September 14th, 2003, 19:03
Classic: When the Police Had a Ferrari.
I was reading an article about the Police once having a Ferrari and as the forum lacks a little with the more ancient vehicles I thought I would share it with you guys.
Thanks to classic car magazine.
Alberto Capelli lives in Rimini in the southern part of Italy, where he runs a trucking business with his brother. Alberto looks a bit like Mussolini, though I’m quite confident the two couldn’t be more different in character. Alberto is forever smiling, talking about his extensive collection of classic cars like they were his children. Mercedes, MGs, Alfa Romeos and Lancias are cluttered in the ground floor of the vast garage which is the family business. In the basement there are even more cars in various stages of restoration, including rare pieces like a Graham, which incidentally was the first ever supercharged automobile. In the middle of it all sits the showpiece, the Ferrari 250 GTE which used to belong to the Polizia Stradale in Rome.
You’re likely to think I’m lying through my teeth when I tell you the story of the car, but then remember this is Italy where anything that seems unlikely is usually true. Back in the 60‘s the police and the drivers in Rome had a misunderstanding. The good people of Rome thought that the signs displaying the speed limit were just an educated guess on the part of the police, as to what maximum speed could be achieved on a particular stretch of road. And with Italians being what they are, every Roman driver set out to prove that the Polizia Stradale was wrong by some margin. Joking aside – the situation was of course, that the drivers in Rome as the rest of Italy were driving too fast. It’s not that Italians are against speed limits. As any Italian Politician will testify, you can make any speed limit you want - as long as you don’t enforce them.
Still, the Polizia Stradale was looking at speeding as a growing problem. And in a scenario which most likely have featured all the elements of a classic tragedy, they expressed their concern to the top-brass of the Police Department in Rome. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the Polizia Stradale had a hidden agenda, in the mist of anger and frustration a cunning plan had developed. A solution to solve this deplorable situation which would bring back honour and respect to the Polizia. The Polizia Stradale just needed one thing to set the record straight with the speeding drivers. The Polizia Stradale just needed a - Ferrari!
Of course the Polizia Stradale didn’t just get a Ferrari. No, they got two of them in fact. On November 22nd., 1962, the Polizia Stradale in Rome took delivery of two identical Ferrari 250 GTEs in the characteristic black colour scheme of the department. The twin Ferraris were lavishly equipped with radio communication, flashing blue lights and ’Polizia’ lettering on the side. Under the bonnet there was a 2,9 Litre V12 fed by three twin Webers and churning out 240 bhp. The top speed was some way past 200 km/h, and, of course, the Polizia Stradale couldn’t wait to try out their new toy (after all: they were Italians, too).
As it turned out, the joy would be short lived. The very same November day on which the Ferraris were entered into service, one was stalking the Autostrada leading into Rome. Soon a speeding driver was spotted and the two Police officers in the Ferrari gave chase. But on the slip road the officer behind the wheel lost control of the car, crashed and turned the Ferrari into a write off. When the story made the papers a nation of speeding drivers was (unsurprisingly...) laughing their arse off. To avoid the scenario to be repeated the surviving car was retired from active duty and locked up in a Police depot.
This could have been the end of the story, had it not been for a man called Armando Spatafora. He had made a name for himself by shooting dead some 15 “bandits” as they were called, though the story does not elaborate. Presumably if you were shot dead by Armando Spatafora, you would forever after be a Bandit. Of course a man like Spatafora could not resist the Ferrari, which had a bit more flair than the Alfa Romeo 1900 he had been issued.
The Police commissioner in Rome couldn’t say no to Spatafora, when he demanded the Ferrari for himself. The only condition was, that no one apart from Spatafora would drive the car. This was quite unnecessary, since Spatafora loved the car almost as much as his Mother (we’re in Italy, remember?) and would never dream of putting anyone else behind the wheel. This doesn’t imply that Spatafora would go easy on the Ferrari, which became quite a celebrity in Rome in those days. You would think that any criminal would have second thought when seeing Armando Spatafora in his black Ferrari. At several occasions Spatafora and the Ferrari were involved in car chases. The most legendary was when a mobster tried to give Spatafora the slip by driving down the famous Spanish steps in central Rome. To no avail, as it turned out since Spatafora followed in the Ferrari, catching the culprit at Piazza di Spagna. How the Ferrari survived such abuse is anyone’s guess, but according to Alberto the car has never been restored.
