A 250 GTE Story - The Final Disposition of S/N 3489 GT
Volume 46 Issue 4
Feb 14, 2021
What ever happened to Jim Weed's 250 GTE?
I reviewed David Wheeler’s book Ferrari 250 GTE – The family car that funded the racing, back in Volume 45 Number 26. Toward the back of the book is a listing of every 250 GTE made with the original colors and where the car is today.
As I looked at the numbers, I remembered the GTE I owned and looked up the number. The notes said, “Nothing known”. Maybe I didn’t remember the serial number correctly?
Several years ago, I came across the data plate and made a little shrine to one of the two Ferraris I have owned. I took a bit of plexiglass left over from my airplane project and secured the data plate using aircraft rivets to the plexi.
I had a piece of one hundred-year-old wood from a failed piano project (don’t ask). The wood was so beautiful I couldn’t throw it away and it needed to be repurposed into something useful. The accidental significance will soon become apparent.
Just putting a groove into the wood to hold the plexiglass was not nearly as exciting as I had envisioned so I added a couple of 275 GTB/4 valves to the structure and a cloisonné pin from the 1999 FCA Annual Meet when it was in Atlanta.
The completed project reminds me of my first Ferrari and brings back good and bad memories.
In early 1981 I had left FAF Motorcars and was working for Continental Coachworks. At the FCA Annual Meet in Asheville, North Carolina, I met Lyle Tanner and went to the west coast to sell parts for Lyle Tanner Enterprises. I had been around Ferraris now for four years and wanted to own one so badly I could taste it.
I worked around these beautiful cars every day. Touched and felt the parts I sold. I loved talking to the customers and shops, helping to solve either the broken or missing parts on the Ferrari they were working on.
In the early 1980s getting parts was easier than it had been just a few years earlier. Still, older cars had their shortage of supply. 308 or Boxer parts were easy, 275 and 330 parts not so much.
Mechanical pieces were the easiest to get. There is a lot of crossover between models. The beauty of Ferrari being such a small company was that the evolution from model to model was slow and steady.
There is a reason a 250 GTE has been used so many times to replicate its more valuable brothers. Engine, transmission, rear axle, suspension, brakes, and many smaller components are exactly the same.
The FISPA electric fuel pump fitted to all the 250 models and was used through the 330 GTC. Much of the front suspension on a 365 GT 2+2 is the same as the GTE and other 250 models. Knowing what parts will crossover helps to solve the immediate task at hand of getting customer cars back on the road.
Body and trims parts were another story. Again, with newer cars there was not much of a problem. Door skins for a Daytona were easy. I even bought several front and rear clips for Daytonas. In my 1970s FAF days, I ordered and got a 275 GTB front clip. It took six months, but it finally arrived.
As a side story, I once ordered a front clip for a fiberglass 308. It came in this huge box. I re-labeled the box and sent it by air freight to my customer in Miami. He wanted it the next day. The customer was waiting at the office in MIA to pick up his, by now, very expensive, with overnight shipping, front clip.
I got the call from an exasperated customer; the box didn’t arrive. In 1977 you couldn’t check your smart phone for the tracking information, so I call the phone number. They swore it was in Miami. No, it’s not.
Three weeks later after many daily calls to the shipper, the box was found in Puerto Rico. I don’t know how a box the size of the entire front of a 308 with Day-Glo spray paint and the words “ship to MIA” ended up on a Caribbean island. At least it was still in one piece.
So back to parts. One of the ways we had to supplement our parts supply was by parting out those Ferraris that had fallen into a state of disrepair or damaged beyond what was feasible to repair.
In October 1981 I saw an ad in the Ferrari Market Letter for a 250 GTE that was reasonably cheap. The ad was simple and straight to the point. “250 GTE 2+2. Wrecked car, complete but a basket case. $3,500 firm.” I called the phone number; it was in San Francisco and I had an aunt who lived nearby.
I couldn’t afford a complete and running GTE. They were way out of my price range; I would never be able to come up with nine thousand to twelve thousand dollars to buy my first Ferrari.
Thirty-five hundred seemed to be something I could manage so I scraped up some money, borrowed some from my parents and drove to San Francisco to see about a car. The directions led me to a seedy street in an older warehouse district and a non-descript door.
