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Homologation, it's the reason why the Ferrari 250 GTO exists. The motorsport rulebook demanded 100 road cars be built for a manufacturer to race a car in GT championships. And race the GTO did, bringing Ferrari three championships in the 1960s. Just 39 were built, but who's counting? Collectors, that's who, as while 250 GTOs were once available for sensible money, to buy one today would cost you millions. Tens of them.
Kyle Fortune. Photography by Dave Smith. - 21 Nov 2011
The car pictured here isn't one of those originals. It is a Ferrari though. Unlike so many of Nissan 240Z-based replicas this 'GTO' is based on a 250 GTE. So there's a 300bhp V12 under the bonnet, the running gear is Ferrari, the chassis is Ferrari; it can wear its badge with credibility. At first glance you'll recognise that this isn't some poorly conceived, lashed up approximation of a 250 GTO; visually it's almost impossible to tell it apart from an original.
There will be doubters, some pointing at certain details and questioning, but take a look at a few genuine 250 GTOs parked side-by-side and the differences are as striking as the similarities. What's unquestionable is that this car is beautiful, from its slim radiator opening that houses a large prancing horse to the kicked up lip on the rear, every inch of its body is faithfully sculpted to recreate the lines of the Scaglietti crafted original. Shaped by hand and eye, with a little help from a wind tunnel, the 250 GTO's curves are arguably the finest ever to adorn a car. Yet for all its beauty there's clarity of purpose, a lack of superfluous detailing that defines its role as a racing car. That's particularly true when you get inside.
The Veglia instrumentation is clear, the white on black dials large and easily read. Not that you need to check the rev counter to judge shift points, as the 3.0-litre, 300bhp V12 engine's increasing intensity signals aurally when you need to manoeuvre the large gear knob through its exposed gate. To do so requires a firm, positive push rather than a gentle palming, and it's wise to double declutch for smoothness. Heel and toe shifting is a necessity rather than something to be done for kicks. It needs driving this car, demanding input from its pilot in a way that's alien to modern cars.
The rewards are rich and intense, every smooth gearshift to be celebrated, downshifts announced by the flare of the V12's revs and an accompanying blare from the exhausts. The thin-rimmed steering wheel is hopelessly heavy at slow speeds, but increase the pace and it writhes in your hands, giving rich feedback and fine control. Like the steering the ride improves with speed, it taking a while to learn to trust the 250 moving around underneath you. It makes light work of our lumpy, poorly surfaced and cambered roads, and while grip isn't in the league of modern sports cars, it's surprising how much there's on offer given the old-school tyres.
Where its age is most apparent is its brakes, even more so as, wind some revs on the V12, and the GTO flies. It's not the same insane, mind-bending pace of its relatives today, but the GTO is still an indecently quick car. The brakes need working hard in response, the pedal requiring a firm shove to produce retardation to match the easily gained pace. It's something you learn to drive around, judging your speed better rather than relying on the brakes as a get out, so it demands smoothness and planning.
It's part of what makes this car, and many old sports cars, so special. You're part of the process, a necessary, biological extension of a mechanical process, not merely a passenger swaddled by electronics being fired down the road. I doubt the experience this car brings is so different to that of a real 250 GTO, as it's such a lovingly crafted facsimile of it that you'd really need to drive it back-to-back to really spot the differences. It's a beautiful thing, an intoxicating, involving driving experience, which delivers as authentic a GTO experience as you'll get this side of £15m.