Market Finds: Ferrari’s California Spider Is The Pinnacle Of Classic Convertibles

Ferrari’s California Spider Is The Pinnacle Of Classic Convertibles

By Andrew Golseth
February 29, 2016

Photography Courtesy of Gooding & Company

There have been a number of cars built to “win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” from all different marques from every corner of the globe. From hot hatchbacks to vintage Alfa Romeos, there are a lot of street cars capable of acting as a daily driver and pack enough performance to leave you grinning at the circuit come weekend.

In the late 1950s, this was no different for Ferrari. The California-based Ferrari dealer, ran by John Von Neumann, put in a special request to U.S. Ferrari agent Luigi Chinetti. With the Golden State’s near flawless weather, Neumann suspected a drop-top GT would be a hot seller within the West Coast’s elite enthusiast circle. The idea: build a stylish sprinter that’d soak up a California commute and have enough performance for the wealthy weekend racer.

Chinetti got the green light from Enzo and coach house Carrozzeria Scaglietti was hired to construct the sleek bodies. From 1957 to 1963, Ferrari made just over 100 Californias; the first 50 Spiders were based on the long-wheelbase 250 GT chassis and the last 56 produced were on a short wheelbase variation—this being the latter.

Finished on September 2, 1961, this California was originally purchased by Italian architect Gianfranco Frattini—the 22nd SWB model assembled. Shortly after purchasing the Prancing Horse, Frattini’s Ferrari made a screen appearance in the Italian film Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow—a three-part comedy directed by Vittorio De Sica.

In the second segment titled “Anna of Milan,” the married lead female character Anna (played by the beautiful Sophia Loren), picks up her secret lover Renzo while her husband is out of town on business. The couple takes a joy ride in Anna’s husband’s Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Anna lets Renzo drive the Rolls, who subsequently crashes after barely avoiding hitting a young boy in the road. Anna becomes infuriated with the damage incurred, declaring Renzo should have hit the boy instead of wrecking the Rolls!

Disgruntled, Anna flags down a fellow motorist who just so happens to be driving the beautiful 250 GT California you see here. The gentleman driver, named Giorgio, lends a hand with the Rolls. Giorgio inquires about how the accident happened in such a ‘perfect car,’ to which Anna scolds, “I was a fool to let a Fiat 600 driver handle it.” Shocked, Giorgio pompously responds, “A colossal mistake.”

Anna nonchalantly tells Renzo she’s leaving with Giorgio and asks him to watch the Rolls until the tow truck arrives. Moments later, the Ferrari pulls a U-turn and flies past the scene of the accident, engine blaring, leaving poor Renzo behind. It’s a short scene, but the Ferrari put on a dashing and memorable performance.

Since its getaway role, chassis 2871 GT has been mechanically and aesthetically maintained but used regularly. Just three owners since new and in unrestored condition, this Spider may be one of the most original Californias left in existence. The original bumpers are included, though the bumperless look it currently rocks looks pretty slick.

Of the 56 short-wheelbase California made, this is just one of 37 with factory headlamp covers. Never before offered for public sale, this Italian stallion has never left the home country and is being offered at the Amelia Island auction on March 11. Included in the sale is the partially complete original tool set, factory steering wheel and gear knob, and both front and rear bumpers.

– Three owners from new
– Featured in the Academy Award-Winning Film Yesterday, and Today, Tomorrow

– Last Exhibited in 1983
– Never Before Offered for Public Sale

~240 horsepower SOHC 2953 cc Tipo 168/61 V-12, triple Weber 40 DCL carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, tubular shock absorbers with live rear axle leaf spring suspension, and four-wheel Dunlop disc brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.

Vehicle information
Chassis no.: 2871 GT
Engine no.: 2871

Auction house: Gooding & Company
Estimate: $15–17million Usd.
Price realized: TBD; Auction on March 11

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ailton ailton
ailton ailton
1 year ago

Oh how I love ferrari. This is my dream and I hope it will come true someday. Especially in red color super. papa louie

1 year ago

With MotorTrend’s 70 years behind the wheel, you can trust us. Our expert rankings, new car ratings, and specs can help you find your perfect  papa’s games car.

8 years ago

How about case and desist yourself GS. Do us all the pleasure.

Samik Mukherjee
Samik Mukherjee
8 years ago

Beautiful car no doubt, but I agree with the comment that it is hugely overrated.
There are a number of other convertibles of the 50s & 60s that are just as pretty and perhaps even prettier but do not have a prancing horse badge on the nose. For e.g. Maserati A6G Spyder by Frua

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
8 years ago

Could we please cease and desist with the hyperbole and blatant arschkussen when it comes to Ferrari !!!

For the love of all things St GearHead ! The California Spider is but one of a whole host of classic convertibles worthy of our attention …. not the pinnacle *

Calling it so is a moment of blatant Pop Culture idolatry .. not worthy of genuine automotive enthusiasts

The fact is when it comes to overall design if its Ferrari we’re talking about …… the NART Spiders make the ‘California ‘ look like the overly busy disproportioned and overly exaggerated for the Philistines in Hollywood design it was intended to be [ read the history behind the ‘ California ‘ Spiders … Enzo despised the looks but knew that the depraved and tasteless Hollywood cretins would snap them up as fast as he could make them and signed off on the design ]

FYI ; Words such as pinnacle , awesome , the best etc are so overused these days to the point of becoming utterly meaningless …

Carlos Rincon Eckardt
Carlos Rincon Eckardt
8 years ago

Sergio Scaglietti was a genius master craftsman. Arguably the most beautiful car ever made!

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