Apartment Find: This Ferrari 250 GT PF Coupe Was Hidden In Hollywood For Decades
Photography by Ted Gushue
If Indiana Jones was a car guy, this would be the plot line for his next film. Lawyer has a client who owns an apartment building in West Hollywood, apartment building owner mentions there’s a car in one of the units, that car turns out to be a stunning mid-restoration 250GT PF Coupe. Lawyer can’t believe it, immediately offers to buy the car with the anticipation of restoring it to show quality. The story is almost too good to be true, so we went straight to the new owner (who wishes to remain anonymous) and heard the whole tale.
Andrew Golseth: How does one just stumble upon a stowed away Ferrari?
Owner: I came across this car through a client of mine. I had heard rumors that there was a vehicle in an apartment building that he owned, but I never saw it. He was very closed lipped about it. He never wanted to say much until recently. Once he came to retirement age, he started selling things in preparation of moving out of state.
I kind of kept badgering him about it, and eventually, he let me see the car. I didn’t believe it when I saw it. It was literally inside a one-bedroom unit of an apartment building in Hollywood.
AG: Before you saw the car in person, did you know what model it was or did you just know it was an old Ferrari?
Owner: I didn’t know anything about it. All I knew was that he had an old car in this building, and I had heard through his family members that it might be something special. He was a guy that collected everything. He never got rid of anything. He kind of packed everything away and this was one of those things, I guess.
AG: Do you know the story of how it ended up inside an apartment?
Owner: He is the second owner. He assembled a five-inch binder full of documents; the car is very well documented. It looks like, according to this binder, the car started assemblage in October of ‘59 and finished December ‘59.
It was sold new in California to John von Neumann. Then the gentleman that I purchased it from was the second owner, who bought it on July 29 of 1975. I gathered that he enjoyed the car for probably eight years or so, into the early 80s. From the records, it seems like he started to restore the vehicle. At that point, he actually had the engine completely redone by Briggs Cunningham’s shop. I don’t know why exactly, but he told me that Hollywood was a rough area of town, so he wanted to store it away somewhere safe.
He decided the best place to put it was to cut open a wall in one of the apartment buildings he owned and park it inside, completely intact, and seal it back so nobody could tell anything was in there. That’s where it’s been since around 1985.
AG: So how did it come up in conversation?
Owner: To be honest, I think the first time I heard anything about it was when his wife mentioned it. She said there was a car in one of their apartment buildings, and it was just sitting. It’d been sitting and they hadn’t rented out the apartment for 30 years—something like that. Obviously, it kind of got me interested, but he was never willing to sell, and then I think he just came of age and decided that it’s no longer his project.
The first time I got to see it was when I went and visited the owner at his place. He lived in the same building the car was stored in. I had gone before, but he was never willing to show it to me. Finally, I think when they were ready to move, he said, “Okay, take a peek.” I take a look at it and then I was pretty tenacious about it.
Every so often I’d give him a call and say, you know, “When you’re ready to sell it, let me know.” I think at some point, he was even considering we could take it out and restore it together, something of that nature. But eventually, I think he just wanted to move on to other things.
The engine has been completely rebuilt from what the records show. I don’t think it’s ever even had gas in it since the rebuild, it’s just been sitting dry. The wheels have been refinished already, re-chromed and everything. A lot of the pieces of the vehicle are either brand new or refinished. I’d have to go through everything and see when his last purchase was—there are purchases of transmission mounts, for example, in 1990, documented.
AG: So, the car is yours now?
Owner: After the first time I actually laid eyes on it, it wasn’t too much longer after that I purchased the vehicle from him. I think I ended up buying it from him in April of 2016. It remained enclosed in the apartment until this past weekend. It was on the first floor in a one-bedroom apartment, against the dining room wall facing the driveway. What he had done, and it’s really interesting, it seems like he was inspired by a comic book strip because he’s included that in the binder of documents. It’s a comic of some guy who cut a hole in his wall.
Anyway, if you look through the documentation, every time he wanted parts in the ‘70s he would hand draw the part. For example, a light bulb or a brake caliper, or whatever it might be. The sketches are so intricate they look like a photograph. He’d make multiple copies of his sketches and mail them out, asking shops if they had these parts.
I still have the diagrams of how he cut out the wall. He hinged it so it wouldn’t destroy the wall, so it’s like a whole wall with a window and blinds and everything. It swings open, and he lined up ramps and rolled the car in. Later he took the engine and transmission out, and took the wheels off. He had it on jack stands, which were wired to the car because his theory was in the event of an earthquake it’d stay upright.
AG: How did the exhumation go?
Owner: It’s been a coordinated effort trying to get people to make this happen. We had a film crew there and also a contractor to cut the wall out. We basically sawed the wall at the seams because it had all been filled in. Thankfully, the hinges still worked as intended.
The car was on jack stands, so we put the wheels and steering wheel back on, and pushed the car back a little within the apartment to give it some more room. Then we cut the door outline out because it had been filled and painted over after the car originally went in.
Once we had the door cut open, we swung the wall out and the hinge system thankfully still functioned. We used the same ramps that were used to put the car inside. We lined up the ramps, and had about five people pushing the car out.
The tires were low on air, but we left the pressure low intentionally so the car wouldn’t easily roll away as the brakes are non-operational. The whole process took around five hours. I took it straight to a friend’s shop that specializes in Ferrari restorations. Now, we’re just waiting for the shop to put everything back together to confirm if it’s complete and if there are any parts missing.
AG: Was the car originally silver?
Owner: The color of the vehicle initially, from what he’s handwritten, was white with a red interior. If you look at a 1960 Road & Track, it’s a cover vehicle one of the months. I ordered the same Road & Track issue on eBay, and we’re trying to see if this might actually be the same cover car because that was a California car, as well.
We don’t think it is because from the photos, it seems like mine has an optional passenger side headrest, which the Road & Track car didn’t seem to have.
At some point, the interior was redone, which I think I’ll have to redo again if I want to have it show quality. The interior is black now but it was originally red, according to the notes.
AG: Numbers matching and original panels?
Owner: It seems like everything is numbers matching, from referencing the plates and the engine base. It seems like everything is matching, from what I can tell. Nothing else has been taken off the body, so it’s all intact. Really, body-wise, it’s all there.
AG: Do you have a restoration idea in mind? Are you planning on going with the original white and red color scheme?
Owner: You know, I probably won’t go with the white and red. To me, it seems too flat of a color for the car because it’s not a very curvaceous body. After speaking with several experts in the field, I’ve gathered that as long as you stick with a color scheme that’s original to the year, it won’t really devalue the vehicle.
I still want to do a little more research about that, but if that is the case, silver is a very safe color that looks nice on it, but I’ve seen a couple of other options I like also. I don’t think the flat colors, like red, look that great on this GT. There are, however, some burgundy type colors that look really nice. I’m really not sure yet.
AG: Once it’s restored, what’s your end goal for it?
Owner: We’ll have to see what the market says. Nowadays, it seems like after you restore something right, there isn’t much monetary gain. I think by that point, I’ll probably end up falling in love with it and keep it, which I have a feeling might happen anyway.