Another Record Falls

A Little Perspective

RM Record 275 NART Spyder Profile

Undoubtedly among the most beautiful automotive designs of all time, and with only ten examples built, perhaps the rarest of series-production road Ferraris. But is the North Carolina Smiths’ 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB*S NART Spider a $25 million car? If it is, why?

New Record Auction Prices

You may have read about it. “Ferrari NART Spider Sets Auction Record.” The hammer price of this powerful (by contemporary standards), fast, gorgeous and capable V12 Ferrari, with single-owner history and impeccable quality restoration, was $25 million. The family’s generous gesture of offering the proceeds to charity no doubt contributed to the willingness of bidders to extend themselves to obtain the car.

NART Spider Right Front

Contributing to the NART (North American Racing Team) Spider’s cachet is its association with The Thomas Crown Affair and Faye Dunaway, and thus with Steve McQueen, who spies her at a polo match driving a red NART Spider. That car was later repainted yellow and placed second in the 1968 12 Hours of Sebring, driven by Denise McCluggage, who, contrary to the RM video’s praise for the car’s handling, said it “plowed like a John Deere.”

NART Spider Right Rear

Okay, but what record did it set? Yes, that’s a lot of money, but recent reports have a Ferrari GTO selling for $41 million, and an historic Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix car selling at auction for £17.82 million – a hammer price of $27 million.

Parsing the nuances here, the GTO was a private sale, and both it and the Mercedes are race cars. The press releases are careful to qualify the statement as the highest price for a road car at auction.

Sensationalism and Sense

Those fine distinctions are amusing, and at the Gooding & Co. auction at Pebble Beach last weeekend, among the distractions was watching the conscientious David Gooding dancing along the fine distinctions of record-setting.

One particular Ferrari, the 1957 GT250 “14-Louver Berlinetta” (named for the tapering series of vents where quarter windows are on some cars) brought a final bid of $8.6 million, $0.4 million below the low estimate. I do not know whether there are other 14-louver berlinettas out there, but David Gooding said it was a record. Maybe it’s competing against all 250GTs.

14-Louver Ferrari at Gooding & Co., Monterey 20131957 Ferrari 250GT “14-Louver Berlinetta.” Saturday night it crossed the ramp at the Gooding & Co. Monterey Auction at Pebble Beach for a hammer price of $8.6 Million. David Gooding declared the sale a “new record” but did not specify the category in which it competed.

It’s difficult to fault Mr. Gooding for not anticipating its sudden popularity (I never took a photograph until the bid frenzy took off) when the 1959 Fiat Jolly, Lot Number 65 and among the last cars to cross the stage on Saturday, began to climb past its high estimate of $95,000. Would anyone have thought to inquire in advance what is the auction record for Fiat Jollys?

GoodingJolly01SX50Crop01

1959 Fiat Jolly crossing the stage at Gooding & Co., Pebble Beach, 2013 as bids rose in a frenzy to a hammer price of $135,000. Does anyone keep track of Fiat Jolly prices? Does anyone care?

I can’t imagine this toy of a car, used mainly to jitney guests around resorts and estates, had ever shared the rarified air it was sniffing, surpassing the high bid for the car that had my friend and photographer Ephraim in a quandry over whether to register and bid on it – a beautiful, correct, nut-and-bolt restoration of the V8-powered 1973 Alfa Romeo Montreal.

Gooding Alfa Montreal

1973 Alfa Romeo Montreal. In what universe is a 54-year-old 600 cc beach jitney worth $135,000, while a beautiful, fast 2,600 cc V8-powered Alfa Romeo Coupe draws a final bid (respectable as it is) of $90,000?

The car certainly lived up to its given name, Jolly de Plage or “Joke of the Beach.” Anyway its final bid did. At $135,000 (plus commission) the Gooding Jolly came within $25,000 of equaling the hammer price on a Ferrari, for Pete’s sake! Surely that must have been a record!

CARMA is a publication of The OM Dude Press
a service of Options in Mobility

Author, Editor, Publisher, Reporter, Historian, Archivist:
Dick Stewart.

All photographs are by the Author unless otherwise indicated.

Click on the images to view more detail. If the cursor is a plus sign in a circle, clicking again will yield full resolution.

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About carmacarcounselor

I'm one of those people that friends call "that car guy," except I've made it into a profession. Since 1988 when a friend found my help in choosing, finding, and negotiating for a new car was worth a fee, I've helped countless people, listening to their car questions and challenges, and helping with their car purchases, insulating them from the adversarial process that is the new car retail model today. Their word of mouth is my only publicity. My newsletter CARMA won the description "The clear crystal ring of truth" from award-winning automotive journalist Denise McCluggage. Now I'm going global!
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