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Maranello, 30 April 2009

On 30 April 2009 Sir Stirling Moss was reunited with the Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, chassis # 2735 GT, at the Ferrari factory in Maranello. This was the car in which he won his seventh Tourist Trophy race, at Goodwood in 1961, having also won it in a 250 GT SWB, chassis # 2119 GT, the previous year. As with chassis # 2119 GT, this car was also supplied new in the famous dark blue with a white nose band colour scheme of his entrant Rob Walker. They took delivery of 2735 GT at Le Mans in 1961, where it was entered under the NART banner, and driven by (Sir) Stirling partnered with Graham Hill, who would win his first World Drivers’ Championship the following year. It was not a successful debut, as it retired in the 10th hour when a fan blade came free and severed a water hose, which overheated the engine. However, it was leading the GT class, and running 4th overall, at the time, the only consolation being the GT lap record. (Sir) Stirling raced 2735 GT to victory in all his other five outings in the car during 1961, the International Trophy at Silverstone, the Peco Trophy at Brands Hatch, the previously mentioned Tourist Trophy at Goodwood, plus the Over 1500cc GT Car race and the Nassau Tourist Trophy in the Bahamas. The latter race being the last he would win before his career ending accident at Goodwood in 1961.

The occasion of the reunion was the completion of its restoration for its current long time custodian (his description), Clive Beecham, by Ferrari Classiche in Maranello. The gathering started with lunch at the Cavallino restaurant, at which Sir Stirling entertained the assembled guests with anecdotes about, and opinions of, deeds done and racing drivers past and present. After lunch, the party transferred to the Ferrari Classiche department in the factory for the official presentation of the car. A bonus was the presence of many of the cars entered in the RM Auction in Maranello, including the 250 Testa Rossa, chassis # 0714 TR, and the CanAm configured 330 P4, chassis # 0858, which has been out of public view for a number of years. Amongst those in attendance was Giulio Borsari, the renowned Ferrari and Maserati mechanic from the fifties and sixties, who greeted Sir Stirling warmly, whilst Stefano Domenicali took time out from his F1 woes to welcome the celebrated visitor.

The party then transferred to the Fiorano test track, where Sir Stirling gave guests rides around the track in his old warhorse, now in fine fettle after its restoration, with a new Ferrari Classiche engine block, as the original had parted company from the car somewhere in the mists of time. Being one of the “fortunates” who “hitched a ride”, I can only say that I was amazed at his driving skills as he approaches his 80th birthday, it was a demonstration of speed, finesse and unbounded enthusiasm. When Roberto Vaglietti of Ferrari Classiche asked for his opinion of the car after the first couple of runs, it was interesting to hear him say that he remembered the peddles being closer together, as it was easier to heel and toe when he drove it new, and he felt that it needed a lower rear axle ratio as he was having to use first for the hairpin! Sure enough, when it came to my turn to ride with him, it was a neat double declutch into first for the hairpin, power on early, the tail trying to wag, deftly caught, and off down the straight, you could sense that he was really enjoying the reunion!

Clive Beecham entrusted the car to Ferrari Classiche for a complete body off restoration in 2007, and since then they have meticulously checked all aspects off the car, rectified incorrect repairs to the chassis that had been carried out over the years, using original specification materials all in accordance with the original blueprints. As previously mentioned, a new block was cast and the engine components rebuilt into it, with new parts, to the original specification, fitted where they didn’t match the criteria of the original build sheets. At the same time the gearbox and rear axle were fully checked and overhauled. As the car had been re-bodied by Drogo to a different body style after a racing accident in 1962, the body currently fitted is a replacement to the original Scaglietti design, supplied and fitted in England in the early eighties, and this was the subject of some detail work in the structural areas, which had been modified when the Drogo body was fitted. Thus the car as it stands today matches the build sheet details as when it left the factory new in June 1961.

Keith Bluemel