With prices of real Ferrari 250 GTOs gone crazy there's a growing market for lovingly created replicas that aren't too precious to drive. Kyle Fortune takes one to Goodwood for a spin.
Whisper it, it's a replica. Stop reading now if that offends you, but how could it? It's absolutely beautiful. Authentic in a way too, as in this isn't some lashed together GRP pastiche based on a dodgy old Datsun. This beauty is a pukka 250 GTO recreation based on the shortened chassis of a Ferrari 250 GTE. That means proper Ferrari mechanicals, a 3.0-litre V12 with around 300bhp and, here's the absolute clincher, FIA papers that mean it's eligible for historic racing.
Every detail on it is pure GTO, from the gorgeously shapely bodywork to the simple, stark interior. There's nothing superfluous, just a body which faithfully re-creates the early wind-tunnel, Sergio Scaglietti honed lines that helped the Ferrari GTO bring home three GT manufacturers championships from 1962-1964.
It's absolutely stunning to look at, and here at Goodwood it looks even more right. The detailing is perfect, from the chrome catches keeping the bonnet down to the various intakes, vents and that prancing horse badge in the surprisingly small intake up front. The wire-spoked, knock-off hub wheels look comically small, the fat profile of the Dunlops wider than anything you'll find this side of a bus today.
Purists be damned, some might find fault in a particular detail, but line up a few genuine 250 GTOs side-by-side and it's clear that there are many differences between them all. These were racing cars, and were modified accordingly.
Ferrari didn't quite live up to the promise of the 100 cars required for the O of the GTO's name, this Omologato (homologation) model seeing only 39 originals built. Prices paid for then tend to stay behind closed doors, 250 GTOs changing hands infrequently and for astronomical sums. Figure on at least £20m, and perhaps as much as £10m more than that. This faithful recreation would cost just a fraction of that; even so it's still out of reach of my meagre financial reach. I can drive it, though.
Pushing the small key as I turn it there's a mechanical shriek from under the bonnet as the 3.0-litre V12 rouses. It sounds absolutely glorious, but it's slight smell of fuel, warm metal and exhaust fumes that create such an intoxicating, heady experience as it sits idling. Old cars assault the senses and this Ferrari does more so than most, a brush of the accelerator rewarded with a quick flare of revs as the V12 reacts immediately.
The raised open-gate gearbox requires a good positive shove, the gear snicking in with a satisfying click. The steering weighting shifts from heavy and cumbersome to light and delicate as the speed builds, the engine piling on pace with no effort at all. The simple Veglia instrumentation shows a 7,500rpm redline and the temptation to have the needle swing around to it is too much to resist. There's more speed, the linear urge from the V12 not relenting as its revolutions increase, it only adding more magnificent sounds through the cabin and for a good distance around. It's not quiet, but that's part of the intense experience it delivers.
On bumpy roads around Goodwood it's initially unsettled, the steering needing constant input to retain its chosen trajectory. That improves markedly with speed, the suspension settling and the steering filtering out excess detail to track straight and true. It turns in well, though as with all old cars the brakes are more heart stopping than car stopping on occasions - push hard and hope.
It's unlike anything I've driven in a long time, the physicality and skill required to deliver measured, clean downshifts, the need to anticipate braking level of feel and interaction are all facets of driving lost on modern cars. So what if it's a replica? As a driving experience it's the real deal.