Historically, the Ferrari 250 GTO was always considered one of the world’s most valuable classic cars but in 2018, it unequivocally became the world’s most valuable classic car when in an auction “race” with 3,300 lots sold across 13 auctions in 4 countries, RM Sotheby’s brought in $423 million in another record-setting year, led by pack leader – a Ferrari 250 GTO, tipping the scales at US$48 million (£38 million), becoming the most valuable car ever sold at auction. Today, the Italian Courts in the city of Bologna have further entrenched the Ferrari 250 GTO’s legacy, legally ruling the classic super car a “work of art” protecting it from reproductions and imitations.
“The customisation of the car’s lines and its aesthetic elements have made the 250 GTO unique, a true automobile icon.” – Italian Tribunal, Bologna
With just 36 models ever made, the Ferrari 250 GTO is widely regarded by aficionados as the Holy Grail of classic cars and the Bologna tribunal just gave an unprecedented judgment protecting this legend from pale imitations. It’s the first time ever that a car in Italy has been recognised as a work of art.
A unique aspect of automobile design is probably the magnitude of effort involved. Often, extraordinary lengths and millions of dollars, and a lot of brain power. to develop and execute what visionaries consider as “appealing vehicle design”, only to have it unfairly copied.
Consider the amount of work and resources involved: Trained artists draw the lines of the vehicle exterior panels. Professional sculptors then form scale models of the vehicle from clay. Metallurgists and chemists then choose the materials from which these parts should be made. Manufacturing engineers design a tool which will repeatedly stamp the part out within the required manufacturing tolerance without losing definition. Safety engineers locate crash inhibitors in hoods and design enforcement in doors to improve occupant protection in case of a crash. Corrosion specialists run extensive durability tests to determine the number. size. and location of drain and access holes so the vehicle does not rust. They decide how to orient joints and seams to avoid trapping grit and other contaminants. They determine the best method to process and prime panels on prototype vehicles to determine if more welds are needed for customer satisfaction, and if different priming techniques are required. The result of these efforts is a visually appealing, high quality vehicle which has been designed, engineered. and manufactured to give the vehicle owner years of satisfactory performance. In many cases, the resulting design is the major reason that customers are attracted to a vehicle. Case in point – the exquisite Ferrari 250 GTO.
All that effort, only to have other makers reproduce an out of production design, without compensating the original creator. When Ferrari discovered that a company in the brand’s native city, Modena, was planning to produce 250 GTO replicas, the brand was aghast, lodging a complaint and petition to gain legal recognition for the design and intellectual property rights of the classic car. So far, modern reproductions of the Ferrari 250 GTO have been limited to single custom commissions for individuals. Given the Ferrari 250 GTO’s“numerous awards and official testaments.” and “artistic merits”, it was a no brainer for the Italian Court to rule the classic Ferrari 250 GTO a “true automobile icon”.
Regarded as the Holy Grail of classic cars, between 1962 and 1964 just 36 Ferrari 250 GTO models were ever made. While all exemplars have survived, each possesses its own provenance and history. The classic car market, the hottest alternative asset investment according to Knight Frank Wealth Report, can be ultra-lucrative with classic car dealers attempting to reproduce 250 GTOs by cannibalising parts and bodywork creating a “Frankencar” – a practice endemic to the vintage Rolex market as well, where watch dealers attempt to create a more valuable model from other vintage parts. That said, this practice is not unique to Ferrari, classic Jaguars, Alfa Romeos and other long time legacy brands have suffered as well.