Jay Leno Plays the Song of a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT PF Cabriolet
Classic cars’ performance might have dulled over the years, but their looks and sounds still wow enthusiasts. And for many, classic Ferraris are some of the best expressions of all three of those things. That explains why these vintage exotics often carry stratospheric price tags and are often garaged to protect their owners’ investments. So, it’s a joyous occasion when one of these cars gets to stretch its legs and sing. And that’s exactly what Jay Leno recently did with a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT PF Cabriolet.
It’s not a California or GTO, but the Ferrari 250 GT PF Cabriolet is serious classical automotive performance art
|Ferrari 250 GT Pinin Farina Cabriolet Series I, Series II
|Front-mounted 3.0-liter ‘Colombo’ V12 with triple Weber carburetors
While the multi-million-dollar 250 GTO gets significant attention and praise, the Ferrari 250 family has other members. The 250 GTE, for example, was the company’s first 2+2. There’s also the 250 GT California Spyder LWB, aka the Ferris Bueller Ferrari. And then there’s the 250 GT Pinin Farina Cabriolet.
Often called ‘250 GT PF Cabriolet’ or just ‘250 GT Cabriolet,’ this classic Ferrari convertible debuted in 1957 like the California Spyder. But while the roadsters are mechanically similar, they’re not identical. Italian design house Scaglietti penned the California Spyder, but long-time Ferrari collaborator Pininfarina designed the 250 GT Cabriolet. Hence the ‘PF’ in the car’s name. Plus, although they both debuted in 1957, the Cabriolet is technically Ferrari’s first convertible, Silodrome says.
In addition, while both Ferrari 250 roadsters are sporty cars, the California Spyder is the more “competition-derived” model, RM Sotheby’s reports. The GT Cabriolet, as its name implies, is more of a luxury GT car. However, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t handle itself in the corners.
Back in the day, it was cross-shopped against sports cars like the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster and BMW 507. And that Colombo V12 isn’t just powerful for its time. Thanks to its all-aluminum construction, it weighs half as much as Jaguar’s contemporary 3.4-liter inline-six. Plus, the later Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet Series II offered four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes.
But the Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet’s main strength is its design. Amelia Islands Concours chairman Bill Warner calls it “’the most elegant open-air Ferrari ever manufactured,’” MotorTrend says. And speaking of MT, it put the 250 GT Cabriolet in ninth place on its list of greatest Ferraris.
The Series II model is “automotive royalty” from Jay Leno’s favorite Ferrari era—and “it sounds fabulous” at 6000 RPM
Jay Leno doesn’t own any Ferraris, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate and admire them. And the 1960s are his favorite Ferrari era. So, it’s no surprise that he calls Black Horse Motor’s Carl Steuer’s 1960 Ferrari 250 GT PF Cabriolet “automotive royalty.”
Steuer’s GT Cabriolet is a Series II model, so it has slightly different bodywork than the Series I. And a few years ago, that bodywork was in bad shape. There was so much rust that Steuer describes it as “a cancer.” After all, as Jay Leno muses in the video, once upon a time, even classic Ferraris were just used cars—GTOs included. But after a three-year restoration, this GT Cabriolet SII is ready to hit the road.
The Ferrari 250 GT PF Cabriolet may have “timeless” style on its side, Jay Leno says, but its engine deserves similar praise. Compared to some other contemporary engines, that V12 simply “sings,” Steuer says. The Abarth exhaust undoubtedly helps project more of that aria. And not only does the engine rev to 6000 RPM, but it’s still impressively smooth. You can thank the Packard 12-cylinder’s influence on Ferrari for that, Leno notes.
And once you’re driving, the Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet fulfills its luxury GT mission. The trunk is big enough to hold an adult male—Steuer inadvertently proved that while restoring the car. Admittedly, the soft-top is tricky to put up, even for Steuer. But the leather-upholstered interior is fairly roomy. And this is “a racehorse that lives to stretch its legs,” Steuer says, not some fragile egg to lock away in a garage.
It’s so good that, by the end of the video, Jay Leno quips that he might have to get a Ferrari now.
How much is one of these 1-of-200 convertibles worth?
Getting a Ferrari 250 GT PF Cabriolet like Steuer’s 1960 example likely won’t be easy, even for Jay Leno. For one, each car was hand-built with a bespoke interior, so no two are exactly alike. And secondly, Pininfarina only made 40 Series Is and about 200 Series IIs.
That being said, while a 250 GT Cabriolet isn’t cheap per se, it’s a bargain compared to the California Spyder and GTO. At least the Series II cars are. In 2017, RM Sotheby’s auctioned a 1958 Series I car for the equivalent of $5.5 million. In contrast, a 1961 Series II GT Cabriolet went for just over $1.4 million at an August 2021 RM Sotheby’s auction.
That Colombo V12 song doesn’t come cheap, then. But hearing it echo on the road might be worth the price of entry for some.
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