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Breadvan - A Ferrari To Beat The GTO

red breadvan race-car from the cover of the book "Breadvan - A Ferrari To Beat The GTO"

So much more than just a book.

The life and times of a famously infamous red racing car, stamped number 2819.

By Harold Osmer & Doug Stokes

Fri, Sep 3, 2021 12:11 PM PST

Breadvan - A Ferrari To Beat The GTO

By Richard Heseltine

Porter Press International

ISBN: 978-1-907085-36-9 

Jacketed Hardback, 224 pages, over 220 images


Illustrations courtesy Porter Press

Ferrari guys and gals will really geek out over this book. Author Richard Heseltine has here compiled a thorough recount of the life and times of a famously infamous RED racing car with a cropped tail and a chassis that was stamped number 2819.

Front cover of "Breadvan - A Ferarri To Beat The GTO"
Front cover of "Breadvan - A Ferarri To Beat The GTO"

This marvelously twisted tale follows that machine from its beginnings as a GT racer in the hands of Belgian race driver Olivier Gendebien to those of Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata where he transformed it into what came to be called the “Breadvan” - with the express desire to defeat the all-conquering Ferrari GTO. This had followed the infamous revolt at Ferrari, wherein senior engineer Giotto Bizzarrini and a number of other top designers and engineers quit, and Bizzarrini eventually finding his way into the Volpi camp and this project.

Racing vintage photography abounds here as this unmistakable foundling winds its way through the streets and over the circuits of 1960s Europe. Those unfamiliar with that period of racing may have some trouble following the rapid-fire chassis and model references Heseltine presents, but Ferrari-fans will know precisely the whens and the wheres of this car as well as many other’s storied pasts. Details of most of the subject car’s racing appearances are provided but the fact that a comprehensive race history chart is lacking earns the author a demerit here.

pages 8 and 9 from the book "Breadvan - A Ferrari To Beat The GTO"
A strange bird from any angle, and fast ... in theory anyway.
pages 22 and 23 from the book "Breadvan - A Ferrari To Beat The GTO"
The essential Ferrari 250GT ... a real road car that really raced.

What ultimately set this solitary machine apart from its contemporaries was its highly unusual aerodynamic shape which drew - and to this day - great attention to the car. European racing politics was strong and Ferrari himself demanded the racing press ignore Volpi’s efforts whenever possible. This one’s unique styling and strong performances dictated otherwise.

pages 76 and 77 from the book "Breadvan - A Ferrari To Beat The GTO"
High speed on the Daytona high banks.
pages 106 and 107 from the book "Breadvan - A Ferrari To Beat The GTO"
The title car in its native environment.

Heseltine’s account gets most interesting with Breadvan’s interim-race era. The car had moved from the fever of competitive front line racing to the fervor of the so-called “gentleman circuits”, and found itself victim to poor maintenance, inattentive repair work, and just plain frightful paint jobs. The “ridden hard and put away wet” car was eventually sold and brought to America by well-known car collector Gary Wales the first in a string of people who attempted to bring the Breadvan back to its original condition (we’ll hear from him a bit later). Wales’ brash style enlivens the story and brings some welcome color to the book, adding a personal touch to the game. Klaus Werner and, later, Martin Halusa’s stories continue in the telling as they present the car on the modern vintage racing scene.

The Breadvan’s early technical chapters all but lost this reader but redeemed themselves on the latter end of this tale when the more personal accounts came into play. Too bad that the photo captions throughout are light grey in color and a bit difficult to read. And, in truth, a good list of racing achievements as well as an owner chronology would have been a welcome addition.

pages 108 and 109 from the book "Breadvan - A Ferrari To Beat The GTO"
The mad dash that goes on "twice around the clock".

As we said at the outset, Ferrari fans are going to love this book. The Breadvan is the Ferrari that’s “not really” a Ferrari and yet remains as distinctive a vehicle as any from the period. There’s enough insider information here to fill in some Ferrari story gaps and enthusiasts will doubtless pour over them with aplomb. The period photographs used here have been restored and well presented, and the contemporary imagery of the Breadvan today is spectacular.

- Harold Osmer

A Word From Gary Wales Himself

Richard Merritt and I were importing cars for some time in Detroit when the Breadvan came along and we jumped at the chance. We knew what we were getting into but were surprised at what poor condition it was in. The stevedores onboard the ship had walked over the hood and so many other things were already broken. Me and Michael Kennedy nearly froze to death while driving it from New York to Detroit.

Gary Wales coloring book
When you're as colorful as Gary Wales, you might find yourself the subject of a coloring book (!)

We stripped it down and I believe were the first to put Ferrari red on it. This was a well-worn racing car and there was a ton of bondo on it. The original seats were blue denim and it was very crowded in the cockpit. I drove it cross-country to Los Angeles, over 3000 miles. Imagine that, hauling ass in a race car across the country! I have no idea how fast we got going because I rarely had time or nerve enough to look at the speedometer.

It was a helluva car and back in those days you could still drive around on city streets with it. I parked it in front of our office building for several months until the police requested we park elsewhere to keep the crowds moving.

I owned it from 1965 until ’67 or ’68 and probably put more actual miles on that car than anybody else, and certainly had my fun with it, but it was time for someone else to take it on.

