In the fabled story of the Prancing Horse, the 250 Europa GT is notable for myriad reasons, not least because it was the very first Ferrari road car powered by the legendary Colombo V12 and, to all intents and purposes, the genesis of the immortal 250 GT line of models.
When Ferrari introduced the GT variant of its Europa at the Paris Motor Show in 1954, there was far more to the new Pinin Farina-styled Gran Turismo than the subtle visual difference and small change of nomenclature would suggest. Most prominently, the long-block Lampredi twelve-cylinder powerplant was replaced with Colombo’s more sporting short-block 2,953cc V12 – an engine which would form the backbone of Ferrari’s model range for more than a decade and become intrinsically associated with the 250 GTs.
“The Colombo engine would form the backbone of Ferrari’s model range for more than a decade and become intrinsically associated with the most famous 250 GTS.”
Not only was the shorter engine more powerful (thanks to the addition of three Weber 36 DCZ carburetors, power was raised to a punchy 220bhp, but it also resulted in a shorter wheelbase – 200mm, to be precise. Throw in independent front suspension (another first for a Ferrari road car) and here was a road-going Ferrari Gran Turismo for the modern age – one which more than lived up to its maker’s early competition lineage.
Chassis number 0399 GT
One of only 28 Ferrari 250 Europa GTs bodied by Pinin Farina, chassis number 0399 GT was acquired new in 1956 by Sydney Chaplin, the elder half-brother and business manager of the world-famous comic actor Charlie Chaplin. Clearly a man of distinguished taste, he specified his new car in Grigio with a Pelle Rosso Pall Mall leather interior.
The high-waisted design is quintessential of the 1950s, though the specification of this particular car hints very much at what’s to come. The additional spotlights lent the soft and sultry Pinin Farina coachwork airs of sporting prowess, as did the split windscreen – a feature that, as far as we can tell, is unique to chassis 0399 GT. So proud of the car was Ferrari that it was proudly exhibited at the Torino Motor Show in April of 1956.
We like to imagine Sydney Chaplin whisking his brother Charlie – arguably among the film industry’s most important figures – through the backstreets and boulevards of Paris to and from dinner, chased by legions of adoring fans and the glorious twelve-cylinder howl emanating from the four peashooter exhaust pipes.
In the 1980s the 250 Europa GT was owned by Giuseppe Prevosti, who refinished the car in the gorgeous ruby red/metallic silver it wears today. Chassis number 0399 GT was also extensively restored in Italy 1990.
An Italian doctor by the name of Piergiorgio Mastroeni acquired chassis number 0399 GT in 1994. And over the course of his 19 years of ownership, he capitalised on the Ferrari’s incredible eligibility and entered no fewer than seven editions of the Mille Miglia Storica, two Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este meetings and Ferrari’s 50th- and 60th-anniversary celebrations, held in Rome and Firenze, respectively.
In addition to getting the car featured in a number of Ferrari magazines and obtaining the car its Automotoclub Storico Italiano certificate and corresponding gold plaque, Mastroeni had this 250 Europa GT certified by Ferrari Classiche – a crucial means of confirming the car’s authenticity and provenance.
The Ferrari’s current Swiss owner, a well-known personality in the horological world, bought the car in 2013 and registered it in Switzerland. He has since contested two further Mille Miglia road-rallies, though chassis 0399 GT has been seldomly used.
If the 250 Europa GT was a versatile Gran Turismo in 1955, then its talents have multiplied in the 67 years since. Eligibility is this Ferrari’s trump card. Its rarity and excellent long-distance Grand Touring credentials make it a perfect car with which to take on such prestigious historic road rallies as the Mille Miglia in Italy and the Colorado Grand in America.
Furthermore, chassis 0399 GT’s superb condition, having been the subject of a no-expenses-spared restoration, and its undeniable beauty mean it would be welcomed at most of the world’s top-tier concours events, including the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
“The Ferrari 250 Europa GT is a wonderfully accomplished and utterly beautiful Gran Turismo more than befitting of the Cavallino Rampante.”
A delicious and tantalising amuse-bouche ahead of the truly great things to come, the 250 Europa GT represents Ferrari at one of its most exciting and pivotal points. More fundamentally, it’s a wonderfully accomplished and utterly beautiful Gran Turismo more than befitting of the Cavallino Rampante. Suffice to say, with its Classiche certification, unique specification and Chaplin family provenance, chassis number 0399 GT is a Ferrari for the most discerning of collectors.