The First SWB

ferrari, klemcoll, Tavoni, Bazzi

We believe that this is the first lightweight Ferrari 250GT SWB (short wheelbase berlinetta) here seen on test at the Modena Aerautodromo on October 29, 1959. It would have recently returned from its initial display at the Paris Auto Show earlier in the month. This SWB berinetta, chassis n. 1539GT, had several minor differences from the cars to follow in this series, such as no side fender vents, no air vent in the rear window and no inset provision for mounting a rear license plate.

The tall man standing next to the right side door is Romolo Tavoni, originally hired as Enzo Ferrari’s secretary and subsequently Scuderia Ferrari Team Manager through 1961. The bald mechanic bending over near the rear of the berlinetta appears to be Luigi Bazzi, one of Ferrari’s most important and longest-standing employees. Bazzi is there no doubt for the testing of the F1 car seen behind the transporter in the background in both photos.

ferrari, Chiti, klemcoll, aerautodromo

Also in attendance for the test is Ferrari’s chief technical maestro Carlo Chiti who brought a new level of then modern technology and practice to Ferrari. He is standing directly behind the berlinettta in the photo to the left.

After being used at Ferrari for a period of time this first SWB would be sold an American who supplied his new car to Bill Sturgis and Fritz D’Orey at Sebring in March 1960, where they finished sixth overall.

Thus began one of Ferrari’s most successful runs of dual purpose GT cars.

Photos by Peter Coltrin ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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  1. Jeff Allison · · Reply

    Growing up in Orlando, Florida, I saw 1539 GT frequently at first private owner Gordon Pennington’s duplex in Winter Park, Florida. His place was behind the open racquetball courts where my sports car buddy Jack Leete and I would play almost every day. We got there in Jack’s MG TD. Naturally, after playing we would swing around the block to see if the Ferrari was in the driveway. At the time, Gordon Pennington also owned the Tec-Mec Formula 1 car, which was parked on the side of the duplex out in the open with only a tarp thrown over it. Crazy days that probably won’t ever be duplicated.

    Jeff Allison


  2. Paul Harrison · · Reply


    In the first photo, I believe the man on the far left standing behind the SWB is this car’s development-engineer, Giotto Bizzarrini.

    What do you think?



    1. Hi Paul – Bizzarrini was of normal height, quite a bit shorter than Tavoni as photos of Bizzarrini show.


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