I don’t usually need an excuse to get out of bed early in this job, but the other day when Steve Kittrell of GTO Engineering asked if I wanted to meet him for a Dawn Drive in Malibu in one of their clients’ Ferrari 250GT SWBs, I genuinely had a hard time even getting to sleep the night before. Not necessarily because it was a SWB, I’ve been around a few lately, but because it is essentially a factory brand-new SWB that can be carved properly and aggressively up a canyon.
After this drive, I had a seat with him at the Country Mart, and he told me the story of how this stunning car came to be.
Posted by Ted Gushue
Ted Gushue: Steven, tell me the story of this 250 GT SWB Berlinetta customised by GTO Engineering.
Steven Kittrell: In 2012, GTO was presented with a rare opportunity: a wrecked 1960s barn find so dejected that it could never be reborn to its original state. So the client decided to preserve its identity, and we worked meticulously to restore and re-body the car to a beautiful "competition" 250 SWB model.
Fast forward a few years and you see our subject car. We work with customers to personalise cars right down to the spec of the originals. This particular car was modified for a client here on the West Coast, and he was really adamant on it being built to a competition spec.
TG: What does that entail?
SK: There are no bumpers, there’s an upgraded motor, and period correct Plexiglass slide windows, just to name a few. This is a special car, but is kind of a bare bones build, not far off from what you would have found a gentleman racer driving in the ’60s. This car in particular has a brand new GTO-engineered motor, and the 250 VIN plate is really what makes it have that modern classic feel.
TG: What does a "brand new GTO" motor mean?
SK: We sand cast that all in-house. We build the block, valve covers. Everything underneath the hood is built in-house and under the guidance of 25 shop staff.
We don’t do any stampings. We don’t try to make it anything that it’s not. These are our motors, and they’re very well-received by our clients who race in Europe and all over the world. Typically, clients who buy these motors shelve their originals and put ours in and drive the wheels off the car. It really lets the client enjoy their priceless classic without potentially damaging the value of the original engine.
TG: Walk me through the design process on a car like this. You meet with the client, and he says, "This is what I want," or how does it start?
SK: When we have a car that comes in, it kind of starts off as a question for the client: What do you see as an end result? We then work with them to restore and personalise the car exactly how they want it. It’s a true restoration—always using a Ferrari as the point of reference. After that, we start in on the design process. We talk about the motor and what size they want and all their options. Then comes body and paint. We have our own design team and space within the old Jaguar E-Type factory in Coventry. We build it all in-house there. All hand-rolled aluminium, English wheel process, and so on. It feels like you’re going back in time when you see what they do.
TG: What’s the reception in the community for an example like this?
SK: So the example we took out today is a 2014. I’ve had a number of vintage racers, long time collectors and investors that have come in and they absolutely love the car. When you smell the interior, when you see the dash components, when you hear the motor, you start to really appreciate what we can accomplish. Our client here for this particular car is extremely pleased with it and he’s a serious collector. His collection is big and filled with preservation spec cars from this era. This has been his driver on the weekends, so to speak, to have some fun.
He loves it because it was fully customized. We try to keep it within taste and within period, but you are able to step out and break the mold a little bit, with air-conditioning for example. We are always open to suggestions, but we also are very much purists at GTO. We make a lot of spare parts in order to preserve these cars and keep them to the standard of what originality was. That’s extremely important to us. We do this out of passion and the longevity of Ferrari. GTO is in it for the long road.
Special thanks to Steve Kittrel for helping to indoctrinate me into the world of 250-series Ferraris, and how to get the most out of them.