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One of, if not the most original and unmolested Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta ‘Tour de France’ extant, having never been raced in period
An early single-louvre ‘Tour de France’ with covered headlights – the ultimate 1950s dual-purpose Ferrari Gran Turismo
A fully matching-numbers example with Ferrari Classiche certification
Bought new by William ‘Bill’ Harrah in Nevada, where it joined one of the world’s largest car collections
Highly eligible for the world’s most prestigious historic motorsport and concours events, including the Goodwood Revival, Mille Miglia and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
Chassis no. 0925 GT
The Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta ‘Tour de France’
The Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta, more commonly known as the ‘Tour de France’, is among the most significant Ferraris of them all for a plethora of reasons, not least the fact that without it, the immortal 250 GT ‘Short Wheelbase’ and GTO would never have seen the light of day.
This desperately beautiful Gran Turismo was designed by Pinin Farina, that history-steeped engineer of elegance which managed to tread the line between delicate and imposing, and constructed by Scaglietti. It’s dainty and delicate and lip-smackingly delicious, yet retains the commanding and powerful presence so typical of a 12-cylinder Ferrari.
Beneath that seemingly never-ending bonnet resides the bulletproof Colombo V12 in potent three-litre form, the engine that helped set the Ferrari 250 GT on course towards total domination of GT racing.
It was the exuberant Spanish nobleman Alfonso de Portago who earned this Ferrari its ‘Tour de France’ moniker, when he won the 1956 running of the gruelling 3,600-mile six-day French endurance road race.
In addition to three further consecutive victories in the Tour de France Automobile, the 250 GT Berlinetta’s competition accolades include class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959 and outright victory at the Targa Florio in 1957. These dual-purpose Gran Turismos were as unstoppable as the charismatic racing legends who drove them – from Piero Taruffi to Olivier Gendebien – and did Ferrari the world of good from an international publicity perspective.
Just 77 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta ‘Tour de France’ were built between 1956 and 1959, of which just 37 were finished in ‘single-louvre’, covered-headlight guise. Just like this utterly exquisite example.
This Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta ‘Tour de France’
The ‘Tour de France’ we’re honoured to be presenting is chassis number 0925GT, which was completed on 20 December 1957. The car was sold new by the Hollywood Ferrari dealer Otto Zipper Motors to one William ‘Bill’ Fisk Harrah from Reno, Nevada – ‘The Biggest Little City in the World’.
A flamboyant hotelier and gambling magnate with a passion for cars which far outweighed his interest in virtually anything else, Harrah devoted his life to curating an astonishing collection of over 1,400 vehicles. And one which, from the outset, was to be shared with and educate the public.
Chassis 0925GT was the first in a long line of Ferraris owned by Harrah. So fond was he of Enzo Ferrari’s cars yet so sparse was the company’s Stateside service network that he lobbied the factory to allow him to start his own authorised Ferrari dealership. Harrah’s efforts were not in vain – he became the official Ferrari distributor for eleven West Coast states.
In Dean Batchelor’s excellent and comprehensively researched book Harrah’s Automobile Collection, there’s a wonderful story about how Harrah came to acquire this ‘Tour de France’. Purely out of curiosity, Harrah visited Otto Zipper Motors in Hollywood during a work trip to Los Angeles.
At that time, the sales manager was Richie Ginther, who famously went on to forge a fantastic racing career both in sports cars and Formula 1. Ginther knew that the easiest way to convince Harrah of the Ferrari 250 GT’s abilities was to see if he wanted a demonstration. Naturally, Harrah obliged.
"He took me up on Mulholland Drive in Hollywood,” Harrah is quoted as saying. “And I was familiar with Mulholland Drive because I was raised there, and I knew what you could do on Mulholland Drive in a ’26 Chevy or a ’29 Ford or a ’36 Lincoln. And he took me in this Ferrari over the same road at double the speeds I’d ever ridden.
And of course, he was a super driver. And he let me drive it…and it handled beautifully, and the performance and acceleration and just – I’d never driven a car like that. The Chrysler 300s – it made them feel like an old truck or something.” Perhaps inevitably, Harrah coughed up the 12,500 US dollars to pay for the Ferrari on the spot.
For close to three decades, chassis 0925GT took pride of place at the National Automobile Museum in Reno – the home of Bill Harrah’s extraordinary collection. It’s telling of how important the Ferrari was to both Harrah and the museum that when Harrah sadly died in 1978, his family kept the car for another eight years.
In 1986, this Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta was sold by Kruse International in one of its three auctions held to offer virtually all of The Harrah Collection. From 1978, 0925GT passed through the hands of collectors in California, New York, Austria and Japan, until it was purchased by the German couple Harald and Ingeborg Mergard in November of 1992.
Having commissioned the British Ferrari restoration expert Terry Hoyle with the rebuild of the Colombo V12, the Mergards made the most of the Ferrari’s dual-purpose road and racing credentials and took 0925GT on a variety of prestigious international road rallies, including the Tour Auto, Mille Miglia and Rallye du Maroc Classic. In 1994, the renowned British Ferrari specialist DK Engineering undertook a complete restoration of 0925GT.
Following its restoration, 0925GT was entered in two further Mille Miglia rallies, featured in the popular German car magazine Auto Zeitung, and exhibited on the prestigious Cartier Style et Luxe concours lawn at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2004. This Ferrari was acquired by the German collector Andreas Schlaewicke in 2007 and subsequently, in 2009, received its full Ferrari Classiche certification, confirming its original chassis, engine, body and gearbox.
In 2010, RM Auctions sold this Ferrari to its previous owner at its Monaco sale. At this time, the mileage was noted as 17,600 miles. Our very own Max Girardo swung the gavel that day on the Cote d’Azur and he still remembers the car well. “
The mileage a salient point - it’s important to note that in the years since it left Reno, the incremental increases in this Ferrari’s mileage have always been noted, dispelling any doubts about its authenticity.
The fact that chassis 0925GT was never raced competitively in period combined with its 30 years in The Harrah Collection and its subsequent sheltered life means that, today, the car is arguably the most original and unmolested Ferrari 250 GT ‘Tour de France’ of them all.
Everything from the delicately sculpted nose (one of the most common inaccuracies on many other ‘Tour de Frances’) and the rich scent of the tan leather interior to the raspy urgency of the race-bred V12 and the deliciously weighted steering is bang on, just as the car was intended and supposed to be. Even in the rarefied world of the Ferrari 250 GT ‘Tour de France’, certain cars stand head and shoulders above the rest – 0925GT is one of those cars.
This desperately pretty Gran Turismo also stands as a magnificent reminder of and tribute to William ‘Bill’ Harrah, a man whose passion transcended the world of cars and seeped into that of philanthropy. He understood that sharing the precious, exotic cars he cherished and educating the public about them was so important to inspire a new generation and safeguard their futures. This 250 GT ‘Tour de France’, Harrah’s very first Ferrari, was and remains arguably one of the most desirable cars of the entire collection.
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