Among his many talents and gifts, Mr. Gianni Agnelli is remembers as one of the most fashionable men in modern history. He was born in Torino, Italy on March 12th of 1921 and was the heir to a modern Italian dynasty. He was named after his grandfather, who founded Fiat in 1899. Gianni was a leader in both business and culture. He was a noted playboy, even after his marriage in 1953. His mistresses included socialite Pamela Harriman, actress Anita Ekberg, and fashion designer Jackie Rogers. He had several beautifully designed homes, a fine collection of paintings, and enjoyed sailing, skiing, and tobogganing. As would be expected, he also maintained an impressive collection of motorcars and developed a deep respect for the Ferrari marque. Between the late 1940s and early 1960s, he owned a number of Ferraris, including a 166 MM Barchetta, a 212 inter Coupe, a 375 America, and this 400 Superamerica Coupe Speciale.
In 1966, Agnelli became chairman of Fiat. As the head of Fiat, Agnelli managed over 4-percent of Italy's gross domestic product. Under his direction, the firm acquired Alfa Romeo and Lancia, giving them a virtual monopoly in domestic car production. Along with the automobile empire, his family and their various holding companies managed everything from newspapers to football clubs.
Gianni Agnelli was the richest man in modern Italian history.Chassis number 1517 SA
In 1959, Mr. Agnelli placed an order for a special new Ferrari to be used for his own personal use. The car that he received was the first 400 Superamerica.
The 400 Superamerica was the firm's most expensive road-going offering and aimed at the company's most exclusive clients.
Mr. Agnelli's Ferrari, being the first 400 Superamerica built, is considered something of a prototype and its type 163 engine has been recorded by several sources as an experimental unit with a unique combination of internal components, carburetors, and exhaust.
Chassis number 1517 SA entered the Pinin Farina plant in Torino, Italy on July 30th of 1959. There, it was given a custom-tailored coupe coachwork. Pinin Farina created a variation of Agnelli's first custom-bodied Ferrari, 0355 AL, a 375 America that had been styled by Franco Martinengo. The result was a car that combined contemporary Pinin farina styling with the various 'branded' themes established on Agnelli's previous commissions.
1517 SA has a large square grille, a 'panoramic' wraparound windscreen, forward-leaning A-pillars, and an Aerlux sunroof with sliding shades. Many of these features could also be found on 0355 AL which had been created six years earlier. Perhaps one of the most prominent departure from the previous Agnelli Ferrari was the use of a four-headlight arrangement.
The inside continues the blend of old and new features. It was given a full array of instrumentation, pairing standard Veglia gauges with a Jaeger chronometric clock and Heuer stopwatches. There is a distinctive shift knob and a custom steering wheel which features black trim on the spokes in lieu of the typical filigree.
The car made its public debut at the Pinin Farina stand at the 41st Annual Torino Motor Show held during November of 1959. This was two months before the first production 400 Superamerica (a short-wheelbase Cabriolet) was unveiled at the Brussels Auto Show.
After the Torino Motor Show, 1517 SA returned to Pinin Farina to undergo a number of important changes, presumably at Sig. Agnelli's request. The size and the shape of the grille were softened, the two-piece front bumperettes were replaced by a single one-piece bumper, the hood scoop was repositioned, the seats were re-upholstered, and the flanks - between the front and rear wheel wells - were embellished with brushed stainless steel trim and a distinctive spear, finished in the Agnelli family colors of green and blue.
After the work was completed, the car was shown at the 1960 Geneva Motor Show held between March 10th and 20th. It was delivered to Sig. Agnelli in June of 1960. At the time, it was finished in Argento Luna Savid
with black Connolly leather upholstery. The car was registered in Torino as 'TO 333333' and served as Mr. Agnelli's personal transport for over two years before being replaced with a Maserati 5000 GT fitted with a similar Pinin Farina body.
On September 26th of 1962, Agnelli sold his Ferrari to Giuseppe Cornacchia, a resident of Milan. Less than a month later, the car was sold to Swedish actress Anita Ekberg, star of the 1960 movie La Dolce Vita.
Some believe that due to the time frame and the rumored affair between Agnelli and Miss Ekberg, that the car may have been a generous gift.
Miss Ekberg used the car between 1962 and 1966. In May of 1966, she sold the Coupe Speciale to Mario Rossi of Torino. In October of 1967 the car had accumulated a total of 35,842 km.
In 1968, Sig. Rossi sold the car to Milan's official Ferrari dealer M.G. Crepaldi S.a.s. The following year, the car was sold to Luigi Chinetti Motors in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Soon after its arrival in the United States, the car was sold to Peter Jacobs through Algar Enterprises, Inc. in Rosemont, PA. From there, the car was sold to Pete Sherman of Maitland, Florida, who damaged the nose in a road accident.
In 1974, Gilbert Ranney of Santa Ana, California, purchased the Ferrari from Mr. Sherman with the intention of someday giving it a restoration. After eight years in his care, the restoration had never commenced and, in November 1982, Mr. Ranney donated the car to the Harrah Automobile Foundation in Reno, Nevada.
Much of the Harrah's Automobile Collection was dispersed in 1986, and 1517 SA was sold at auction to its current caretaker. After a decade in storage, the current owner treated the car to a restoration to the highest possible standards. The work was completed in 2004 and since then has participated in many exclusive automotive gatherings including the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the Quail Motorsports Gathering, the Concorso d'Elegance Villa d'Este, and the Palm Beach Cavallino Classic. In May of 2013, at the FCA Concours in Pasadena, CA, the car received Best of Show honors.
The car has been apart of several important museum exhibitions. Between April and November 2009, it was a feature display at Galleria Ferrari, the factory's museum in Maranello. Beginning in the fall 2010, the car was part of a six-month exhibition held at Ferrari World on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. In 2012, it was invited to take part in a special exhibit at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles entitled 'Sculpture in Motion: Masterpieces of Italian Design.'By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2013
The 400 Superamerica was produced between 1959 and 1962 with 25 examples produced. They had varying bodywork styles by Pininfarina and Scaglietti and all rested on a short wheelbase. The first example was put on display at the Torino Motor Show in 1959. The 400 was replaced by the 410.
The 400 Superamerica was Ferrari's first road model to not be named by the volume of a single cylinder. The 400 designation referred to the total engine capacity. The 400 Superamerica (SA) were luxurious machines and one of the most exclusive road-going cars of its era. They commanded a very high price which helped ensure their exclusivity.
Powering the 400 SA was a version of the Colombo short-block V12 engine. The engine had an enlarged four-liter capacity and coupe produce 340 horsepower.
By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2010