The 250 LM: Fast but Nasty

Perhaps the best-known Ferrari street/race cars of the ’60s are the 250 GTO and the 250 LM. Although they were built in similarly small numbers, the value of 250 LMs has always languished far behind that of the GTO.

There are many reasons for this. The 250 GTO, equipped with a predictable solid rear axle, Watts link rear suspension, and easy-to-use, five-speed synchromesh transmission, made a bad driver look good. The 250 LM, built with a flexible chassis, tough-to-shift, non-synchro transaxle and unforgiving rear suspension geometry, made a talented driver look, at best, busy. Add in little headroom, right-hand-drive steering, a left-hand shifter, and a driving position complicated by having the gas, brake and clutch pedals offset well to the center line of the car, and the 250 LM was not favored by many Ferrari drivers. Additionally, the cockpit of the 250 LM is even noisier, more cramped and hotter than the 250 GTO, making our busy driver miserable as he tries to save his life on the race track.

All 250 Le Mans were sold to privateers or to concessionaires who later sold them to privateers, and many suffered accordingly, being crashed and rebuilt repeatedly, usually on limited budgets. Several 250 Le Mans gained double identities when rebuilt, with various parts going into two separate rebuild projects, each claiming the S/N and lineage rights to the damaged car. As a result, of the thirty-two 250 Le Mans built by Ferrari, at least thirty-eight exist today, a survival rate exceeded only by the often-duplicated D-type Jaguars.

Like all collectible racing Ferraris in a booming economy, the price of a 250 Le Mans has risen in the last five years. 250 Le Mans S/N 6023, a car with a good race history and provenance, sold for $2,147,500 at Christie’s auction at Pebble Beach, August 28, 1999, to a California exotic car dealer. This same car was resold to an English collector in March 2000 for $2,500,000.

More recently, RM sold S/N 6173 for $2,310,000 at their Amelia Island auction. While a fully documented car, 6173 had been heavily crashed and rebuilt, while 6023 was relatively pristine, accounting for the price differential. While $2,500,000 is a record price for a 250 LM in this decade, it is well below the record price of $5,500,000 paid for S/N 6313 in 1990, and is also well below the price of a comparable condition 250 GTO today, which would sell for well over $6,000,000. In general, the prices of 250 LMs have always been around 50% of those of GTOs with similar provenance, and you can expect that ratio to remain constant for the foreseeable future.