The True Story Of The ATS 2500 GT & GTS | Rare Cars

The history of Enzo Ferrari is a tumultuous one to say the least. Enzo will go down in history as one of the most famous and prolific automotive icons of all time. From ferrari’s racing dominance to what the prancing horse itself represents, there is no denying Ferrari’s impact on motorsports. But for as great of a car builder enzo was, he was also objectively quite the hot head. His almost maniacal perfection for building his cars made him lots of enemies over the years, a slew of whom would be so driven by their animosity towards Enzo that they would go ahead and build their own cars to try and dethrone him from his positon of automotive royalty. And in the early 1960s with tensions running high at ferrari, a handful of Enzo’s top guys would be removed from Ferrari leaving them with only one choice, to build a car with the goal of putting Enzo Ferrari in his place. This is the story of that car, the ATS 2500 GT.


Hello everyone, welcome back to another episode of Rare Cars, this is the channel where we dive into the past and explore some of the rarest and most iconic vehicles of all time. If you want to see more short form documentaries on unique cars like the Apollo GT or cars like the BMW 507, then make sure to subscribe to the Rare Cars YouTube channel and smash that notification button for our weekly uploads. But now, let's get into the story of a handful of ex ferrari employees would go on to build the most revolutionary car of the 1960s, the ATS 2500 GT.

And everything about the ATS 2500 begins in 1961, during an event at ferrari commonly referred to as the palace revolt. Essentially what happened here was that Enzo’s wife, Laura Garello was recently given more of a role inside the company in the years prior. Ferrari's sales manager Girolami Gardini was pretty annoyed by this and tensions boiled over to a point where he told Enzo if she wasn't out that he would be out. Enzo in response fired him immediately which started a domino effect of other high level Ferrari employees either being fired by Enzo or quitting stemming from the Gardini firing. 


A group of these recently jobless but incredibly skilled Ferrari employees decided that this was their shot to build a car to get back at Enzo. And some of these employees include Girolami Gardini who was the ferrari sales manager, Giotto Bizzarini who was the sports car development chief, Carlo Chiti who was the chief engineer, and Romolo Tavoni who was the manager of Scuderi Ferrari. This was a truly formidable and wildly talented group of people that were now turned loose to work their magic at their newly established company, ATS (Automobili Turismo e Sport)

Initially they launched a formula one racing effort as their first prong of their attack to get Enzo. If they could destroy ENZO on the formula one circuit then they could easily parlay their new racing success into hype and subsequent sales for their future road cars which could help fun further racing developments, which was almost the exact cycle that Enzo himself used so they knew that it could work. 

The only problem was that this Formula 1 effort from ATS proved to be a catastrophic failure. The ATS Formula One cars could not catch a break or any meaningful string of victories against the competition. This inaugural season was in fact so bad for ATS that they pulled the plug on the formula program in 1963 and even lost certain investor backing. 

ATS now had to rely on the sales of their new sports car to help save the young company that was teetering on the edge of financial ruin. And they now had to do this without a serious winning racing record behind the cars, which would make things all the more difficult. 

ATS had no choice at this point and with less than ideal circumstances they pulled the curtain off their new sports car at the 1963 Geneva Motorshow. And instantly, everyone instinctively knew that this car was something different. Designed by Franco Scaglione the ATS was a soft yet beautifully proportioned sports car that looked different then pretty much anything else out of Maranello because this was the first Italian mid engine production car ever built, even before the Lamborghini Miura would do so years later. 

For a first car from a manufacturer, ATS knocked it out of the park in all aspects. Besides being gorgeous, from an engineering perspective the ATS 2500 was a serious threat that featured 4 wheel disk brakes, 4 wheel independent suspension and most importantly its own bespoke engine. 

That’s right, rather than source an engine from another manufacturer like most low production auto makes of this type would do, ATS decided that they would build their own V8 powerplant which was to be designed by Bizzarinini. This glorious high revving overhead cam 2.5 liter V8 would make around 210hp and could rev to an outrageous 9000RPM. The V8 was available with weber carburetors or a mechanical fuel injection system and would be mated to a 5 speed manual transmission. 


And where things get even cooler is that there were actually 2 versions of the ATS 2500, the GT and the GTS. With the core difference between the two models being the body construction. The 2500 GT used a steel body and the GTS utilized an aluminum body, which actually made quite a difference when it came to weight. 

And while we are on the subject of weight, I should note that the ATS 2500 was an extremely light car even with its steel body. The Steel bodied ATS 2500 GT had a curb weight of around 1800lbs with the aluminum bodied GTSs being around 1700lbs. Couple these insanely low weights with its rev happy 200+hp V8 and the ATS 2500 could do 0-60 in around 5 seconds flat and top out at around 160mph. 

The ATS 2500GT was a seriously quick car, it was stunning to look at and it was an engineering marvel for the time period. Everything about it Screamed Ferrari killer, but did it accomplish its goal.

The short answer is no. While I am sure Enzo was quite upset that another Italian company had sprung up from his former associates and built a mid engine V8 powered road car before he did, the fact remains that ATS lacked the one thing that Ferrari had, time.

See Ferrari was able to make a name for himself and his company over decades of racing and car building pedigree, while many of the ATS employees were with him along that journey, they didn’t have that Ferrari name recognition or winning race record on their own. To truly develop the brand of ATS and become an actual winning racing force they would need lots more time to hone their cars and a significant bankroll to help do so which they didn’t have. 


Just about a year after they introduced the 2500 GT and GTS, ATS had run out of money to keep its doors open and by 1964 they closed up shop. In total just about 8 ATS 2500 GT and GTSs were built before ATS went under.

I truly do believe with the team that ATS had in place and the first iteration of the 2500 that they built that they really had a chance over the next decade to beat Ferrari at his own game if they stayed afloat. And if that happened the 2500 GT could have been as iconic of a car as the Lamborghini Miura was which came shortly after. And that is the short history of the car built to beat Ferrari, the ATS 2500.


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