Grand Touring Bargains

From 1947 to 1957 Ferrari evolved from a small race shop, producing only two cars, to a world-recognized, high-performance company building 200 cars. However, its cars were still mostly custom-built and very expensive to produce. Ever the realist, Enzo Ferrari felt there was a market for a luxury Gran Turismo that could be built and sold in volume (by Ferrari standards, anyway) with standardized production features. The profits from this would go to support Ferrari’s ever-increasing and ever-more-expensive racing efforts.

So, in 1957 the 250 PF coupe was born, beginning with S/N 0841 and ending in 1960 with S/N 2081. Just over 350 250 PF coupes were sold in just three years, a huge number for the small company.

Proving that practicality has its market appeal, note that the 250 PF coupe was a much more popular car than its competition-oriented sibling, the 250 TDF, of which fewer than 100 were sold in essentially the same time period. When new, the 250 PF coupe and the 250 TDF were comparable in price, approximately $12,000 in America at Luigi Chinetti Motors.

Today, of course, the 250 TDF is worth much more, with a Scaglietti-bodied 1958 TDF selling for $650,000 plus and the very limited production Zagato-bodied or 14-louvre 250 TDF competition cars selling for as much as $1.5 million. Meanwhile, a 250 PF coupe with the same chassis, brakes, suspension, engine and transmission, but with a less attractive Pininfarina-designed GT body sells for $35,000 to $85,000.

Why the huge discrepancy in price? It’s very simple. The TDF guarantees you entry into the Tour de France, the Shell Historic races, the Monterey Historics, or virtually any historical competition event on the planet. And if you are lucky enough to have one of the Zagato or 14-louvre TDFs, you are also welcome to grace the lawns of the Bagatelle and Pebble Beach. All of this conspires to drive TDF prices up.

On the other hand, a 250 PF coupe will not get you an entry into the Mille Miglia, nor will it get you onto the lawn at Pebble Beach or the Bagatelle, and, with 350 cars built, they seem, at least in the world of pre-1960 Ferraris, almost ordinary.

Strangely, the earlier 250 PF coupes, with their 16″ wire wheels, skinny tires, drum brakes, recalcitrant transmission, single distributor and down-on-horsepower inside plug engines are the most valuable of the 250 PF coupes. They have a 1950’s mystique to them and fewer survive than of the later cars. A well-restored example will bring as much as $85,000 today, a number that is still less than the cost of restoring one.

Shortly after S/N 1500 all 250 PF coupes were fitted with disc brakes for much-improved stopping, a more powerful and less smoky outside plug engine, a four speed with overdrive transmission and wider and stronger 15″ wire wheels. A well-restored example will bring about $75,000 today, again, much less than the cost of a restoration.

Both early- and late- model 250 PF coupes are wonderful Grand Touring cars, with a silky smooth V12 giving a top speed of 125 mph plus, pretty heady stuff for 1958. Combined with a reasonably quiet cockpit, comfortable seats and a smooth shifting transmission, so long as you know how to double-clutch, they are a pleasure to drive at speed.

Unfortunately, the supply of unmolested 250 PF coupes diminished greatly during the 1980s, as they were often used as donor cars to rebuild or restore TDFs, or as the underpinnings for the various TR re-creations that were created to allow poseurs to look rich while driving to the mall. Today, a good 250 PF coupe is the best buy available for the enthusiast who doesn’t own shares in a dot-com company, and who wants to go on the Colorado Grand, the California Mille and similar touring events for vintage cars.

Find a car that was restored in the heady days of the late 1980s, when any early V12 Ferrari was worth over $250,000 and have it inspected by the mechanics of your choice. Step up and buy the best example you can find and enjoy the experience of being behind the wheel of a piece of history. Prices of 250 PF coupes have been creeping up of late, but you can still find one for less than half the cost of a full-bore restoration. It’s is unlikely that they will go down in value in the foreseeable future.