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What do you call a car that looks like a Ferrari but isn’t one? The answer used to be simple: a replica. Take a budget sports car, add a fibreglass body and you have a supercar for shopping car money.
Well that’s the idea. But even if you do a fantastic job with the visuals - and most emphatically do not - looks aren’t everything. As soon as the engine fires up, the neighbours won’t need an expert ear to know that your small Toyota engine is not making the intoxicating bellow of an Italian thoroughbred.
The car pictured here looks like a Ferrari, but isn’t one. Yet that’s where the comparison with a cheapo replica ends. Not least for the fact that prices start at a decidedly non-budget £1.38m, before the addition of delivery, local taxes and any bespoke requests that can see costs soar yet higher.
The Squalo (Italian for shark) is the creation of a British company called GTO Engineering. The firm specialises in restoring classic Ferraris, so when the project was first announced a lot of people assumed it would be a “restomod”.
This inelegant contraction of “restoration” and “modification” refers to an old car that has been updated. It may be something minor, like adding modern brakes. Other times it is a total overhaul, complete with new body panels, engine, and even cosmetic changes if the buyer wants.
Restomods are massive business at the moment and LA-based Singer Vehicle Design, which makes ‘reimagined’ Porsche 911s, is the best known out of countless companies doing mash-ups of the old and new. But the Squalo is an entirely new car, built by hand in the Berkshire countryside.
Restoring classic Ferraris has given GTO Engineering an intricate knowledge of how the iconic cars work. So its experts know what was done well back then, but they also benefit from a world that is in another technological stratosphere. To put its vintage in context, the Ferrari 250 pre-dates the invention of the cassette.
Ferrari’s “Colombo” V12s engines from the middle third of the 20th century are considered masterpieces, and if the figures emerging about this car are right, the Squalo will have its own bragging rights when it comes to the motor. According to GTO Engineering, the engine will be the lightest production V12 ever made, weighing in at just 165kg, lighter even than the motor in Gordon Murray’s T.50 supercar.
The Squalo’s hand-built engine will rev to a racecar-like 10,000rpm and generate 460 horsepower. We don’t yet know how fast it is, but with that much power, in a carbon-fibre car weighing less than 1,000kg, it will be rapid.
While everything on the car is entirely new, the resemblance to one of Ferrari’s greatest hits is undeniable. The Ferrari 250 SWB from the early 1960s is one of the best-looking cars ever made from a company that rarely makes anything less than gorgeous. The inspiration from the 250 is far more than cosmetic. Although the new car will benefit from 21st-century engineering, it sticks with the old-school formula of proper manual gearbox, and an engine free from any turbocharging or supercharging, let alone any hybrid assistance.
According to GTO Engineering founder Mark Lyon, getting all the little details right has been the biggest challenge. “Squalo is a brand new way of thinking for us," he says. “But in reality, it's something we’ve been thinking about for a few years and a natural progression for us as Ferrari specialists.”
He added: “Our inspiration - a contemporary sports car with modern technology and engineering, blended with a Sixties twist - was the easy part. “The actual work has come from selecting the very best materials that retain our initial ethos, but keeping it lightweight with a quality feel and modern functionality. In truth, there’s nothing like it on the market.”
The Squalo is in development and deposits have been taken for delivery in 2023. For the substantial outlay, customers will get a car that has been engineered to do everything that its muse did, only better. Ferrari 250 SWBs now change hands for several million pounds, if you are lucky enough to find one for sale. In that context the Squalo is a bit of a bargain. But looking at it from another angle, why buy a car that is fixated on the past, when you could just buy a modern-era supercar for the same money?
The 1960s represents a pinnacle of style and cultural change that we are still enamoured with today. And in a stylish decade, nothing on four wheels beat Ferrari. The classic car market backs this up, as every time someone publishes a list of the most expensive cars sold at auction, almost all are Ferraris, and almost all from the 1960s.
This car is for someone who has an eye for an old master, but doesn’t want the foibles of a car made before we had got a grip on the idea of reliability. This will never be the only car that someone owns. A buyer will almost certainly own a modern supercar as well, and probably a real classic Ferrari too. The Squalo’s appeal is bringing those two worlds together. It is a British tribute, and from what we have seen of it so far, the Italians have good reason to be flattered.
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