Sold for $8,800,000 at 2014 RM Auctions
It's hard to imagine there being a more iconic Ferrari than the 250 GT California. And yet, even amongst the iconic California there are a few of even greater intrigue and importance. Scaglietti would be given the task of creating something memorable and legendary and the fact every single California exceeds its reputation only proves their success.
John Von Neumann had an idea, and it was based upon sunny California. He would pitch his idea to Luigi Chinetti, the Ferrari importer for North America. It would take some convincing of Ferrari himself, but Chinetti would realize the potential of Von Neumann's idea and would not see such a notion as a foolish idea. Chinetti would buy into the idea and would go to Ferrari to convince him.
The one market Ferrari was still rather slowly breaking into was the North American market. He too needed that car, that machine that could lodge itself into the subconscious of the American public. Therefore, he too would see the potential in building a car ideally-suited to the sunny California lifestyle.
During the 1950s, Ferrari was still very much an engine and chassis builder. They would rely on coachbuilders like Pininfarina, Boano, Bertone, Ghia, Touring and Vignale. Then there was Scaglietti.
At the 1957 Geneva Motor Show, Ferrari would debut its 250 GT Cabriolet. Its body was designed and built by Pininfarina and carried with it those iconic looks that would help make the model famous. However, Scaglietti would be given a slightly different task.
The design of the Cabriolet was immediately popular in its simple, but elegant form. Scaglietti would be given the responsibility of taking those immediately iconic looks and creating a version suitable for its North American clientele. The result would be the California Sypder.
Simply put, other than aesthetic differences, the major difference between the Cabriolet and the California would be found within the interior. The Cabriolet was much more of a touring car, replete with comfortable luxuries. The California would be a much more visceral experience. While the Cabriolet would be updated with its improved Series II, the California would maintain its close feel to the road.
Lacking the sound-proofing of the Cabriolet, the California vibrated through its passengers given an instant feel for the road and the environment around. It would be, that car one imagines driving up the Californian coast.
Production of the California Spyder would begin in 1958. The car itself would not be announced publicly until Ferrari's annual press conference in Modena in early December of that same year. The first prototype, chassis 0769 GT, would be practically the same as the coupe Tour de France model, except it sported the convertible top. It would even sport the same wheelbase as the original 250. From the time of the prototype to the first cars to complete production there would be some improvements, however, the car would remain quite similar to the traditional 250 GT.
Whereas the Cabriolet played to the wealthy and affluent looking for a luxurious touring car from Maranello, the California was to fit the American persona of the west that included a penchant for brawling and gun fights. The California, especially the short-wheelbase version, perfectly fulfilled this role. However, the long-wheelbase version would be no slouch on the track either.
In all, there would be just 14 long wheelbase models of the California Spyder built over the course of 1958, the car's first year. Chassis 1055 GT would be the 11th of those 14 to be built and it would feature a cosmetic element not seen on many examples.
Completed in November of 1958, 1055 GT would be finished in the classic Ferrari Red, or Rosso Rubino, and would have a black leather interior. This was nothing out of the norm. However, there were two options of headlights available at the time. The car could be completed with the headlights open, or, they could be completed with covered headlamps. More than a few would be completed with the headlights left open. Only a handful would be completed with covered headlamps, and this chassis would be one of them.
The car would be delivered to Chinetti's establishment in New York City in January of 1959 and then would make its way to Lubbock, Texas where it would be united with its first owner, Steven Deck. Deck was an attorney in the area and he would hold onto the car for just a couple of years before he would sell it to another Texan.
One year later, 1055 GT would be seen in Geneva, Florida entered in the Osceola Grand Prix. This race would take place in January of 1962. The car would prove its racing pedigree immediately as it would be driven by Ross Durant to a 1st in class result. It would seem the car had proven itself in the race as there would be no documentation existing telling of the car ever having competed in another race from then on.
