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Ferrari California Special—A Short History

The driver’s seat of the Ferrari 250 sports car was a bit like sitting in a cockpit of an airplane. Power from the V12 power plant enhanced the feeling of flight. The 1961 Ferrari 250 California Special Spyder offered the same super-car performance, originally available as a convertible or the very rare hard-top.

L.U.C. Chopard Classic Weekend Rally 2012

All the bodies for the California Special were handmade, based on the 250 GT Cabriolet Series I,  but the Special differed slightly. The taillights had an upright configuration with covered headlights and a more raked look, and the interior was a bit more upscale. Although the interior wasn’t lavish by anyone’s standards, a small heater was the only stock luxury item, while the neat, but plain, fabric top had no inside liner. The most attractive features about this car were its rarity, beautiful styling, responsive handling, and V12 race-tuned engine, which could launch the car to 140 mph (225.3 km/h).

Virtually all of the 250 versions released had either a 2400 mm (94.5-inch) short wheelbase (SWB) on mostly convertible models or a LWB of 2600 mm (102.4 inches). The V12 was in most models, and the highest rating for this engine was 296hp (221 kW; 300 PS) with all versions hundreds of kilos (pounds) less weight than any of its competitors on the track.

The Ferrari 250 series debuted in 1959 with a shorter wheelbase, disc brakes, more streamlining, and a larger, more powerful V12 engine than its predecessor, the LWB. However, Ferrari designed both, as is Ferrari tradition, with competition in mind. This was the company’s most successful automobile to date with  all 250 having the same 180-cubic-inch engine putting out 296hp (21 kW; 300 PS). The competition in its class was formidable; it faced vehicles such as the Jaguar straight six, but the 250 was half the weight of the Jag. The Jaguar was a bit faster, but the 250 made up time on the hills and on curves, turning in first-place finishes in a large number of races.

There was a Ferrari 250 California Special that sold in 2008 for $11 million in Maranello, Italy, on May 18, 2008. It once belonged to actor James Coburn who appeared in more than 70 feature films and 100 times or more on television.

Some history leading up to the Ferrari 250 California Special    

The S version was on an 88.6-inch (2250 mm) wheelbase weighing in at 900 kg (1,884 pounds), and the V12 with three Weber 36DCF carburetors put out 227hp (169 kW; 230 PS). The engine coupled to a five-speed standard transmission in this model. The suspension had a double wishbone, had worm-sector steering, with double longitudinal semi-elliptic springs locating the rear live axle, and had drum brakes.

The 250 mm had the V12, producing 237hp (177 kW; 240 PS), and it bolted to a four-speed standard transmission. This beautifully styled Ferrari did not fare as well on the racing circuit but did produce a fourth place in Mille in 1954.

The Monza was on the SWB, first with a four-cylinder engine, but in 1954, Ferrari marketed a V12 hybrid until 1956.This version did not do well in competition, and the manufacturer discontinued it after two years of racing.


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