1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder
Mathieu Heurtault, courtesy of Gooding & Company

In late 1957, just as production of Pininfarina’s Series I cabriolet was getting under way, Ferrari was in the process of developing a new open 250 GT variant for the booming North American market. Ferrari’s leading United States dealers, Luigi Chinetti and John von Neumann, impressed upon the factory the need for a simple, dual-purpose 250 GT spider — a car that could be used to commute during the week and then raced with success on the weekend.

Faithful to its original concept, the LWB California Spyder was often put to use as a GT racing car. California Spyders achieved a remarkable degree of success in racing, including a 5th-place finish at Le Mans, a class win at Sebring, and many victories in SCCA B-production events.

Between 1957 and 1963, Ferrari built just 106 250 GT California Spyders — 50 of the early LWB version and 56 of the final SWB variant.

Chassis 2871GT is among the most desirable California Spyders; it is an SWB version featuring the highly attractive covered-headlight treatment that Scaglietti applied to just 37 examples.

Gianfranco Frattini, a designer whose works can be seen at the Museum of Modern Art and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, paid 5,500,000 lire ($8,800) for his new Ferrari in 1961.

Early on in Frattini’s ownership, 2871GT made a cameo appearance in Vittorio De Sica’s Academy Award-winning feature film “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” The 1963 comedy starred Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren. Loren plays the wife of a wealthy industrialist. She crashes her husband’s Rolls-Royce while driving with her lover Renzo (Mastroianni) and then hitches a ride with the driver of the California Spyder, abandoning the Rolls and Renzo on the side of the road.

Since 1985, 2871GT has been a part of his prominent Italy-based stable of important cars. It has not been publicly exhibited since its appearance at Ferrari Days in Modena more than three decades ago.

Steve Ahlgrim

SCM Contributing Editor

Steve taught high school auto shop before moving to Atlanta, GA, where his love of sports cars led him to FAF Motorcars, the former Ferrari dealer where he served as General Manager and Vice President. He has been a self-proclaimed “one-trick pony,” coveting the Ferrari marque. He has been involved in concours judging for over 25 years and is a member of the IAC/PFA, an international committee overseeing high-level Ferrari concours judging. He is chief judge of the Celebration Exotic Car Show in Celebration, FL.

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