Gerald Roush, who died in 2010, was a sportscar expert who specialized in Ferraris. He would found the magazine Ferrari Market Letter. His passion for Ferraris really began only years earlier when he came across a 1958 issue of Sports Car Illustrated. Phil Hill had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year and he would be featured in the magazine. That article would capture Roush's attention, and from then on he would begin attending shows and growing in his sportscar knowledge. In 1972, he and Robert McKee would join together to purchase 1055 GT.
Having enjoyed the experience, Roush and McKee would sell the California a couple of years later to Ewing Hunter, one of the owners of FAF Motorcars. Hunter would utilize his Ferrari dealership to restore the Spyder.
Throughout the 1980s, 1055 GT would make its way north and through the hands of more than one owner. Those owners would include Stan Nowak and Anthony Wang. Wang would retain the California into the early 90s until it was purchased by James George of Mount Clemens, Michigan.
Though George came to own the car, it would remain with Michael Sheehan and his European Auto Sales Inc. in Costa Mesa. While there, the car would be treated to a full restoration. Every detail of the restoration would be thoroughly documented with photographs and notes and invoices. No cost would be spared and the end result would be a restoration that cost around $150,000 and a First in Class at the Cavallino Classic in February of 1994. George would then enter the car in the 30th annual Ferrari Club of America International Concours, as well as, the Concourso Italiano at Quail Lodge. The other highlight of the year would be taking part in the 44th Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
Having restored the car, George would part ways with the California the following year and then would make its way overseas in 1998 to its new owner Jorn-Holger Richter. Piet Roelofs of the Netherlands would be given the task of rebuilding the car's original engine. Richter would enjoy the company of the California Spyder for more than a decade but would end up selling it in 2011 causing the car to return to North America for the second time in its life.
Timeless in so many ways, the Scaglietti California Spyder is absolutely beautiful to behold from every single angle. It is striking, but not at all overstated. However, underneath its gorgeous looks lurks an inner turmoil befitting of its name.
It is an actor, capable of playing the suave, witty role. However, it has the ability to play the troubled, rebellious teen, or, the strong, silent gunslinger. The car would not suit any other name.
RM Auctions would offer the 1958 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder, chassis 1055 GT, at its 2014 Scottsdale auction. Leading up to the auction, the Ferrari California would earn estimates ranging from $7,000,000 to $9,000,000. Sources:
'All Models: 250 California', (http://www.ferrari.com/English/GT_Sport%20Cars/Classiche/All_Models/Pages/250_California.aspx). Ferrari.com. http://www.ferrari.com/English/GT_Sport%20Cars/Classiche/All_Models/Pages/250_California.aspx. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
'All Models: 250 GT Cabriolet', (http://www.ferrari.com/English/GT_Sport%20Cars/Classiche/All_Models/Pages/250_GT_Cabriolet.aspx). Ferrari.com. http://www.ferrari.com/English/GT_Sport%20Cars/Classiche/All_Models/Pages/250_GT_Cabriolet.aspx. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
'1959 Ferrari 250 GT News, Pictures, Specifications and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z11118/Ferrari-250-GT.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z11118/Ferrari-250-GT.aspx. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
'1958 Ferrari 250 GT California News, Pictures, Specifications and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z18017/Ferrari-250-GT-California.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z18017/Ferrari-250-GT-California.aspx. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
'Lot No. 112: 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider by Scaglietti', (http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1064477). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1064477. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Gerald Roush', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 July 2013, 06:30 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gerald_Roush&oldid=562353904 accessed 14 January 2014
By Jeremy McMullen
Production of the 250 Series began in 1954 and continued on through the early part of the 1960's. There were numerous variations of the 250 and would ultimately become Ferrari's most successful line of vehicles to date. The 250 is also recognized as the first Ferrari to ever receive disc brakes. This did not take place until the end of the 1950's. Also, the 250 was the first four-seater.
Ferrari's were custom built cars. They were not mass-produced. Ferrari provided the engine and chassis while Italian coach builders provided the body. This meant the specifications varied. Engines also varied in horsepower rating, torque, and displacement. This was no different for the 250 GT which saw many different variations in body style and body types.
