Sold for $8,800,000 at 2014 RM Sothebys
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