This Ferrari 330 LMB Recreation is a Le Mans race for the road – Robb Report
We crest the hill then we dive into a wide valley, its patchwork fields strewn with wild flowers and strewn with sun. As the road goes, I insert the ball lever in third and I bury the accelerator. The classic Ferrari rushes over the horizon, the hedges blurring as we are enveloped in a blanket of glorious V-12 noise. After 15 years as an automotive journalist, my career may have peaked.
For me, moments like these that affirm life and tell your grandchildren are the reason old cars matter. They should be driven and not polished to perfection on a competition lawn. Yet many Ferraris have become so valuable that owners, perhaps understandably, won’t risk using them. This is where a game like this 330 LMB comes in. It looks, sounds and even smells the real thing, but you can enjoy it without worrying about desecrating an old master.
The original Ferrari 330 LMB (Le Mans Berlinetta) was an evolution of the legendary 250 GTO. However, while the GTO was a formidable sports car driver, the LMB’s best result was fifth at Le Mans in 1963, driven by Mike Salmon and Jack Sears. Its chassis was based on the 250 GT Lusso, while its V-12 engine was enlarged to 3967 cc (242 ci) for 390 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Only four examples have been made and all of them have survived. What is the genuine article worth? Well in eight figures, certainly.
The story of this particular Ferrari recreation begins with English farmer Ed Carter. He originally planned to create a 250 GTO or SWB replica, before a friend noticed that “everyone has one”. Carter then bought a Ferrari 330 GT donor car and flew to New York to examine one of the existing 330 LMBs, take measurements, and create cardboard models of each body panel. Sadly, he was killed soon after while driving a vintage Bentley and never completed the project.
Here is where the catering house Bell Sport and Classic picked up the stick. The British specialist saw in the unfinished Ferrari a chance to demonstrate his renovation skills, especially those of Elliot East, who spent 4,500 hours realizing Carter’s vision. âIt’s authentic work using vintage Ferrari parts,â says East. âIf the components weren’t available, we usually made them in-house. We spent a year looking for window closures before deciding to throw ours in the sand. There are a few concessions to friendliness, but this is definitely not a restaurant.
A starter motor loosens up and six custom Weber 42 carburettors clear their throats. The 330 LMB replica emerges from the workshop – dressed in Rosso Corsa –with racing cockades on its doors and hand painted Scuderia shields. It’s not as iconic as a GTO, nor as good-looking as a Lusso, but it looks fabulously functional. The distinctive raised panels on the rear fenders, for example, were a quick workaround to increase tire clearance. I open the light door (âIt took eight months to align them perfectly,â I am told) and fold carefully inside.
The single bucket seat is lined with corduroy and bolted to the floor. This makes the pedals stretchy enough for my 5’8 ” frame, and I have to slouch down, adopting the âlong arms, short legsâ riding position of the Italian automotive clichÃ©. The skinny wood wheel is wonderfully tactile and the machined aluminum shifter turret looks great. Bell Sport & Classic also redesigned the interior in ‘Competition Lusso’ style, with deep carpets and wall-to-wall quilted leather. A digital GPS speedometer is another addition – Salmon and Sears only needed a tachometer.
There is something a little terrifying about driving a unique car alongside the man who spent three and a half years building it. Luckily East looks relaxed as I guide the Ferrari’s GTO nose down narrow lanes that weave between quaint English villages. The worm steering is low-gear but full of feedback, while the long-stroke shifting – five-speed with sync, not the original’s four-speed – is heavy and mechanical. The versatile disc brakes are also much better than most cars of this era.
With a leaf spring rear axle and modest Michelin XWX tires, the 330 LMB will never match the grip of modern sports cars – and you wouldn’t. It turns with precision and gives a confident feel in the middle of the turn, without any of the bump movements that can plague classic Ferraris. He also rides impressively for a pseudo racer; only sudden potholes interrupt the sensation of flow.
Even so, everything is overwhelmed by this engine. The naturally aspirated Colombo V-12 is one of the larger ones: docile and maneuverable, with a thirst for turns. Its redline has been set at 6,000 rpm for today, but East says it will easily extend to 7,500 rpm and beyond. The LMB’s protruding exhausts were made from mild steel, rather than stainless steel, for a fuller, more decadent rumble. And it’s all covered by breathless grips, carbohydrate gurgles, gears and moans, and the thud of the manual gearbox.
As an ongoing advertisement for Bell Sport and Classic, this 330 LMB is doing its job. It’s perfectly finished and a real topic of discussion. As a classic Ferrari, it feels authentic without being too priceless to use. And as an experience, it’s unforgettable. Maybe a combination of the end of the UK lockdown and a warm spring afternoon swayed my judgment a bit – but classic cars are all about those times, isn’t it not?