Ferrari built the road-going Ferrari's to fuel his passion for racing. Many of the vehicles he built for the road had a competition model. That is, a modified version of the road-going model. An example of this was the 1959 short-wheel base (SWB) Berlinetta (Berlinetta which means coupe) and given an aluminum body. It was debuted in October 1959 at the Paris Salon. GT cars were road-legal vehicles that could also be taken to the track and compete without the need for modifications. Although this was their purpose, Ferrari realized that many customers would not race their vehicle, but rather wanted the power and performance that sports cars offered. To comply, Ferrari built these cars to be powerful and luxurious. The vehicles could still be run on the track, mostly on requiring the adoption of stickers and complying with any safety requirements.
The 250 road-going vehicles mostly shared two wheelbase sizes, a 2400 mm and 2600 mm. The 2400 wheelbase were referred to as the SWB (Short wheel base) while the other was the LWB (long wheel base).
The base engine was a Colombo 60-degree, single-over-head cam, 'vee' type 12-cylinder, with aluminum alloy block and heads, and cast-iron cylinder liners. The displacement was 180 cubic inch (2953 cc). Horsepower production was around 220-260. The front suspension was independent with double wishbones and coil springs. The rear suspension was a live axle.
The first 250 introduced was the 250S and available in either berlinetta or spider configuration. Introduced in 1952, they were powered by a 3-liter Colombo engine producing about 230 horsepower.
At the 1953 Paris Motor Show, Ferrari introduced the 250 Europa and Export. These were the only models in the series that were powered by a Lampredi v-12 engine also seen in Formula 1. The 250 Export had a 2400 MM wheelbase, similar tot he 250 MM. The 250 Europa had a larger, 2800 mm wheelbase which allowed more interior room. During their short production lifespan, only 18 examples were produced. Pininfarina and Vignale were tasked with creating the coachwork.
In 1954 four specialty built 250 Monza were built for racing. They shared many similarities with the 750 Monza's, but were equipped with the 3-liter Colombo engine.
At the 1957 Geneva auto show, Ferrari displayed their 250 GT Cabriolet. Coachwork was courtesy of Pininfarina; the wheelbase was 2600 mm in size. In 1959 the second in the 250 GT Cabriolet series production began after only 36 examples being produced.
From 1957 through 1959 Ferrari produced the 250 GT Berlinetta 'Tour de France' (TdF). The name had been given for the 10-day automobile race. Originally the engine produced 240 horsepower but was later modified to 260 horsepower. Carrozzeria Scaglietti was responsible for creating the bodies based on Pinin Farina's design.
Scaglietti was responsible for constructing the 1957 250 GT California Spyder. These sat atop a long, 2600 mm chassis and aluminum was used throughout the body in efforts to reduce the overall weight. In total, around 45 examples were created before they were replaced by the SWB version in 1960.
There were 250 examples of the 250 GT Berlinetta SWB produced. Production began in 1959 and used the shortened, sportier wheelbase. Giotto Bizzarrini, Carlo Chiti, and Mauro Forghieri were responsible for the development. Some were built for racing while others were meant for daily transportation. Horsepower ranged from 240 to 280. Steel or aluminum bodies were used. The steel bodies were suited for the road-going vehicles, also known as Lusso. The racing trim vehicles were powerful and had low weight. They were vary competitive and are regarded as the most important GT racers of its time. In 1961 the SWB Berlinetta captured the GT class of the Constructor's Championship.
In 1960 a Scaglietti 250 GT Spyder California SWB was shown at the Geneva Motor Show. Built as a replacement for the LWB and based on the 250 GT SWB, around 55 examples were produced.
The Ferrari 250TR was produced from 1957 through 1958 during which only 19 examples were created. The 'pontoon' fender body was designed by Scaglietti and the power was supplied through a Colombo 12-cylinder engine mounted at a sixty-degree angle and outfitted with six Weber 38 DCN carburetors. Power was sent to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual gearbox. With 300 horsepower, the 800 kg vehicle was able to achieve a 168 mph top speed. From 1958 through 1961, the 250 TR was entered in 19 championship races where they emerged victorious ten times.
