1959 Ferrari 250 GT California
|Model History||Auction sales research||Specifications||Body styles and Chassis Data|
Ordered new and driven from the factory to LeMans by Bob Grossman, 451 GT placed 5th overall and first in class at LeMans in 1959 with co-driver Fernand Travano. Mr. Grossman continued to campaign the car in 1959 and 1960 with great success in SCCA competition. Since its restoration in 1983, S/N 1451 GT has won first in class at concours events including Pebble Beach in 1983 and 1994.
One of nine alloy bodied Competition Spyders, it was delivered new with the first Tipo 128F 'outside plug' motor with 250 Testarossa camshafts, 40 DCL6 Weber carburetors, oil cooler, special suspension, and a tall 3.55 drive ratio.
This 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB Spyder California Competizione is chassis number 1451GT and the ex-Bob Grossman car. It has remained in the same care for the past twenty-six years and is one of only seven original alloy-bodied examples constructed. It was driven by Bob Grossman to a fifth overall and First in Class at the 1959 24 Hours of LeMans.
Pininfarina was tasked with creating an open-top car based on the chassis of the 250 GT TdF. It was dubbed the Spyder California and intended for the US market, more specifically the sun belt regions of the US. Production began in 1958 with eleven examples built by the time it became its own model in December of 1958. One of the early examples was entered by Luigi Chinetti's NART at Sebring in 1959. The car was driven by Richie Ginther and Howard Hively and finished in ninth overall, but won its GT class.
Grossman was an aspiring singer in Nyack, New York who started selling cars after the Second World War to finance voice lessons. Within a short period of time he had franchises for Jaguar, Volkswagen, and Alfa Romeo. He even raced a XK120 at area events with much success. By 1958 he had earned the SCCA G Production national title while driving an Alfa Giulietta veloce.
He had a long-wheelbase Spyder California which was having trouble beating Corvette's in SCCA competition. He asked Chinetti for help, and the result was 1451 GT.
There were a total of 51 LWB Spyder California's created and only nine were alloy-bodied competition models. This example was created by Ferrari as a rolling chassis and then sent to Sergio Scaglietti's workshop on May 18th of 1959. Upon completion, it was brought to LeMans. The car featured Testa Rossa cams with larger 40DCL6 carburetors and various other enhancements bringing the horsepower to 262. It was given an upgraded suspension, larger fuel tan with filler cap through the trunk lid, a 3.55:1 final drive ratio, and an oil cooler within the radiator.
At LeMans the car was driven by Grossman and co-driven by Fernando Tavano. It finished fifth overall and third in the GT class. Not bad for its first outing. After the race the car was sent back to Ferrari for final completion which including the finishing of the interior and being given a final paint job in metallic silver.
It was then sent to the US where it was raced the remainder of the season resulting in a first place at SCCA National races at Montgomery, New York. In September he blew the engine at Watkins Glen. A replacement engine was fitted and he continued to race in 1959 and 1960. Near the close of the 1960s, the SCCA found out about the factory modifications made to the car and he was warned not to enter any more club events. Soon after, the 250 GT Short-Wheelbase Competition Berlinettas became available, so Grossman sold 1451 GT and began racing in the 250 GT SWB Comp.
The car's history for the next twenty years is not fully known. It was owned by a banker in Maryland, later owned by another individual in Florida, and later found by a West Palm Beach Porsche dealer. The car was sold to a VSCCA member from New Jersey who brought it back up north.
In 1981 the car came into its current caretaker, who brought the car to the 2007 Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction presented by RM Auctions, where it was one of the highlights of the event. The car has been treated to a two-year restoration finished in Ferrari red with tan interior.
It was brought to the Pebble Beach Concours in August of 1983 where it placed First in Class. It was awarded the Phil Hill award for Best in Show at the 1984 Ferrari Club of America National Meet. From there, the list of accomplishment and awards continue, including a first place at Meadow Brook and a repeat appearance at the 1994 Pebble Beach Concours. It has been raced in vintage events including the Colorado Grand, the Shell/Ferrari Challenge, and the Laguna Seca Historic Races.
It is one of the most important of all the surviving Spyder California's, a rare car that has a racing history that including a visit to LeMans. Its importance was evident at the RM Auctions as bidding was fierce. A high bid of 4,950,000 including buyer's premium was enough to secure new ownership, and was among the top sellers of the night.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2012
|Auction Sales Information|
|58th Annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance||M3 - 50th Anniversary of the Ferrari Spyder California|
|Cavallino Classic XVII||Upper Concours|
|Monterey Sports and Classic Car Auction||1959-1963|