Unknown Italian off-road runt scores historic $196,000 auction price

The auctions during Monterey Car Week are known for producing a few jaw-dropping prices as a few lesser deities in the collector car universe suddenly get bid to stratospheric numbers. People still talk about that first VW Bus that went for over $100,000 a few years ago. Well, thanks to two bidders at the RM Sotheby’s auction who may have stayed out a bit too late the night before, 2019 has officially become the Year of the Ferves.

The year of the what? Indeed, don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of this tiny Italian mud-puppy. The Ferves Ranger (say “fur-vis”) was the John Deere Gator of its place and day, which was Italy in 1965 to 1970, during which approximately 600 of these little four-seat cupcakes were built based on the chassis and running gear of the contemporary Fiat 500. (It takes its name from FERrari VEicolli Speciali—best to think of it as an Italian version of the VW Thing.) It’s thought that just 50 examples survive, and one crossed the block in a London RM Sotheby’s auction in 2015 for the healthy pound-to-dollar equivalent of about $34,000.

So, RM’s auctioneers were justified in putting a $30,000-$40,000 estimate on this cute but fairly useless vintage bog buggy, what with its 499-cc engine and lack of anything remotely resembling upholstery or safety equipment. The yellow example for sale this year wasn’t even one of the Ferves models equipped with four-wheel-drive.

1967 Ferves Ranger
Aaron Robinson

Well, you can just imagine the stunned looks on the faces of the crowd when two bidders, one in the room and one on the phone, bid the Ferves Ranger up to ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY-SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS including the buyer’s premium.

Cars that sold for less than the Ferves in the same room on the same night: a 1969 Shelby GT350 for $98,000; a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette split-window Stingray for $131,600; a 1972 BMW 3.0CSL “Batmobile” also for $131,600; and a 1956 Porsche 356A 1600 Super for $126,000. Thus, instead of all those cars and many, many more that we don’t have the space to enumerate, the buyer of the Ferves opted for 18 horsepower in a car shaped like a baby carriage and sized like a Walmart shopping cart. As for the losing bidder, no doubt he or she awoke the next morning to 49 frantic text messages from the world’s other Ferves owners offering to sell their cars for a mere $170,000 or $180,000.

Which is why people come back to Monterey car week year after year; the wonders here never cease to amaze.

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