The car came into the hands of Alberto Capelli almost by coincidence. Every year the Police in Italy has an auction, and one year there was a lot called “Scuderia Pantera Storiche 250 GTE”. This was Spatafora’s department when the Ferrari was taken out of active service in 1969, but could this really be the car? Alberto went to the auction and returned with a Ferrari. We’re not talking money here, but from the look on his face I would say he got it for next to nothing. Without having ever needed to restore the car, there are still some details in the specification which puzzles Alberto.
For one thing the V12 makes use of Weber 40 DCZ6 carburettors, and not 40 DLC6 like other 250 GTE’s. This would suggest that the V12-engine is in fact the more powerful 4-litre unit used in Ferrari’s 330 LMB and Superamerica, and not the normal 2,9-litre fitted to other 250 GTE’s. If this is the case the power output is closer to 400 bhp than the 2,9-litre units. It would have been typical for Enzo Ferrari to make the cars for the Police a little bit special, and Ferrari did actually build a small number of 250 GTE’s with the 4-litre engine in late 1963 to bridge the gap to the successor 330 GT 2+2. You would think it was just a case of going back in the files, and see what engine was fitted to Ferrari 250 GTE, chassis number 3999. But then this is Ferrari and nothing is ever that easy. The factory is known for their casual logging specifications for the individual chassis numbers, and in the case of the 250 GTE, or 250 GT 2+2 as it was also known, there’s reason to believe Ferrari might have been extra careless.
Thing was that Enzo Ferrari didn’t want to build this car in the first place. Enzo Ferrari didn’t want to build road cars in the first place, but the profits proved irresistible. In the beginning Ferrari’s road cars were little more than de-tuned racers, evolving into purpose-built GT’s still with a racing pedigree. A regular 2+2 was a big step, so the job was left to Pininfarina. There had been 2+2 Ferraris before, like the 212 Inter or the 342 America, but only in very limited numbers. The new car was to be produced in big numbers at Pininfarina’s new Grugliasco plant. Though based on underpinnings from the 250 GT, Ferrari demanded that the wheelbase should not be extended from the 250 GT’s 260 centimetres. Pininfarina solved the problem by moving the engine forward in the chassis, and incorporating larger overhangs front and rear.
Ferrari didn’t launch the new model at the Paris show as usual, but instead a prototype was supplied as the official car at the 1960 Le Mans where it created a great deal of interest. It didn’t hurt that Ferrari 250 GTs in various guises took the first seven places in the race, with Olivier Gendebien and Paul Frère taking victory in a 250 Testa Rossa. A 250 GTE was no match for the lighter and faster 250 GTs like a SWB or a GTO, but even by today’s standards it’s a fast Tourer which fits to adults in the back quite comfortably.
You don’t escape the irony that for some of the criminals which Spatafora brought in, the drive to Police station might have been their first time in a Ferrari. A very special Ferrari, mind you. Though current Ferrari literature often overlooks the 250 GTE, some 955 examples were build between 1960-63 which made it one of the most successful Ferraris ever.
When you drive Alberto’s car today, it doesn’t escape you how fresh it feels. The V12 engine (whatever the specification...) purrs with the high-revving sound of a racer and not the meaty bass from a GT. The 5-speed gearbox is slick and precise, and even the brakes feels like they just had an overhaul. But the best thing is when you come across a colleague in a patrol car from the Polizia. The officers inside stare at the Ferrari with a mixture of disbelief and amazement, afraid to pull you over for fear of being ridiculed - despite the fact that Alberto still runs the original numberplate which reads ’Polizia 29444’. It’s not really valid anymore, but his is a Police car, remember? The only thing which doesn’t work on the Ferrari is the flashing blue light on the roof, and as Alberto explains, this is one rule that the local Polizia might actually enforce if you were to rewire it. However the siren is still in working order, and ideal if you want to run a traffic light. And still today the speed demons take their foot of the throttle when they spot the Ferrari. At the end of the day, the Polizia Stradale in Rome had a point, though it’s doubtful that this was what they meant...
September 14th, 2003, 19:04
September 14th, 2003, 19:05
September 14th, 2003, 19:06
September 14th, 2003, 19:07
September 14th, 2003, 21:26
Thanks for posting, Klint. I enjoyed reading the article.
Here's a links on the theme:
* http://www.samlaren.org/porsche/ (In Swedish, but I recommend you check out the pictures)
* http://www.algonet.se/~olabyab/pors911.htm (See comment above)
* http://hem.passagen.se/sammpe/bilder...lice%20car.jpg (Click link, remove http:// in the location field, press enter)
September 14th, 2003, 21:51