A Tale of Two Ferraris
In the late 1950’s Ferrari produced a series of 250GT cars. The most famous, or at least the most valuable today is the 250GTO. In Europe, the 250GT Cabriolet was very popular. However, at the request of dealers and distributors in the U.S., Ferrari introduced the California Spider for American enthusiasts.
The goal was very simple, a versatile automobile that was capable of being a daily driver to work during the week but also capable of performing on a racetrack on the weekends. The first Spiders were based on the 250GT Berlinetta using the same chassis and engine. The body was mostly steel for strength and were Long Wheelbase models (LWB). In an effort to keep the weight down the interior was rather basic.
Ferrari produced fifty of these cars both in open headlight and closed headlight models. In 1960 Ferrari introduced the Short Wheelbase (SWB) version with a more powerful engine and an improved suspension sporting a wider track both front and rear and four-wheel disc brakes. These cars were more nimble and better handling than the LWB models.
These cars had a more luxurious interior with a leather covered dash among other comforts. The body work had more curvaceous front fenders and more muscular rear fenders. The SWB cars were also produced with both closed and open headlights. A total of fifty-six of these SWB cars were built by Ferrari.
At Amelia Island we saw two auction houses each offer for sale a California Spider. The big talk at Amelia was whether the marketplace would still value these cars at a price point needed by the sellers in today’s economic climate. Buyers had their choice of a SWB model at Gooding & Co., or a LWB model at RM Sothebys. Both were closed headlight cars.
Gooding had an estimate of $18,000,000 to $20,000,000 on their car. A bit aggressive given the past sales of SWB models, but it was a SWB unlike any other. It was a 1962 model finished in its correct colors of Azzurro Metallizzato with a tan leather interior. Striking would be a major understatement to describe this car. It was the star of Gooding and quite possibly the entire Amelia weekend.
It was originally built for the New York Auto Show in 1962. While the early history of the car is unknown, ownership records exist on the car from the late 1960’s to present. In the early 2000’s the SWB was restored to its original colors. It retains its original body, engine, gearbox, and rear axle. In 2008, this car was received a Ferrari Classiche certification. It has been shown at both Pebble Beach and Cavallino.
The bidding was spirited as the increments moved mostly in hundred-thousand-dollar increments. After passing $16,000,000 Charlie Ross, the auctioneer, announced that he was selling the car. Bids continued until a bid of $16,400,000 was hammered sold! Short of the original estimate but well within the range of very nice SWB cars. The seller and buyer should both feel good about this number.
The LWB car at RM Sothebys was a 1959 model that was equipped with a factory competition engine. It has a well detailed ownership history and is also accompanied by a Ferrari Classiche certification indicating it also retained the original engine, gear box, body, and rear axle. It also came with the original owner’s manuals with pouch and a period correct tool kit. It was originally a blue car over a beige interior, however during a comprehensive restoration in 2012 the color was changed to Amaranto red over a saddle interior. It was also shown at many concours since then and received numerous awards. RM Sothebys had an estimate of $9,000,000 to $11,000,000 on the Cal Spider.
Bidding topped out at $8,500,000 on the LWB. Half a million dollars short of the low estimate. As the auctioneer passed on the car, there was disappointment in the room. So close but yet so far away. That’s when the RM Sothebys staff went to work on both the high bidder and the seller to find that compromise sale price that would be acceptable to both parties. While RM Sothebys did not announce the final price, they did proudly announce that the LWB had been sold. Assuming it was above the high bid price and below the high estimate, we think both parties should be satisfied with the sale.
It was rare to see two California Spiders up for auction in the same weekend. They certainly added excitement to Amelia and showed the market still has an appetite for the rare and special cars in our hobby. We hope that we will see these cars again at various concours over the next few years. Maybe we’ll get lucky and see them both together at the same show!