1959 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder LWB

It lacks reasonable weatherproofing, rusts easily, and has a chassis that is way too flexible, but the California Spyder proves that people will always buy beauty and performance over practicality



Convincing Enzo Ferrari to produce an open version of the highly successful competition 250 GT Berlinetta was an effort credited to the famous American Ferrari importer and driver Luigi Chinetti. The resultant “Spyder California,” with mechanical specification very similar to the 250 GT Tour de France, was clearly aimed at the American market. The incredible Pininfarina design was built by Scaglietti, and provided an elegant two-seater sports car that has to this day lost none of its appeal.
California chassis number 1217 was first purchased by Swiss racing great Jo Siffert. Under Mr. Siffert’s ownership the original drum brake configuration was converted to a more effective and desirable disc brake setup. Changing ownership through Rob de la Rive Box of Switzerland, the car then came to the United States under the ownership of Mr. Richard Merritt, the well-respected Ferrari collector and historian. At the time S/N 1217 was fitted with engine number 2057, from a 250 GTE.
A subsequent owner was able to locate the original engine and reunite it with S/N 1217. The car remained in that owner’s collection until 1987, when it returned to Europe. Six years later, prominent California collector John Mozart acquired S/N 1217. It remained with him for a year before it was purchased by its current owner, also a noted California collector. Under his ownership the California Spyder LWB underwent an extensive engine restoration by Phil Reilly & Company, including new pistons,
bearings, valves, etc. Additional concerns were addressed as well, such as installing a new canvas top, fitting the correct steering wheel and fine-
tuning the suspension. Receipts acknowledging this work amount to over $46,000 and accompany the car.
S/N 1217 is certainly one of the best long-wheelbase California Spyders extant, owing to its overall originality, superb mechanical and cosmetic condition, and a well-documented history of ownership. Ferrari historian Antoine Prunet has summed up the model thusly: “Its limited production has not stopped the 250 GT Spyder California from being among the most desirable Ferraris ever produced.”

Steve Ahlgrim

Steve Ahlgrim - SCM Contributing Editor - %%page%%

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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