If Sirus paid a typical 1970 price, he probably paid under $10k for the car-and his selling price in January 1988 was $375,000. But it gets even better
Initially conceived as a gran turisimo, Ferrari's 250 soon diverged into two paths, the GT coupes and cabriolets and the lightweight competition berlinettas. The berlinettas designed by Pininfarina and built in small numbers by Scaglietti were the ultimate dual-purpose cars, competitive at Le Mans but often driven to races. Nowhere were the 250 berlinettas more at home than on the Tour de France, the legendary marathon where performance, reliability and adaptability made the marque a consistent winner. Ferrari's two U.S. distributors, Luigi Chinetti and John von Neumann, recognized the market for a lightweight GT convertible and the California Spyder emerged. The first cars were open versions of the Tour de France berlinetta, with subtle detail changes introduced by the talented Scaglietti, whose experience building Ferrari competition cars made him ideal to produce a lightweight GT. This 1958 250 GT Spyder is the ninth of 50 long-wheelbase cars built. A steel-bodied, covered-headlight California, it was delivered through John von Neumann's California dealership. Its early owners are unknown, but in 1970, it entered the long-term ownership of George Sirus and was mentioned in George Carrick's definitive book The Spyder California, in 1976. It again found a long-term home in 1988 when it was sold to Michael Ferry at a Monaco auction. It was acquired by the present owner in 2002. Since then the 250 GT has had a complete cosmetic restoration by Carrosserie Binggeli in Switzerland, while the engine, electrical system and drivetrain have been overhauled by the owner's staff of experienced, full time mechanics. It is in pristine condition throughout. Liveried in its original, as-delivered, red with black leather interior, 0965GT is a complete, intact, no-stories car with correctly numbered engine, gearbox and rear axle. The ratio of its rear axle is 4.57:1 for startling acceleration. This Ferrari has been sympathetically maintained throughout its life by long-term owners who have appreciated its style, performance, and rarity.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1958 Ferrari 250 GT California LWB
Years Produced:1957-1960
Number Produced:49 (plus one prototype)
Original List Price:$12,000
SCM Valuation:$1.1m-$1.4m
Tune Up Cost:$1,500-$3,000
Distributor Caps:$450
Chassis Number Location:left frame member by steering box
Engine Number Location:right rear motor mount
Club Info:Ferrari Club of America, P.O. Box 720597, Atlanta, GA 30358
Alternatives:1956-1959 Ferrari TdF, 1960-1963 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, 1953-1955 Jaguar D-type
Investment Grade:A

This 1958 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder LWB sold for $1,252,220 at Bonhams’ Gstaad, Switzerland, sale, held on December 18, 2004.
When new, Cal Spyders were a “cheap” model, selling for about $2,000, or 17 percent less than a PF Cabriolet (which now sells for about half the price of a California). Early Californias had spartan interiors, with black crackle-painted aluminum dashes, vinyl seats and rubber floor mats. No armrests or visors were ever fitted to an LWB.
To save weight and cost, the fabric top was neither lined nor padded. It completely disappears under the rear deck, and can be raised and lowered with ease, as long as you have two people to do the job. With a rudimentary heater and windup side windows, the California provided the essentials for comfortable touring, while dispensing with unnecessary luxury touches.
With the 4.57 rear-end ratio (the lowest available), top speed was limited to 126 mph, but acceleration was awesome-the perfect setup for speed-limited U.S. roads. But the tractable, high-revving, high-torque V12 still provides a great around-town driving experience. Indeed, Bob Grossman, successful car dealer and amateur racer, drove his first California in SCCA events all over the East Coast. While he trailered his racing Alfa, he always drove his California to the track-usually driving it home again with trophies in the trunk.
Although not campaigned extensively, like the TdF berlinettas it was based on, the Cal Spyder had a significant competition career. Californias ran successfully at tracks like Lime Rock, Malboro, Bridgehampton, and Cumberland. Grossman won the SCCA championship in C production in 1959 with his LWB.
For international competition, nine aluminum-bodied LWBs were built, with cold air boxes, higher lift cams, and full belly pans. Raced at Le Mans and Sebring, they did well in the GT class. A fifth place overall at Le Mans by Grossman and Fernand Tavano in 1959 was the Cal Spyder’s best finish, but an LWB driven by Richie Ginther and Howard Hively won its class and finished ninth overall in the 1959 Sebring race. At least one alloy LWB was still being run competitively as late as 1963.
So the LWB California Spyder has great performance and ties to competition history. Aesthetically, the covered headlight version has always drawn superlatives. In the first 1959 magazine test it was described as “having the most beautiful body this side of the Riviera.”
Gerald Roush, historian, keeper of Ferrari records, and publisher of the Ferrari Market Letter, said in August 1979, “The LWB has certainly been one of the best appreciating Ferraris over the past three years.” It’s no wonder, then, that the example here has seen such a cycle of appreciation over the years, making money for several owners and culminating in the Gstaad sale, which is believed to be the highest price paid at auction in the last decade for a steel-bodied LWB California.
Nothing is known of S/N 0965’s early owners, but in 1970, this LWB Cal Spyder was bought by a George Sirus in Los Angeles, who kept it for 18 years. If Sirus paid a typical 1970 market price, he probably paid under $10k for the car-and his selling price in January 1988 was $375,000. But it gets even better.
The 250 GT California almost immediately appeared in dealer ads from Fantasy Junction in Berkeley, CA, with a firm price of $575,000. These ads stated: “Never any rust or damage, 70,000 miles, with new, metal-up red paint, excellent black leather, possibly original.” This may indicate when the color was first changed from its original grey or silver, as shown in an early photo in Carrick’s book.
S/N 0965 was then sold to a prominent California collector/vintage racer, who may have been the biggest beneficiary of the crazy, late-’80s run-up in prices. Within six months or so the car was sold at the October 1988 Orion Monte Carlo auction. The European that bought it paid $965,700.
Throughout the early ’90s, the car appeared in ads, one of which offered it for the “best offer over $2.1 million.” The next known sale was in 2002 to the Gstaad seller. If we figure that market price in 2002 was in the mid six-figures, we can assume that he came out ahead here, even factoring in the cosmetic restoration. Probably only that 1988 buyer lost money on the car-not a bad run for over three decades.
The moral of the story is that, just like in the stock market, good timing is everything, even with “blue chip” investments.
So where does that leave today’s buyer, who’s just spent $1.25 million? No one knows for sure, but based on past appreciation history and the inherent attributes of the model, it could be a reasonable investment.
The 1958 California Spyder LWB pictured here was an ideal example, documented, numbers- matching, with no stories. According to SCM’s man at the auction, Richard Hudson-Evans, it sported a high-quality restoration. And of course, it’s now eligible for every vintage retrospective event on the planet. Combine its relative rarity with this interesting blend of features, and it’s undoubtedly a great car. A great investment at the current time? I say a good investment, at least, and we’ll let time tell us the rest of the story.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)

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