The Collector’s Minute: 1967 Ferrari 275GTB/4*S NART Spyder

This 1967 Ferrari 275GTB/4*S NART Spyder sold for $27.5 million at an auction facilitated by RM Auctions on Aug. 19, 2013.

It seems the dream cars of my childhood, the late 1950s to ’60s Ferrari, are always out of reach, with ever-increasing values. I have, alas, come to the realization that one will never be parked in my driveway. One of my favorites—a 1967 Ferrari 275GTB/4*S NART Spyder—was not only famous as a race car, but as a movie star as well.

Steve McQueen owned one and drove one in the 1968 movie “The Thomas Crown Affair.” McQueen’s co-star, Faye Dunaway, was less enamored of the car, describing it at the time as “one of those red Italian things.”

Originally, it sold for about $15,000. One surviving model recently sold at RM Auctions for $27.5 million. This is the highest amount ever paid for a Ferrari and the most for any automobile sold in a public sale in the United States to date. The price is, in fact, the second-highest for any car at a public sale; the highest being $29.7 million for the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 driven by Juan Manuel Fangio in two Grand Prix victories, which was sold by Bonhams in Goodwood, U.K., on July 12 of this year.*

If one can afford one, owning a Ferrari is probably one of the best-performing assets there is, making the profit from stocks and bonds look anemic. According to the Historic Automobile Group International, its index of collectible Ferraris shows an increase of 34 percent so far this year. This particular Ferrari drove well past its estimates of $14-17 million, submitted for sale by the estate of its original owner, the late Eddie Smith, Sr., a North Carolina businessman. What makes this car so special is that it was one of only 10 built for the North American Racing Team (NART).

NART was founded 1958 by Luigi Chinetti to encourage Americans to buy Ferraris, and the success of this team is said to be responsible for the company’s survival, as the quantity of Ferraris sold in North America kept the company afloat. NART was very successful in endurance racing at Sebring and at Le Mans, well into the 1970s. The car’s new owner is rumored to be Lawrence Stroll of the clothing brand Tommy Hilfiger and a well-known motor racing fan, who, I’m sure does not refer to it as “one of those red Italian things.”

* The record price for any car currently stands at $35 million, paid for a 1962 Ferrari GTO 250 racer in a private transaction in June of 2012. The car was made for made for the world-famous British race car driver Stirling Moss.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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