Back in 2013, the automotive world was stunned by the news that the Dubai Police Force included a brand new Ferrari FF in their fleet of patrol cars. Most car enthusiasts thought that this was the first time that a Ferrari car was painted in police colours, with a blue light on top, but those many were wrong. More than half a century before the Dubai Police FF saw the light of the day, the Italian Police Forces took delivery of two brand new Ferraris 250 GTE as a part of a new crime-fighting effort sponsored by the Italian president of the time, Giovanni Gronchi himself. Today, only one of two delivered car survives and we will now tell you the story of the first Ferrari police car, the legendary Squadra Mobile 250 GTE.
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Back in the early sixties Rome had a pretty active crime scene, as one of the largest European cities. In the days before GPS, mobile phones, and CCTV surveillance systems, bank robberies were a common thing, and the Roman police found that their Alfa Romeos just couldn`t keep up with criminals who used faster and more powerful getaway cars. In order to fight the criminals, the Italian Police formed Squadra Mobile, a fast response unit with a sole task – catching the criminals by all means necessary. Since Squadra Mobile was an elite unit, president Gronchi decided it would be appropriate to present it with two high speed pursuit cars, and what was better for that occasion than two new Ferrari 250 GTEs. The 250 GTE was chosen because it featured four seats and a boot big enough for equipment. Of course the 3.0-liter V12 engine with around 240 horsepower provided the performance that very few cars could match back in 1962.
Enzo Ferrari was involved with the project from the beginning because he thought that he could sell police versions of his cars to all major cities in Italy, so he organized test days on the Maranello circuit before the cars entered the police duty. Amongst all police drivers, Sergeant Armando Spatafora proved to be the fastest, showing a natural driving talent. Spatafora was so quick and skilled that Enzo even offered him a place in factory racing team, amazed by his skills, However Spatafora refused, showing his loyalty to the Italian police. Unfortunately, during the testing, the other car crashed and it was totally destroyed killing the driver. So, Roman Police eventually received only one car (Chassis No. 3999GT) in late 1962.
Immediately, the black police 250 GTE with a blue light on the roof and a panther painted on the fenders which was the logo of the unit created much attention by fellow motorists. Some people thought it was just a marketing gimmick by the authorities, but very soon, this fast Ferrari proved its worth when Spatafora managed to catch a group of bank robbers in a Jaguar Mk2 3.8. In the following years, Spatafora and the black 250 GTE became famous not only for their crime-fighting role but also being one of the symbols of the city. Criminals even tip themselves off just to get a chance to race Spatafora. The black Ferrari patrolled every day for years, not just on the streets of Rome but on newly-built Italian highways as well, providing high speed escort for various high ranking politicians. Spatafora became known for catching a gang of French bank robbers and even speeding over famous Spanish Steps in the centre of Rome, damaging the car but managing to catch the criminals involved in the pursuit.
However, in 1970, after full eight years of successful crime fighting, the black 250 GTE was retired. The car was tired and full of battlefield scars, but still as fast as when it was new. The Roman Police put it in their garage and eventually sold it at auction as they did with all used police vehicles. For years, the car was thought to be lost, but it was in possession of the Capelli family which preserved it in original condition. When it was discovered, the Italian Police wanted to display it as one of their symbols, and Alberto Capelli restored the car, showing it on various international shows in honour of Armando Spatafora, Enzo Ferrari, and the whole Squadra Mobile legend. The perfectly restored No. 3999GT was shown all over Europe as well as on the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance event in 2016.
The legend of the black 250 GTE with blue lights on the roof re-emerged again in 2013 when automotive website Petrolicious published a very interesting video about this car and an interview with its current owner. However, this was not the first time that the police 250 GTE was a subject of a film. Back in 1977, the Italian film called “Poliziotto Sprint” or Highway Racer for foreign markets was premiered. The movie starred Maurizio Merli as Marco Palma, a young detective who was given the old 250 GTE as an undercover vehicle in order to catch a group of skilled bank robbers who used fast cars to escape the pursuit. The movie is a typical B-production crime flick from the period with a pretty straightforward plot, production, and acting, but its claim to fame was a pretty beaten up black Ferrari 250 GTE which was almost identical to the original Squadra Mobile car. In the scenes when Merli first sees the car, it has police livery on it and the famous 555-555 phone number on the door.
The film is packed with exciting scenes of driving and chasing other cars through the narrow streets of Rome. The screenwriter Gino Capone was pretty familiar with the legend of the Squadra Mobile Ferrari since he recreated many famous moments from the history of this unique police car, like chasing a white Lancia down the Spanish Steps in central Rome, track testing, burning rubber on the city’s boulevards or driving with the seats folded. Ferrari enthusiasts will certainly enjoy the footage of the black 250 GTE being piloted skilfully and aggressively, but by the end of the movie, the car suffered so much damage that we are not sure if the beautiful coupe survived the shooting. Despite the interesting plot, great driving scenes and obvious inspiration drawn from the original Squadra Mobile car, this movie was soon forgotten and it still is a pretty obscure film. That is why you should watch it as soon as you can because only then the story of the greatest police car in history will be complete.