The 250 in 250 TR represented the unitary displacement while the TR was an acronym meaning Testa Rossa. Testa Rossa translates to 'red head' which referred to the color of the engine's cylinder head.
The 250 TR series was built to capture the world championship which was experience questionable times. During the 1955 24 Hours of Lemans a fatal accident occurred and the Commissione Sportiva Internazionale (CSI) began investigating ways to make the sport safer for the drivers and the spectators. Their efforts were escalated in 1967 when another fatal accident occurred at the 1957 Mille Miglia. The committee decided upon a displacement limit but they were in disagreement on the size; the proposed figures ranged from 3 to around 3.5 liters.
1958 was the introductory year for the new regulations, which had been announced during the later part of 1957. Ferrari had been building, testing, and racing the 250 GT which had performed well during the 1957 Mille Miglia. The Colombo V12 260 horsepower engine received a larger bore, camshaft, and other improvements resulting in a 3.1 liter displacement and 320 horsepower. Testing continued throughout the 1957 season in both body configuration and mechanical components.
Ferrari had anticipated the new engine size regulations and thus had been sufficiently prepared to capture the world championship. Due to the potential of negative publicity caused by the fatal accidents, other manufacturers, such as Aston Martin, Lotus, Cooper and Jaguar, were hesitant to continue racing. Ferrari believed their closest competitor would be the powerful and technologically advanced Maserati 450 S which featured a quad-cam eight-cylinder engine.
Ferrari quickly began capturing victories during the 1958 season. The 250 TR was a solid vehicle thanks to the preparation and testing. The steel tubular ladder frame was of traditional Ferrari construction; a DeDion rear axle was used on the works racers. Customer cars were outfitted with a live axle. Drum brakes were placed on all four corners of the car. The engine had been modified to comply with regulations and to fit in the engine bay. In reality, the vehicle was an outdated car having only the benefit of proper planning and proven technology. Most cars featured disc brakes which provided superior stopping power. The Colombo engine dated back to the beginning of Ferrari and was antiquated in comparison to the modern power-plants.
Nearing the close of the 1958 season, the competition began to rise. Aston Martin had a lethal combination, a 3 liter DBR1 racer and Stirling Moss as the driver. Even though the Aston Martins did score a victory at Nurburgring 1000 KM, Ferrari was able to capture the World Championship. The legendary Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien easily capture a third victory for Ferrari at the grueling 24 Hours of Lemans. The 250 TR works cars were referred to as TR58, to distinguish them from the customer TRs.
For the 1959 season, the vehicles received slight modifications which made the vehicle lighter and more powerful. The big news was the use of Dunlop disc brakes. The engine received coil valve springs and the horsepower increased slightly to 306. A Colotti designed five speed gearbox replaced the four-speed unit. Pininfarina was tasked with designing a new body and the construction was handled by Fantuzzi. As a result of the improvements, the name was changed to TR59. At their inaugural race, the TR59 finished first and second. This streak did not last and at the end of the season, it was Aston Martin who emerged as the world champion. The TR59 was plagued with reliability issues mostly due to the gearbox. The vehicles were forced to retire early from races, including Le Mans.
For the 1960 season, the TR was modified slightly to comply with new regulations and to rectify the transmission issues. These vehicles are commonly referred to as the TR59/60. Aston Martin had withdrawn from the championship which left no factory opposition for Ferrari. Porsche and Maserati provided competition, especially at Targa Florio and the Nurburgring 1000 km where they scored victories. At Le Mans, Ferrari finished first and second and captured the word championship, beating Porsche by only four points.
For the 1961 season, Ferrari introduced the mid-engined 246 SP. The TRI61 was given a new spaceframe chassis and was able to capture victories at Sebring 12 Hours and Le Mans. With victories between the 246 SP and the TRI61, Ferrari once again captured the world championship.
The CSI implemented stricter rules for the 1962 season which meant the TR was unable to score points for the factory. It was still allowed to race for the overall victory.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2007