Ferrari 250 SWB GTO Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Wednesday 4th October
Car Review

Ferrari 250 SWB GTO review

Published: 01 Sep 2020
Beautiful to look at and listen to, but still a proper challenge to drive. Forget 1,000bhp hyper-exotics – this is what loving cars is all about

Good stuff

Everything that made an original 250 wonderful, minus the fear of cooking the engine – or the driver – in a traffic jam

Bad stuff

Erm, it ain’t cheap. The reclined driving position might be a deal-breaker for taller folk


What is it?

GTO Engineering boss Mark Lyon doesn’t like the word ‘restomod’. He prefers ‘revival’. What we have here is a brand-new 1960 Ferrari 250 Short Wheelbase Berlinetta Competizione, or SWB for, er, short.

Instead of going to all the hassle of attending an auction, battling it out with billionaires and sweating over matching chassis numbers and murky competition history to get an original, here you can spec a bespoke Ferrari to your exacting tastes – if you’ve got at least, say, £850,000, and are happy to wait a couple of years. Trust me, it’ll be worthwhile.

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What GTO Engineering does is take a donor car – usually an existing 250 chassis or perhaps the less desirable (really?) 330 GT, and strip it down to a kit of parts. Each of these components is then either lovingly restored or, where necessary, 3D-modelled on the workshop computer, and using modern techniques and extreme patience, machined to a higher standard than could’ve been dreamt of by Sixties-era Ferrari factory hands. The result is a very fit’n’healthy but not over-egged ‘new’ 250 SWB. It almost seems a pity all of that hard work is covered up when that hand-beaten aluminium body is then draped over the top. Almost.

Meanwhile, GTO interrogates you, the owner, over how you’re going to use your new toy, and duly does your bidding. They tailor the engine map, the gearing, the suspension and handling, whether you want a Sunday morning country lane thrash with an old-school twist, a more sorted fast road spec to annoy your neighbour’s 911, or perhaps even a Goodwood Revival-ready competition-standard set-up.

A modern Ferrari changes its mood depending on where you point the manettino switch on the steering wheel. GTO Engineering hones your 250 SWB using spanners and welding torches.

We drove a road-spec 250 SWB featuring the mid-range 3.5-litre V12. You can downsize to a lighter 3.0-litre engine or upgrade to a lustier 4.0-litre, if you prefer. Likewise, there’s a choice of gearboxes with either four or five speeds, this test car featuring the latter. There’s even an electronic rear differential, so the way the car puts down its power can be fiddled with to your backside’s content.

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It’s tempting to compare the GTO Engineering 250 SWB Revival (that’s its official name) to Singer’s famous 911s, but this isn’t a backdated car that looks old-school while concealing the very latest motorsport materials. If anything it’s closer to the work of Eagle and its extraordinary E-Types. It’s not a ‘continuation car’, as per Aston Martin’s DB4s or Jaguar’s XKSS – in any case, they’re not road legal, whereas this thing very much is. And there aren’t many more delightful ways to travel on the public highway.

What's the verdict?

Beautiful to look at and listen to, but still a proper challenge to drive. Forget 1,000bhp hyper-exotics – this is what loving cars is all about

Sorry to gush, but an afternoon in GTO Engineering’s 250 SWB Revival should be prescription medication for petrolheads. Disillusioned by SUVs, electric car sycophancy and struggling to enjoy driving on the public highway any more? One hour per year in one of these things would see you right, especially given the V12 bark would be ringing in your ears a good fortnight later. And you’d never even notice you’d barely topped 70 miles per hour.

It’s a heady blend of unfettered rawness, from when driving used to be a physical challenge, not simply a test of nerve. But it’s made all the more enjoyable by the sense this 250 isn’t going to expire in a cloud of stylish Italian blue fog on the hard shoulder, or leave a puddle of oil in the pub garden car park. So on that basis, this is possibly the most desirable car on Earth.

You’re paying – handsomely –  for that peace of mind, that this is a piece of automotive theatre that unlike so many of the world’s performance cars, can actually be used to the maximum, every time you decide to pull the covers off its gorgeous bodywork, settle into its cosy cabin, and go for a quick drive.

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