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1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder sets world auction record price - US$11 million

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May 22, 2008

The Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder runs a 280bhp, 2,953cc, single overhead camshaft ...

The Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder runs a 280bhp, 2,953cc, single overhead camshaft V-12 engine with three Weber 40 DCL 6 carburettors, driving through a four-speed gearbox.Image: RM Auctions

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May 23, 2008 It is perhaps appropriate that just a few days after Ferrari released details of its delectable new California model, that a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder should set a world record auction price of EUR 7,040,000 (US$11,070,000). No doubt buoyed by its celebrity provenance (it was formerly owned for 25 years by Academy Award winning actor James Coburn), the rare Nero Black covered headlamp Spyder caused a frenzy of bidding on the auction block before being purchased by UK Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans.

The record-setting model is an evolution of the 250 GT Tour de France, one of the best-loved 12-cylinders ever built: it has a total displacement of 2953 cc, punches out 280 hp and features 3 carburettors. It was styled by Pininfarina, who also designed the latest addition to the Ferrari range.

The new Ferrari California, which will be officially unveiled at the Paris Show, is a 4,300 cc 8-cylinder modelCompleted on March 3, 1961, 2377GT (the record setting Spyder) was shipped to the US in the 1960s after being purchased by James Coburn, who shared a passion for Italian sports cars with close friend and fellow Ferrari enthusiast, Steve McQueen. Over the course of his 25-year ownership, Coburn was a regular sight in his Spyder, driving it daily to and from the movie studios.

James Coburn in the auction car. Coburn introduced his friend Steve McQueen to the joys of...
James Coburn in the auction car. Coburn introduced his friend Steve McQueen to the joys of Ferrari automobiles.Image: RM Auctions

On weekends, Coburn, McQueen and James Garner could often be found testing their driving abilities through the winding Hollywood hills. Throughout Coburn’s ownership, he repainted the vehicle three times, first in dark blue, followed by silver and finally burgundy. The car appeared on the auction block in its original Nero black and was sold complete with extensive documentation relating to its restoration and maintenance.

Sold by RM Auctions, in association with Sotheby’s, at the annual “Ferrari Leggenda e Passione” event, at the legendary home of the Prancing Horse, it was one of many fine Ferrari specimens to change hands at the event, including a grand prix winning 1964 Ferrari 250 LM; an ultra-desirable 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder; a rare 1971 Ferrari 512M; and a fabulously restored 1951 Ferrari 212 Inter Coupe Pinin Farina (s/n 0265EU). Fitted with a prototype 3.0-litre 250 type V12 engine, this unique example was purchased new by renowned film director Roberto Rossellini and used on a road trip to Sweden by him and his wife, three-time Academy Award winning actress, Ingrid Bergman.

No doubt buoyed by its celebrity provenance (it was formerly owned for 25 years by Academy...

Among the attendees was well known Ferrari enthusiast, UK-based Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans. Chris, accompanied by his wife, golf pro and writer Natasha Shishmanian, attended the Gala reception on Saturday May 18 where he fell for the considerable charms of the Ferrari 250 GT. The following day, Chris made a successful bid of EUR 7,040,000 for his dream machine, which will now take pride of place in his own celebrated collection.

Event festivities kicked off at the Pista di Fiorano race track with a preview on Friday, followed by track demonstrations on Saturday and a glittering cocktail reception in the evening for over 700 VIP guests. Come Sunday, it was standing-room only on the auction floor, as professional collectors and Ferrari enthusiasts from around the world gathered to vie for their very own piece of Ferrari history.

The 250 LM, one of the most exciting sports racing cars ever built, sold at EUR 4.5 million, with the 275 GTB/4 selling for EUR 1.3 million, and a 250 GT/L Berlinetta fetching EUR 759,000.

The 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder went for EUR 2,365,000; the 1971 Ferrari 512M sports racing car brought EUR 2,090,000; and a rare 1962 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso "Comp" fell for EUR 1,100,000. Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the Ferrari Daytona, an award-winning 1971 Ferrari GTS/4 Daytona Spyder crossed the block for EUR 962,500.

In addition to the vintage motor cars, the single-day event also shone a spotlight on some of Ferrari’s more recent offerings, including a magnificent pair of Ferrari Enzos from the 2003 and 2004 production years, which sold for EUR 770,000 and EUR 852,500 respectively.

Another star of the auction was one of the 612 Scagliettis, fresh from the Magic India Discovery tour just a few weeks ago, which sold for EUR 220,000. The proceeds from the latter car will be donated to the Pune Centre for Learning Resources, an Indian foundation that provides schooling for children in disadvantaged areas.

The Maranello event also marked the auction debut for one of the world’s most important Ferrari memorabilia collections – Jacques Swaters’ famed Garage Francorchamps Collection. The top seller of the collection was the one-of-a-kind 1980 Ferrari Pinin four-door prototype, which brought €176,000 and many other items were sold for exceptional prices, several of which had been personally signed by Jacques Swaters himself who was sitting in the front row throughout the auction.

Ferrari memorabilia also proved irresistible to bidders: a F1 Pit race control assembly from the 2004 Formula 1 World Championship went under the hammer for just under Euro 50,000 while a complete series of 1949 to 2007 Ferrari annuals sold for over EUR 55,000. Kimi Räikkönen's race overall, which was also autographed, fetched over EUR 11,000.

RM Auctions will return to Europe in October for the annual Automobiles of London auction event in Battersea Park. Held in the heart of London, the sale will headlined by a Bugatti Type 57C Atalante.

RM Auctions has been in the collector car industry for 30 years and its associated companies are responsible for the acquisition, restoration and sale of many of the world’s rarest and most valuable vintage automobiles. In 2006, RM’s restoration division achieved what can best be described as a “Grand Slam” of the restoration industry, earning “Best of Show” honours at the world’s top three collector car events in a single year.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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