But if you leave aside the toil of driving the SWB for long stints and concentrate instead on its abilities as a pure sportscar, things move quickly into perspective. Listen out at first for the unique sound of the two banks of cylinders. Here is not the free-revving, easy-pulling nature of many V12s, but an initial cough and splutter which, in the words of its guardian for the day, makes it sound like it’s dropped a valve or two. Keep the throttle depressed, allow the revs to rise and there, above the 4000rpm mark, is what turns mere powerplant into absolute masterpiece: a seamless wave of power flowing all the way through to the end of the tachometer, matched only by the harsh whistle of the induction note. Trackside bystander or frantic pedaller, the reaction is the same, as the turning heads and craning necks of the workmen hurrying to finish Goodwood’s new pitlane readily attest.
Moving off in the 250 is not difficult, a light floor-hinged clutch pedal allowing you to slip the plates just enough to allow smooth progress. The gearbox, too, is user-friendly and undemanding. A four-speed unit with synchromesh, it engages first gear with an authoritative clunk which suggests that all shifts to come will be as satisfying as the first one.
And so it proves. The Ferrari’s gearbox is one of the joys of this car, every change of ratio so assured that the danger of missing one seems non-existent, even if the surprisingly poorly-spaced pedals mean that heel-and-toe downshifts are not as instinctive as they might be. With only four speeds to choose from, selecting the correct rear axle ratio is vital, and for the car’s return to the track this September, Moss has already been testing. Early complaints of too high gearing seem justified, the car forcing you to drop down to second gear for the long double apex right-hander at Lavant and first if you are to negotiate the tight chicane without dropping below the critical 4000rpm mark and straight out of the power band.
Moss at Goodwood in ’61
Keep the car on cam and it will make excellent progress along Goodwood’s long straights and fast kinks, the needle nudging 120mph and more at the braking point for the right at Woodcote. Speeds greatly in excess of that will probably be on the cards when, with new final drive, third gear becomes an option at Lavant, the corner leading onto the straight. At these velocities, the wide tyres and narrow track might suggest the car is liable to wandering at high-speed, but the 250 displays a level of ride and stability that is at the same time reassuring and encouraging. Before Moss strode to his ’61 TT win, he partnered Graham Hill with the same SWB at Le Mans. The car lasted for just three hours before a fan blade severed a radiator hose but in that brief time he managed to haul the Ferrari up to third place. There, on the long Mulsanne Straight, the steady ride must have felt like a godsend.
Brakes, in the form of 10-inch Dunlop discs are capable without entering the realms of the unbelievable. Weighing in at around 1100kg, the Ferrari still represents a formidable mass to retard, and the softly sprung suspension only adds to the impression of a car which should not be run too deep into a corner. Fade, though, is not a common complaint when Moss is behind the wheel, for where he finds his speed is via earlier braking and then utilising the fantastic chassis and handling to set the car up ‘fast and early’.
To go quickly through here the car needs unsettling way before you reach the corner, and that is the stuff of owners… or S Moss Esq.
With independent front suspension courtesy of double wishbones and coil springs and a tried and trusted live rear axle, with leaf springing and a limited slip differential, the SWB is perfectly equipped for Goodwood’s smooth asphalt surfaces. Although the competizione models came equipped with stiffer shock absorbers, the only real adjustment that could be made was to the ride height As a result the Ferrari remains a fundamentally softly sprung car, rolling rather alarmingly as it rounds the first half of a corner, the weight of the engine in the nose trying to force the car wide. Yet all it takes is a swift application of the right foot to break the rear end away and gentle oversteering drifts are easy to achieve and hugely satisfying to execute.
The true beauty, therefore, of this piccolo Ferrari is the disarming ease with which the most amateur of drivers can adopt the pose of a professional. Feedback, at all times, at every angle is all any driver asks of his machinery and in this car it is unrelenting. The steering, while seeming vague at low speeds, becomes precise and responsive at competition velocity. Big movements are still needed to exact a big response but the broad steering wheel seems to lead your hands in the correct direction of travel.