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“ONLY SIX years old,” R&T said in June 1969, “but indisputably a classic.” And for the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso, all the more indisputable 50 years later.
“The prototype of the Berlinetta Lusso,” R&T wrote, “was bodied by Pininfarina; production was turned over to Scaglietti, a smaller carrozzeria which has specialized in building low-volume sporting models for Ferrari.”
All told, Sergio Scalietti’s firm fabricated 450 Lussos for production. Back in the 1990s, I had the pleasure of meeting Signor Scaglietti; I recall a soft-spoken gentleman smoking a particularly potent Italian cigarette. When he died in 2011, he had reached the age of 91. Carrozzeria Scaglietti is now owned by Ferrari.
The Lusso is, to my eye, the most luscious of Ferrari’s 250 GT line. The Italian word lusso translates to the English “luxury,” but don’t mistake the Lusso for anything less than a high-performance sports car.
Like other Ferraris, the 250 GT gets its numerical identity from cylinder displacement: 3000 = 250 x 12. R&T estimated the Lusso’s output to be 290 hp at 7500 rpm. Combine this with a curb weight of less than 3000 lb, and the result is spirited performance: a 0-60-mph time of 8.0 seconds, the quarter-mile in 16.1 seconds at 91 mph; and a top speed of 150 mph.
By today’s standards, these may seem leisurely, but in 1969 they were superlative indeed, particularly when embodied in such lusso with all the right snarls.
“What’s it like to sit in, to drive?” asked R&T. “The seating position for the driver is surprisingly contemporary; one sits high enough that the windowsills and windshield bottom are low, and the generous glass area gives good visibility out over the low, sloping hood and to the sides and rear as well.”
I’ve never been lucky enough drive a Lusso, but having clambered into and peered out of a goodly number of later exotics, I much admire its lusso aspects.
R&T of yore did cite tradeoffs: “The instrument panel is highly unusual. Four minor instruments plus the clock are grouped directly in front of the driver and the big speedometer and tachometer are set into two large pods out in the center and angled toward the driver. The tach is close enough, but the speedometer is rather far away for U.S. driving, where we have to watch our speed….”
“The handsome wood-rimmed wheel is rather high, nearly vertical and isn’t adjustable in any way. Seats are true buckets…. There is no seatback adjustment.” Instead, “The brake and clutch pedals have a simple adjustment that allows moving their pads fore and aft about 2 in.”
“There’s next to no truck space,” continued R&T, “but the cavity behind the seats can hold a couple of suitcases and has tie-down straps.”
“Driving a Ferrari smoothly,” R&T noted, “is always easy; the Lusso is no exception. The gearshift moves like the proverbial stick in a bowl of whipped cream, and the smooth clutch combines with the 12-cylinder engine’s buttery delivery of torque to make it nearly impossible for even a super clod to stall the engine when moving off from rest.”
On the other hand, “In the performance tests we discovered the Lusso’s weaknesses: For one, the clutch won’t take more than a couple of brutal engagements without beginning to slip, and we had to make do with fewer than the usual number of acceleration runs because of it.”
Note, however, the Lusso’s owner had been kind enough to let his car be tested: R&T was performing what it termed a “Classic Road Test” on a car produced five years before and having been enjoyed for some 20,000 miles.
“It comes as no surprise,” R&T wrote, “that the Lusso doesn’t measure up to a contemporary Ferrari in all respects of performance, but in many respects—acceleration, braking and smooth-road handling—the car is still quite satisfying when compared to the latest and greatest. The Berlinetta Lusso is a thing of beauty and a joy forever….” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019