There Larry Russo (best I can remember) led me though a room filled with pianos in various states of repair (see, I said there was a connection). The cavernous room had a balcony. About twenty feet up on the balcony was a 250 GTE. It was silver.
There was an engine laying on the floor. Both of the rear motor mounts were broken off. I’d seen that story before. Jaguar clutches were the same size as the Ferrari but not rated to the same RPM. They come apart and decide to leave through the bellhousing breaking the back of the block.
It was a sad story. The engine was not the one from the car. It had been removed to replace the blown up one. Otherwise, it was complete.
I climbed a rickety ladder up to the balcony to get a look at the GTE. It had been imported from Germany in a container. Somewhere along the way it had broken loose and had gently rolled back and forth inside.
Something round had been at the front. Fifty-five-gallon barrel? Telephone pole? I don’t know, but there was a perfect half circle pounded into the front of the bodywork. It had been worked so slowly the front bumper steel was flat following the perfect curve in the nose.
The rear must have been up against the door because it had also been pounded flat. The back end was about one foot shorter and flat. Did I mention it was flat? Rear bumper, overriders, taillights, trunk lid, everything was flat, vertical flat. If a piece of plywood had been put against it there would be no daylight.
The interior was red. It was all there. Seats, shift knob, ashtrays, all the details were there and in good condition. If it were possible to discount the front and the rear of the car it was in great shape.
My thoughts changed from being able to fix and drive to how much I could get for the parts. We negotiated down to twenty-four hundred dollars. I was ecstatic. I now owned a Ferrari!
Money changed hands, but I would have to return with a trailer to pick up my prize. Not leaving empty handed I loaded the engine into the van and headed back to Los Angeles.
The engine was complete with carburetors, distributors, headers and most importantly the two broken motor mounts from the block. It could be fixed but right now I needed to earn a little money from this project.
I sold the crankshaft the first week for twelve-hundred dollars. Half my money back right away was a godsend. Over the next month I was able to disassemble and sell more pieces from the engine.
During Christmas I drove back to pick up the rest of my Ferrari. Larry had moved it down from the balcony and we loaded it up on the trailer. It didn’t look any more promising in the bright daylight. Yes, it was really a parts car.
Back at Lyle Tanner’s I spent many days taking it apart, labeling each part and doing my best to sell the bits and pieces. I wish I had recorded the various numbers from the engine and transmission. Who knows where they might be today?
After the body had been stripped of anything that might be useful, and believe me, there was nothing else to remove or salvage, we did something that few people can ever say. We took a sledgehammer to the body.
Steve Tillack’s shop was next door at that time and everybody got a chance. By the time ten or twelve people had a swing, it was pretty beat up. Steve cut what was left of the sheet metal from the frame and it went into the dumpster. Sacrilege I know, but it was a different time.
The bare frame sat outside for several weeks while I tried to sell it. Replicas were not quite a thing yet and nobody wanted the frame. One day it was just gone. Actually, it may have been gone for several days, nobody noticed it was missing. Since I had no title and no way to report it stolen, we assumed it ended up at the scrap metal dealer.
250 GTE Series II S/N 3489 GT was no more. Its usable parts distributed out across the country to keep many other Ferraris alive. It was unfortunate that at that time I did not have the resources or place to take on a project of that magnitude.
The body could have been repaired; it would not have been easy, but it would have been possible. The engine block was repairable, and who knows, it may have been repaired and is running today.
The engine that came with the car was S/N 4943 GT and that car is still around. I wonder if it received the engine from S/N 3489 and whether it still carries that engine today?
I don’t have a clue who I sold the transmission to but the rear axle is, or was, installed into a 330 GT 2+2 S/N 6259 GT. I know because I bought that car with a damaged rear differential and we used the GTE complete unit to repair. That is another story for another day.
I know it is difficult to understand why we parted out Ferraris and I have done several. 250 GTE S/N 2199 GT, 250 GT Boano Alloy S/N 0569 GT, and 250 GT PF Cabriolet S/N 3683 GT are ones I remember, but I know there were others. Their sacrifice helped to keep many, many others alive and well today.