California's ever-received 128 F motors. One of the long wheelbase California Competizione's also used a unique Tipo 508 F chassis (all other LWB's using either the Tipo 508 C or 508 D frames). It featured additional bracing and, like the Tipo D from C, some minor suspension mounting differences. To conclude, we provide an index with brief career highlights of the nine alloy-bodied Competizione California built on Ferrari's long wheelbase chassis.

    Ferrari’s much-revered short wheelbase chassis had been developed during the summer of 1959. It was finally debuted on the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, production ready, at the Paris Salon that October. The new Tipo 539 frame was developed to be stiffer and more predictable in cornering thanks to it's reduced wheelbase (down 200mm to 2400mm). All SWB California's used the Tipo 168 engine that, in standard tune, produced 260bhp at 7000rpm. These motors retained the by now familiar 2953cc displacement thanks to an unchanged bore and stroke of 73mm x 58.8mm respectively.

    250 GT LWB California Spyder Competizione Chassis Index

    Chassis No. Frame Engine
    1085 GT 508 D 128 D
    1451 GT 508 D 128 F
    1487 GT 508 D 128 D
    1603 GT 508 D 168
    1615 GT 508 D 168
    1627 GT 508 D 128 D
    1639 GT 508 D 168
    1641 GT 508 F 168
    1699 GT 508 D 128 F

    Compression was generally set a little higher than most Tipo 128 D engines (at around 9.3:1) and performance gains were impressive. Top speed rose to around 145mph, zero to sixty now requiring little more than six seconds. Although these uprated cars used essentially the same open and closed headlight Scaglietti body styles as long wheelbase California's, a number of key details help differentiate them. Short wheelbase California's sat with a lower, slightly more aggressive stance but the most obvious difference was a new hood mounted engine cooling duct. Short wheelbase models always featured a recess leading up to this scoop whereas long wheelbase versions all had smaller engine lids with no pre-duct creasing. The final identifying feature lay with engine air extraction vents located behind each front wheel arch. SWB versions featured just two integral louvers while LWB California's always had three. Interiors were generally a little more luxurious than their predecessors with leather covered dash’s, more extensive use of fine wool carpeting and improved sound insulation. In May 1960, two months after the last LWB California had been completed, the first short wheelbase version rolled off the production line.

    Then, just over a year later in September 1961, a slightly improved Tipo 168/61 engine was introduced and fitted as standard. These final variants also featured a marginally wider track, production continuing until early 1963, every car being completed in left-hand drive. There had been rumours of a solitary right-hand drive example somewhere in England, but this vehicle was confused with a specially commissioned 400 Superamerica (chassis 2311 SA).

    A number of competition modifications for the SWB California could be specified by clients, all of which were fitted to the first short wheelbase Competizione, chassis 2015 GT. Ordered new by Luigi Chinetti’s NART for the 1960 Le Mans 24 Hour race, it was one of the highest specification California's ever built. There was a lightweight all aluminium body, an oversized 120-litre fuel tank with Monza quick fuel filler and a competition spec Tipo 168 B engine. This was fitted with hot 130 cams, six 40 DCL carburetors, velocity stacks and a cold air pan. Providing 280bhp, this factory hot rod was more than a match for most SWB Berlinetta's

    Compression was increased to 9.5:1 and this comprehensive specification was largely repeated on chassis’ 2383 GT for Ernst Lautenschlager. Chassis 2987 GT, meanwhile, featured just a lightweight body and was otherwise standard. It will come as no surprise to learn that a number of steel-bodied California's also received some competition inspired upgrades from the factory at the request of their first owners, most changes being carried out to engines. To ascertain the exact original specification of any particular 250 GT California, check the original build sheets. Furthermore, an interesting footnote to the SWB California Competizione saga was Pininfarina's one off Spyder manufactured on the third SWB chassis constructed (1737 GT). Bearing some resemblance to the California model, this new car looked somewhat ungainly and a little uncomfortable upon it's debut at the 1960 Geneva Motor Show. Bodied in aluminium and fitted with the latest specification Tipo 168 engine to full competition specification, many consider this to have been a prototype SWB California. Chassis numbers of what are considered to be the only three genuine SWB Competizione California's built are listed below:

    250 GT SWB California Competizione Chassis Index

    Chassis No. Frame Engine Additional Features
    2015 GT 539 168 B
    2383 GT 539 168
    2987 GT 539/61 168
     
  3. Robertb

    Robertb Formula 3

    Nov 19, 2003
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    Thanks Seb,

    You have PM.

