After much competition success with their long wheelbase Berlinettas in the Grand Touring category from 1956 to 1959, Ferrari engineers Bizzarini, Chiti and Forghieri designed the replacement, the SWB Berlinetta, with the prototype chassis, no. 1539 GT, being introduced at the Paris Auto Salon in October 1959. In addition to the new wheelbase, improved three-liter Colombo V-12 engine and sensuous body work by Pininfarina, the new GT also featured the marque’s first use of disc brakes, in this case supplied by Dunlop. Ferrari’s alloy Berlinetta stole the show, prompting a long line-up of frustrated enthusiasts who were not offered delivery dates unless their names were known in the world of racing! (For them, however, a new heavier steel-bodied “Lusso” version with milder performance and offering more road-ability would soon be introduced.)
In both versions, “Lusso” and “Competizioni,” Ferrari constructed less than 200 SWB Berlinettas in total, these being built to three or four different specifications as to their external details – window configurations, marker lamp locations, body vents, etc. Also, one must remember that since these cars were totally hand-fabricated, in reality each SWB Berlinetta, while similar in appearance, is totally unique! Aesthetically they are unmistakably Ferraris – aerodynamic and devoid of superfluous bulk or embellishment with minimal overhangs and body corners wrapped around the polished Borranis. The general appearance of these fastback projectiles speaks of power and purpose.
The SWB Berlinetta’s list of competition success is too long to catalog in detail, but worthy of mention are GT category wins at Le Mans and every other FIA-sanctioned major European, UK and US venue in 1960 and 1961 as well as Tour de France victories in 1960, 1961 and 1962 and, of course, Stirling Moss’s Tourist Trophy wins at the wheel of Rob Walker’s SWB in 1960 and 1961. In reality, the Scaglietti-built SWB is Ferrari’s last true dual purpose GT – a car that was driven by its owner to the circuit, had its luggage removed and race numbers applied and was then raced and collected trophies before the girlfriend and bags were re-installed and driven back home.