- Gary Wales

Techincal Sidebar

Herr Engineer/Doctor Wunibald Kamm (1893-1966)

That chopped-off tail look that was taken to such an extreme here with 2819 is the “fault” of one Engineer/Doctor Wunibald Kamm (1893-1966). He transformed an otherwise standard Ferrari race car into a creature of fame, fortune, fever, and futility, as well the subject of two books, innumerable magazine articles, and hundreds (really more like thousands by now) of heated arguments since the day it was built.

Herr Docktor Kamm’s theory was that there would be far less aerodynamic drag on an automobile if the rear section - of an otherwise sleek design - was truncated (effectively chopped off) rather than followed out in a flowing method. This way, he postulated, the car would be subject to far less speed-killing aerodynamic drag.

The Kamm Tail

What sounded almost illogical in the streamline age, in practice saw great increases in speed and efficiency and was dubbed the “Kamm Tail”. It started a revolution in ground-speed aerodynamics that still is in effect today. ”Breakthrough” is an oft-untempered word, here it fits like a glove.

Kamm is also credited with building the first automotive wind tunnel, and, to quote his bio: "Dr. Kamm, even today, and perhaps even more so because of his foresight, is considered one of the greatest researchers in automotive engineering." ... His work on turbulence is considered to have been "breakthrough" and fundamental”.

- Doug Stokes

Rebel Rebel: Breadvan

A previous book on this bolide was published by Parkerhouse in 2010 under the title: “Rebel Rebel: Breadvan - The Most Recognizable Ferrari in the World” by Marc Sonnery & Keith Bluemel. It weaves a doppelganger tale of this machine, with, shall we just say: “...a number of different points of view”, a circumstance that’s quite common in cars that are as steeped in mystery and intrigue as this one.

cover of the book Rebel Rebel: Breadvan

That book, published in 2009 with Gary Wales on the cover working on a mostly paintless Breadvan is now well out of print and commanding (or at least asking for) $730.81 for a “like new” edition with 5 copies that are said to be in “good” condition going for just over $600 on Amazon. Such is the lure, the lore, the legend of this - at times almost hapless - machine.

Searching “Ferrari Breadvan” brings a flurry of awe and a heaping helping of high-tension and often hyperbolic opinion - all of which is (almost) entirely from people who were not there.

- Doug Stokes

Super-Special & Made To Order

Just to add to the legend that we’ve had all the (above) fun printing here at LACar, we’ll here present two opportunities to make this special book even more special by buying a special edition… the following is in the publisher’s own words, not ours:

Breadvan - A Ferrari to beat the GTO (Collector's Edition)

Available to pre-order (made to order) Limited to 75 signed copies (author)

The front and back covers of this leather-bound edition feature debossed and foiled outline illustrations of the front and rear of the Breadvan respectively. Black page edges and a black slipcase provide the contrast. Numbers are limited to 75 signed copies, making it truly one for the collectors. £ 490.00 GBP.


Breadvan - A Ferrari to beat the GTO (Baker's Edition) 

Available to pre-order (made to order) and Limited to 19 signed copies

This edition consists of a fabulous clamshell baker’s box bound in black leather with red-foiled Breadvan graphic debossed into the lid. A peek through the rear window reveals the glorious scarlet leather-bound book positioned on a false floor. A pull-out drawer (or should that be oven tray?) below contains three signed prints of John Colley’s superb studio photography. The Baker’s Edition is limited to 19 copies and is signed by author Richard Heseltine, Nicola von Dönhoff, Formula 1 racing driver Emanuele Pirro (retired), and leading Ferrari historian Keith Bluemel.  £ 1,500.00 GBP.

the breadvan in racing action
Another good shot of the car (just in case)

The End

And so … this concludes (for now anyway) the thrice (and more) told tale of the (Ferrari) Breadvan … It’s hard to say that there has ever been a better-known sports car. It’s also hard not to admire this car in a way, and marvel at it’s colorful and convoluted history.

And…if the fat lady really is tuning up somewhere - Caveat Tifosi!

Book review by Harold Osmer.

Miscellaneous thoughts and sidebars by Doug Stokes.

First-person story by guest Gary Wales.

About The Authors

Harold Osmer's profile picture

Harold Osmer

Harold Osmer works as a writer as well as a publisher in whatever spare time he can find. He’s authored award-winning books about auto racing in Los Angeles, has a Masters degree in geography, and holds a black belt in karate. He’s a regular at local car shows and race venues where he’s often seen setting up a table and selling books. His show ride is a 1951 Chevy pickup, dressed to emulate a Spec truck, complete with graphics, numbers, and sponsor decals.

Together with

Doug Stokes's profile picture

Doug Stokes

Doug has a long and wide-ranging history in the motoring business. He served five years as the Executive Director of the International Kart Federation, and was the PR guy for the Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Championship Gran Prix. He worked racing PR for both Honda and Suzuki and was a senior PR person on the first Los Angeles (Vintage) Grand Prix. He was also the first PR Manager for Perris Auto Speedway, and spent over 20 years as the VP of Communications at Irwindale Speedway. Stokes is the recipient of the American Autowriters and Broadcaster’s 2005 Chapman Award for Excellence in Public Relations and was honored in 2015 by the Motor Press Guild with their Dean Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award. “… I’ve also been reviewing automobiles and books for over 20 years, and really enjoy my LA Car assignments.” he added.

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