1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder

In the pantheon of open Ferraris, the 250 California Spyder is head and shoulders above the rest. It has all the elements Ferraristi look for, the desirable Colombo V12, rarity, and a successful competition pedigree. The California Spyder, in contrast to the luxurious 250 cabriolets, was intended for those who wanted a fast, sparsely equipped sports car, an open counterpart to the Tour de France Berlinetta, perfect not only for spirited driving and all-out racing.

This Ferrari is the 23rd of the 49 long-wheelbase, LWB Cal Spyders built and has several distinctive features, including a dash modified to accommodate a radio, Superamerica style front fender vents and a competition cold-air box with velocity stacks on the carburetors.

Prince Alvise Hercolani bought it new in March, 1959 but sold it after only six months to the racing driver and car dealer, Wolfgang Seidel. It is believed that the hardtop, from a BMW 507, was adapted to this car during Seidel’s ownership. He sold the car in 1961 and after two more owners it was sold in 1966 to Ed Niles, a California attorney and Ferrari broker. It had been repainted once—to turquoise metallic. Niles repainted it metallic cherry red.

The car then passed through two other owners before it was acquired in 1968 by 29-year-old Jim Swartout, who paid $3,600. He owned the car for 30 years and after trying to sell it—starting in 1989—finally sold it to Jonas Liden of Sweden in 1999. Liden commissioned a full restoration in Italy. Liden had it painted in the “original metallic Turquoise found under multiple layers of paint when the body was stripped during its restoration.”

After participating in the Texas 1000 and New England 1000 rallies, the car was stripped to bare metal and refinished in a deep blue, complemented by its silver hardtop. In addition to being shown at Meadow Brook in 2005, it was at the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours in the non-judged California Spyder class.

Most recently, the owner invested $115,000 to bring the car to the Platinum award level of the Ferrari Club of America. Marque specialist and restorer Greg Jones did a complete motor and suspension rebuild. The convertible top and bows were restored, and the entire car was superbly detailed. This exhaustive work has been documented with photographs and, most importantly, was certified by Ferrari Classiche, confirming the car is precisely the way it left the factory.

Car 1307 has several other unique features. Most apparent is the switch box placed over the driveshaft tunnel aft of the shift lever. It contains the ignition switch and other controls which normally would be mounted below the dash board. These switches were moved from their usual position so the dash could be expanded to accommodate a radio. Its Weber carburetors breathe through a factory-fitted cold air box, which is a highly desirable performance option.

John Apen

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John holds degrees in engineering and operations research from the University of California-Berkeley, New York University, and Johns Hopkins. He vintage raced a Ferrari TdF for 13 years and has been restoring old cars for nearly 50 years. He owned the Atlanta Ferrari-Maserati dealership, FAF, for 17 years. He’s always had an affinity for obscure American cars, and in high school, he drove a 1936 Packard convertible coupe, followed by a 1949 Olds Holiday hardtop that got him through college. Today his garage includes 11 cars, including a Top Flight 1960 Corvette he’s owned since day one, a 1957 T-Bird, and several vintage Ferraris. His automotive library contains over 5,000 magazines and books and 1,800 auction catalogs. He has contributed to SCM since 1996.

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