A Look at One of the World’s Most Beloved Ferraris
Photography by Tim Scott © 2015 Courtesy of RM Sothebys
There are many different ways to design and build a car, and, if we’re honest, most are quickly discarded after a few years for something newer, faster, and better-equipped. There are vehicles cherished for decades, of course, owned by enthusiasts loyal to some marques more than others.
At the top of the classic car world, however, few are as universally loved as the Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider.
Understanding why is actually the easy part: if you are among those who believe Ferrari makes some of the best cars in the world, and that it’s important Enzo Ferrari himself was around, and that it should handle like a sports car but rock curves like a supermodel…the 250 GT SWB California Spider is your car.
History has shown that the car was designed and built during the best-ever time for sports cars: road car regulations were relatively lax and racing cars were still quite simple, and so it was possible to buy a car that could win a club race at Watkins Glen and then zip to New York for a few nights at the Waldorf Astoria.
Actually, a playboy by the name of Jan De Vroom raced his SWB California Spider at both the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 1961 12 Hours of Sebring, where he finished 12th overall. It’s impressive, but not surprising when you learn what was underneath the car’s Carrozzeria Scaglietti-formed open bodywork.
At the prodding of Luigi Chinetti and John von Neumann, Ferrari’s U.S. distributors, the company took its race-bred 250 GT Berlinetta Tour de France and removed its roof, instantly creating a classic. With a 3.0-litre V12 engine under the hood, with plenty of luggage space and a well-trimmed interior, the car was perfect for the new class of wealthy enthusiasts who grew up watching Grand Prix and Le Mans endurance racing.
When the closed car received mechanical updates to make it slightly shorter, lighter, stop better, and more powerful, the open California Spider saw the same, and in 1960 the updated car was christened the 250 GT Spider California SWB. It is this version of the road car that Jan De Vroom raced, the version of the car replicated for Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, and the version of the car that RM Sotheby’s is offering at the upcoming Villa Erba sale.
One of the few European-delivery examples, it is also just one of 16 that wears open headlights and was the 18th of 51 built. Sold new to Italy, chassis 2505 GT moved to Switzerland in 1974, remaining for 20 years and, in the process, becoming a familiar sight among Bugatti-Ferrari Owners Club Switzerland outings. A quick trip to the UK in 1997 saw it return to mainland Europe that same year, landing in Germany.
The car you see here is the result of a 2007 trip to Ferrari’s facilities in Maranello, for a full restoration by Ferrari Classiche. Ever thorough, the car was essentially returned to better-than-new condition, finished in Blu Scuro paint over a Pelle Beige interior.
The restoration process took nearly three years, but when completed, the car was driven by then-President of Ferrari Luca di Montezemolo at the Ferrari Challenge World Finals in Valencia, Spain…and then started to win trophies at prestigious concours events, including a Platinum award at the Cavallino Classic in 2001 and the Ferrari Classiche Cup. Ferrari even had it sent to Italy for display at its museum to celebrate the company’s history in the U.S.
As one of the finest examples of one of the most beloved Ferraris ever made, chassis 2505 GT will soon take a place of honor among the other incredible machines for the RM Sotheby’s Villa Erba sale, where it is expected to fetch in excess of €11m.
For more information on this car, please visit the RM Sotheby’s website.