    Rob.
     
  4. djaffrey

    djaffrey Formula Junior

    Apr 11, 2004
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    Robert,

    This one is garaged about 70 miles from where you live...

    Darren.
     
  5. Fan512bbi

    Fan512bbi Two Time F1 World Champ
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  6. Robertb

    Robertb Formula 3

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    Just gorgeous...

    Any more pics, anyone?

    Robert.
     
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  8. djaffrey

    djaffrey Formula Junior

    Apr 11, 2004
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    Here you go ... 3 LWB and 1 SWB I believe.

    D.
     
  9. Fan512bbi

    Fan512bbi Two Time F1 World Champ
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  10. Fan512bbi

    Fan512bbi Two Time F1 World Champ
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  11. enzo360

    enzo360 F1 Veteran
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    Jurgen Durand
  12. kare

    kare F1 Rookie
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    Nov 11, 2003
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    Apparently 1501GT, 1795GT and 4121GT but does someone have a c/n for the Gerish-replica?

    Best wishes, Kare
     
  13. Boxer 512

    Boxer 512 Formula Junior
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    Promised Robert I'd post a few Cal. Spyder photo's today !

    Here you go.....

    Seb
     
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  15. Robertb

    Robertb Formula 3

    Nov 19, 2003
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    Thanks so much everyone for posting the pics.

    What a car!

    Why can't Ferrari build something as utterly beautiful as that now.

    Now where did I put that Lotto ticket...

    Robert.
     
  16. zjpj

    zjpj F1 Veteran

    Nov 4, 2003
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    Unofficial poll: closed or open headlights?

    My vote: closed
     
  17. Robertb

    Robertb Formula 3

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    Robert

    closed...
     
  18. Smiles

    Smiles Moderator
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    I think "closed" would be pretty unanimous.
     
  19. htran

    htran Formula Junior

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    #17 htran, Sep 16, 2004
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
  20. mccprivate

    mccprivate Karting

    Jan 15, 2004
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  21. Fan512bbi

    Fan512bbi Two Time F1 World Champ
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    Closed lights IMO.
     
  22. Gilles

    Gilles Karting

    Aug 10, 2003
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    Not sure, but I have 250 GTE 4487GT
    Gilles
     
  23. zjpj

    zjpj F1 Veteran

    Nov 4, 2003
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    Why do you all think the Californias command *such* a premium over the PF cabriolets?
    - looks/aesthetics?
    - some competition history?
    - better performance?
    - fewer produced?
    - all of the above?
     
  24. mccprivate

    mccprivate Karting

    Jan 15, 2004
    69
    Cabrio seems more like a luxury convertible while the California is the "hot rod" with bigger engine and stiffer springs. The fact that the car was designed to be driven with the top down year-round, but also able to compete at the race track is the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, those days of everyday driving and competing at the track are over.

    Similar example today of the difference between a Cabriolet and a California:

    MB CLK55 Cabriolet AMG vs. MB SL65 AMG?

    Absolute favorite is the 250 GT California Spyder SWB "Competizione" (chassis#2015GT). Just the fact that several Californias competed (both LWB and SWB) is amazing! Not sure if it is true or not, but one of the Ferrari Videos I have mentioned the 250 GT California short-wheelbase being able to do 0-60 in 5 seconds. Can anyone verify?
     
  25. htran

    htran Formula Junior

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    To Robert, a litle bit of memory lane-

    www.fca-se.com. click on Alabama chapter, scroll down to movie, click on sound clip. henry
     
  26. kare

    kare F1 Rookie
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    Nov 11, 2003
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    I am! Had mistyped "Gerish" as "Derish" which is why I didn't find it among my collection notes!

    Thanks and best wishes, Kare
     
  27. kare

    kare F1 Rookie
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    Nov 11, 2003
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    Direct bloodline to 250GT LWB Berlinetta, being chosen 1000 times as the most beautiful car ever produced and competition record (even if not very extensive) surely helps a lot.

    Note also that Pininfarina also made mass production in their factory, which IMHO seems to downgrade somewhat the special cars they've built (series I Cabriolets and the Superamericas being absolutely the superlatives they ever built in a series).

    Best wishes, Kare
     

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