Like many famous quotations, Enzo Ferrari’s supposed declaration at the 1961 Geneva Auto Show that the Jaguar E-Type was the “most beautiful car in the world” has taken on a life of its own. Because Ferrari’s founder never stated this in a public speech or a recorded interview, the only evidence that Enzo uttered this admission is secondhand. One source, Gino Rancati, ran with the same high-society cliques as Il Commendatore and attributed the 1964 quote to Ferrari in a biography published in 1988, the first published after Ferrari’s death. Rancati also claims Ferrari apparently went on to express his desire to own a Rolls-Royce, “but could not afford it.” Doesn’t sound like Enzo to me…
The other longtime source for the infamous quote, Norman Dewis, was working the Jaguar stand at Geneva when Enzo Ferrari reportedly strolled up with a gang of Ferrari engineers. After examining an E-Type Fixed-Head Coupe, Enzo said in Italian: “Congratulations! What a truly beautiful car it must be the most beautiful car in the world! But you know, it has one fault? It does not have a Ferrari badge on it!” That sounds more like the founder of Ferrari – you’ve won this battle, Enzo admits, but not the war.
1964 Ferrari 250 GT/L ‘Lusso’
With all due respect to Mr. Rancati, the Ferrari 250 GT/L ‘Lusso’ is the reason I believe it extremely unlikely that Enzo complained aloud about not having the most beautiful car in the world in 1964. Certainly, the ‘Lusso’ is a common choice among Ferrari aficionados as the most elegant automobile to ever wear the prancing horse badge. With its classic, cab-backwards GT proportions, the ‘Lusso’ subtly shows off its highlight feature—the 3.0-Liter ‘Colombo’ V-12 engine hidden beneath the front-hinged hood.
Unlike other sports cars on sale in-period, the Lusso’s striking side profile was thankfully devoid of “surface entertainment,” as GM’s head of design Bill Mitchell was fond of saying, allowing the lucky occupants the opportunity to appreciate the aesthetic features that would be impossible to execute today. Primarily, the impossibly delicate pillars holding up the roof, allowing near-total visibility out of the commanding, Nero leather-trimmed cabin. Equally important is the beltline of the Lusso—a strong line that subtly accelerates from the trunk forwards.
The Lusso was a product of Pinin Farina design, with the final assembly executed by Scaglietti across the street from the Ferrari factory in Maranello. In terms of classic, mid-century sports car production, this team was akin to seeing Thelonious Monk play live with John Coletrane—two absolute legends in their own regards, somehow even more powerful when working together. Note finally, perhaps the most extroverted feature on such a subtle car, the sublime peak that crowns the classic egg-crate grille.
Essentially, the ‘Lusso’ marked the finale for Ferrari’s most legendary model line of all, and even owners of 250 GTO coupes can admit that the GT/L is the most delicate and subtle of all suits to cover the ‘Colombo.’ For me, the most interesting thing about this legendary car is that it debuted at the Paris Salon in 1962. If Enzo honestly felt he had ceded the title of “Most Beautiful Car in the World” to the E-Type at the Geneva show in 1961, he did not wait long before releasing the ultimate riposte.