1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider is a record-breaker for Gooding at Amelia Island

Never underestimate the power of a Ferrari.

Jerry Seinfield’s Porsches may have been the most talked about cars at Gooding’s Amelia Island (Fla.) Auction on Friday, but – as is often the case – a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider stole the show.

One of only 37 short-wheel-base covered-headlight Cal Spiders, the Ferrari sold for $17.16 million, the most ever paid for an automobile offered by Gooding at auction. It is now among the top 10 all-time highest priced cars sold at auction.

The Ferrari was a three-owner car, and its previous sales were private. This was the first time the car was offered outside Italy. Pre-auction estimates had it going between $15 million-$17 million. The Hagerty Price Guide cites an average value of $13.9M.

“It was new to the market, and this was the first time since 1985 that anyone had an opportunity to buy it, so it drew some serious bidders,” said Brian Rabold, Hagerty’s Vice President of Valuation Services. “Some cars cycle through the market several times, but people hadn’t seen this one. It was a significant car, and this was a big sale.”

According to Gooding, the Ferrari 250 GT at Gooding (chassis 2871 GT) is “among the most desirable California Spiders, as it is a short-wheel-base version featuring the highly attractive covered-headlight treatment that Scaglietti applied to just 37 examples. Originally finished in the classic color scheme of Rosso Cina (China Red) with black leather upholstery, 2871 GT was equipped with features typical of the late-production SWB models: a Tipo 168/61 engine, three Weber 40 DCL 6 carburetors, Abarth exhaust system, Veglia instruments, Miletto shock absorbers, and Borrani RW3591 wire wheels wearing Pirelli Cinturato tires.”

The car, completed on Sept. 2, 1961, was the 22nd SWB California Spider built. It was delivered new to Gianfranco Frattini, who paid Lire 5,500,000. Early in Frattini’s ownership, the car made a cameo appearance in Vittorio De Sica’s Academy Award-winning comedy Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. 

Frattini kept the car until June 1978, when he sold it to Terzo Dalia, a talented craftsman specializing in highly accurate and realistic scale models of Ferrari engines and components. Dalia held onto the Spider for seven years before selling it in December 1985.

Bidding for the 250 GT was a spirited back-and-forth showdown between three suitors until a fourth joined the fray in the final minutes. The hammer fell at $15,600,000 – $17,160,000 with buyer’s premium. “Well, that was easy,” Gooding auctioneer Charles G. Ross said as the car was rolled away.

“It’s funny to think that coming into the auction, all the talk was about the Porsches that Jerry Seinfeld was selling,” Rabold said, “but that was overshadowed by one of the most famous cars on the planet.”

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