You Can Actually Buy This Blue-On-Blue Chip Ferrari California Spider
Photography courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
Despite my “fixed roof with a manual” preference, I’m not naïve enough to dismiss the truth: there have been some performance cars that are, arguably, better because of their topless guise. For example, this 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider is surely better without a tin lid, maybe even the world’s best.
Even better: it’s not Rosso Corsa.
Now, I’ll be honest here, I’m a bit unoriginal. If it were my vintage Ferrari, it’d be red—but I’m grateful there are more interesting people who know dark blue on blue works wonders for ancient Maranello metal. Given the model’s rarity, it’s surprising the owner opted to paint and reupholster the car in an unoriginal color combination—this car was originally red on black. However, I don’t see the color change hurting resale value. With a $12-to-$14-million estimate, I’d say the new hues were a good move for the sake of variety. After all, only 50 long-wheelbase Californias were made, most of which were traditional red.
In the late 1950s, West Coast Ferrari dealer head John Von Neumann received so much customer interest in a convertible version of the 250 GT Berlinetta that he asked North American Ferrari correspondent Luigi Chinetti to prod Enzo. It’s rumored Enzo was initially apprehensive about the idea, but nevertheless gave his seal of approval. Based on the standard long-wheelbase 250 GT chassis, the metal shapers at Carrozzeria Scaglietti hammered out just 36 Californias in 1958—this car being the 11th produced that year.
Stunningly beautiful with classic sportscar proportions, trackday junkies among you may think the California was a sacrilegious performance-compromised sunburn machine. But you’d be wrong. The California wasn’t just another piece of rolling Italian jewelry to be seen in: it was, and still is, a serious performance car. Strapped with the 250 series standard Colombo V12, the lightweight drop-top was a multipurpose tool capable of commuting Monday through Friday and doubling as racehorse come weekend. At the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans, the [Ferrari] North American Racing Team (NART) took 5th overall with an average speed of 102 mph (165 kph) in a California!
In November 1958, chassis 1055 GT left the factory in Rosso Rubino over black leather and optioned with glass headlamp aero covers—as noted on the accompanying factory build sheet. Shipped to Luigi Chinetti’s dealer in New York, the car found its first owner in Lubbock, Texas. A couple years later, the car was sold and shipped to the Golden State. The car was entered at the SCCA 1962 Osceola Grand Prix wearing the number 19 and finished first in its class, which was highlighted in issue 168 of Prancing Horse magazine.
Italy to New York, Texas to California, Georgia to Germany, this car has been passed between drivers and collectors since birth—meticulously cared for and restored a number of times. Of its many caretakers, it’s worth noting Ferrari historian Stanley Nowak owned chassis 1055 GT from ’83-’85, which influenced him to write Ferrari Spyder California. After collector Anthony Wang’s five year flog with the GT drop-top, a gentleman from Michigan purchased the car and hired European Auto Restoration to completely overhaul the tired steed. The concours-tier restoration commanded $150,000—major coin in 1994. This process was excessively photographed to archive the car’s all-original and undamaged state.
In 2014, the Ferrari returned to California and was refinished in a dark factory nonmetallic blue. Brian Hoyt of Perfect Reflections was consigned to stitch the interior in a similar matching blue hide with contrasting grey carpeting. This new understated yet striking combination commanded attention at the 2014 FCA National meet, earning it the Luigi Chinetti Memorial Award—how fitting is that? The original numbers-matching Colombo V12 has been professionally rebuilt along with renewed brakes and suspension.
Included in the sale is the original tool kit and extensive historical and mechanical servicing documentation, to include the aforementioned 1994 restoration photo album. Sure to gavel more than a few moneybags at the upcoming Monterey auction, chassis 1055 GT could be another record setter. What says you readers? Do you think the California Spider is open top motoring perfected? And is it better in blue?
– The 11th of 50 LWB California Spiders built; matching-numbers example, with covered headlamps
– Winner of the Emeritus Cup at the 2016 Cavallino Classic
– Ferrari Classiche certified
222.5 horsepower, 2,953-cc overhead-camshaft Colombo V-12 with triple Weber carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension via A-arms, coil springs, and telescopic shocks; rear suspension via live axle, semi-elliptical springs, and hydraulic shocks; and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 102.4 in.
Chassis no.: 1055 GT
Engine no.: 1055 GT