Italy has a venerable cottage industry of panel beaters, engine builders, and other automotive craftsmen that help to keep the Southern European nation’s most important heritage cars on the road and in fine fettle. Even Ferrari’s own Classiche restoration and preservation division outsources some of its work to local independent shops, some of which were even started by (or employ) trained, ex-factory body crafters and the like. Many of these small shops are more than capable of building entire cars from scratch using the proper old-world methods—but an Italian court has just reached a verdict that says, at least in the case of the Ferrari 250 GTO, building a replica or tribute is a no-go.
The verdict is part of a case brought by Ferrari itself against a Modenese shop that purported to build a series of 250 GTO replicas. The ruling by a Bolognese court asserts that, like Michelangelo’s David or da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the 250 GTO—of which just 36 were built between 1962 and 1964—is a work of art. With this artistic merit, says the court, the rights to reproduce a 250 GTO rest with Ferrari alone.
The ruling will inevitably muddy already murky waters. Ferrari has for decades, if not always, been very protective of its brand image, as well it should be. Stories of both replica Ferrari and Maserati models being crushed at the foot of Italy’s legal system have been told for years. Moreover, ‘bitsas,’ or almost entirely fabricated cars based around a handful of original components, such as a chassis tag from an irreparably damaged vintage Ferrari, are in some cases more common for very rare models than the genuine articles. In addition, many owners of expensive, rare, and significant race cars choose to have replicas of their own cars built—cars that they own personally—so that they can drive these very accurate reproductions in anger on the race track without fear of a split-second mistake at speed writing off a piece of racing history. Many of these cars are based on genuine Ferrari 250 GT chassis from more common variants and utilize genuine Ferrari engines uprated to GTO specification.
So where does this leave owners of previously built 250 GTO replicas, whether they own an original car or not? This verdict is only regarding the creation of new replicas in Italy, rather than prosecuting those owning cars that have already been built. Similarly, the Italian ruling would only have real significance in Italy and in regard specifically to the 250 GTO model. Ferrari itself noted to English publication The Telegraph that this is the first time a car has been legally deemed a work of art. With 250 GTOs commanding as much as $70 million on the private market, they already compete with noted Old Masters and noted contemporary artwork for the spending cash of the world’s billionaires.