1959 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder

The 250 changed Ferrari’s destiny. Centered on the famous 3-liter, V12 engine, two Ferrari families were born: one destined exclusively for the track and the other for the road.

The racing line gave birth to such legendary cars as the Testa Rossa, Tour de France Berlinetta, 250 GTO and the 250 LM.

Meanwhile, stars, tycoons and amateur enthusiasts fought over the road-going line’s splendid coupes and cabriolets.

A constant characteristic of Maranello was the strong link between these two groups. Indeed, while the 250 GT cabriolet by Pininfarina is derived from the GT coupe, the California Spyder is drawn from the competition berlinettas. The Spyder used the same chassis and similar engine as the Tour de France. Being geared less toward racing, it was a little heavier than its counterpart but still lighter than the cabriolet.

There were certain models that distinguished themselves on the circuit: Ginther and Hively finished 1st in the GT category and 9th overall in the 1959 Sebring 12- hour race, and Grossman and Tavano took 5th place in the Le Mans 24-hour race the same year — at the wheel of a Spyder from the NART team.

The United States became an important market for the California. In all, 49 long-wheelbase Californias were sold, two being rebodied, one as a “Boano” coupe and the other as a Pininfarina cabriolet due to accidents. Surprisingly just six went to California.

A second series of 52 Californias, short-chassis models, was built between 1960 and 1962. An exclusive and high-performance model, the California Spyder holds a special place in the history of Ferrari, as it embodies an unrivaled fusion of qualities for road and track. Open Ferraris are particularly rare and particularly desirable, making the California the most expensive road-going Ferrari today.

Steve Ahlgrim

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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