One early owner reported mile after mile in the 135 mph-150 mph range through Canada and Nevada, during cross-country drives to California
It can be argued that the 410 Superamerica Series III was the high point of the entire line of luxury high-performance Ferraris. In his privately published book, Series III 410 America, Ferrari 410 s/n 1355SA owner Dyke Ridgley wrote, "Here was a car of such presence and power for its era, as to almost defy description." Road & Track tested a 1959 Series III, s/n 1477, owned by Bill Harrah, and achieved 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds and estimated top speed at 165 mph.
Introduced in 1955 at the Paris Auto Show, Ferrari's 410 Superamerica used the 4.9-liter, 60-degree Lampredi V12-based on the engine in the 410 Sport-which was built to contest the 1955 Carrera Panamericana road race. It was rated at 340 hp at 6,000 rpm, and it took the 410 to 60 mph in about six seconds, with a top speed of 150 mph.
The 410 Superamerica was built in three series: The first series consisted of 17 cars; the second series 6 cars. In 1958, Ferrari made major changes to the 410 engine and chassis, resulting in the Series III. The engine had a newly refined "outside plug" head and produced 400 hp, 40 more hp than the Series II. Twelve Series III Ferraris were built, and all are extant. Pininfarina was responsible for all the bodies, which were similar, save details and headlight treatment; seven of the S III cars had covered headlights, and of the last six, all but one had open headlights.
Ferrari 410 Superamerica chassis 1323SA was the sixth of the twelve S III 410s, a covered-headlight model completed on July 8, 1959. The original color was Ruby Red, with a gray leather interior. It was delivered to the Gill brothers in New York, who used the car "very little" in their four years of ownership, then sold it to Henry Desormeau, also of New York, who owned it for twelve years. By 1979, it was owned by Ridgley's friend, Ferrari collector and historian Hilary Raab, who sold it in 1989 to Luigi Chinetti Jr. The current owner bought it in 2002. He commenced a complete restoration, which was completed in 2007. Today, this absolutely stunning 410 SA Superamerica is virtually identical to its delivered condition, except a tan interior has replaced the original gray.
Author Ridgley put the Superamerica Series III SWB into historical perspective: "If Enzo Ferrari is also considered to have built such a car [as Bugatti's Royale], the title of the "Royale" must go to the Series III version of the 410 SA Superamerica."
|Vehicle:||1959 Ferrari 410 Superamerica Series III SWB|
|Number Produced:||Series III, 12; All 410s, 35|
|Original List Price:||$16,800|
|SCM Valuation:||400SA $600,000 to $1.2m|
|Tune Up Cost:||$3,500|
|Distributor Caps:||$450 (two required)|
|Chassis Number Location:||Data plate, right inner fender panel|
|Engine Number Location:||Top of chain case between cam chain covers|
|Club Info:||Ferrari Club of America PO Box 720597 Atlanta, GA 30358|
At its inaugural Auburn, Indiana, sale, held on August 30, 2008, the Worldwide Group sold this 1959 Ferrari 410 Superamerica Series III SWB for $2,530,000, almost double the high estimate.
Why are these cars worth so much? Visually, they aren’t that much different from the more “mundane” 250 GTs. In fact, one 250 Speciale PF coupe, s/n 0465, is almost identical to the S II design. The styling, while pleasing, wouldn’t appear on many collectors’ lists of great Pininfarina designs. Ridgley opined that the best view was the rear three-quarter view. With the earlier Series I or Series II cars, there were some interesting variations in body design, but the twelve Series III cars are all almost identical, the biggest variation being the open or closed headlight treatment.
But their performance and price put them into a world all their own. A 250 GT coupe sold for about $12,500 in the U.S. in 1956, when a Corvette started at $3,159. The Superamerica listed for a stratospheric $16,800-about $165,000 at today’s prices.
410s built to a higher level
These S III 410s received changes to the engine, transmission, brakes, and body design. Spark plugs moved from inside the V to the outside, adopting the setup used in the Testa Rossa. The 46 DCF 3 carbs were the largest ever on a touring Ferrari, and the 410 engines had billet connecting rods, polished to a mirror finish. Only the GP cars, the 250 TRs, and 250 GTOs also had billet rods. The outside plug heads and larger carbs produced a true 400 hp. Ridgley has seen at least three factory dyno sheets showing peak horsepower of 394 hp to 408 hp.
And the weight was not bad for so much luxury; Ridgley weighed s/n 1387 with fluids and tool kit on certified grain scales (only in Illinois would you take your Ferrari to a farmer’s co-op for a weigh-in), and confirmed a weight of 3,210 lb, yielding a weight to hp ratio of 8:1. And to tame all this horsepower, brake drums with 15.7″ diameters came straight from the latest Ferrari sports racing cars. They were the largest drums ever used on a touring Ferrari.
So performance was stunning, as Ridgley said recently: “When you put your foot down, you hope the road goes where the car is going, 135 mph in 3rd gear!” These Series III Superamericas are ideally suited to the open interstates or American 1,000-mile vintage events. One early owner, Bruce De Palma, an MIT physics professor, reported cruising for mile after mile in the 135 mph-150 mph range through Canada and Nevada, during cross-country drives to California in #1387.
So as SCM’s vintage racer specialist Thor Thorson said last month, “What was valuable and/or special then is valuable and/or special now.” These 410s were and are still valuable and special. The question is how valuable, how special? Most price guides put them somewhere in the $1 million to $1.3 million range. Up until two years ago, auction high sales were in the high $600,000 range. Then in August 2007, Gooding sold an ex-Greg Garrison SA-one of two 410s bodied by Scaglietti-for $1,320,000.
Gooding repeated the feat this year, again breaking the magic million-dollar mark at its January Scottsdale venue with a 400 SA Aerodynamico, a beautiful car for which they also got $1,320,000. The same car in pretty much the same condition had sold at Bonhams Gstaad in December 2005 for $560,921. RM this year upped the ante, selling a 99.5-point Pebble Beach 400 SA coupe, s/n 2841, for $1,650,000 (pictured in November SCM on p. 40).
Only one of the four 410 sports racing cars has ever been sold at auction: At RM’s 2001 Monterey event, 0596 CM was the high sale of the auction at a record $3,822,500.
Over $2.5 million for this car doubled the record for a touring SA. What can we say about current Ferrari record high prices and future values? We know that prices are setting new highs at almost every auction, but how much higher can the market go? Some say we are at the top, but you could have said that about Ferrari prices at almost any time in the last three years. During that time, prices of desirable GTs, such as 275s, have doubled, while prices of 410s have quadrupled.
Everyone is speculating when the current credit crisis is going to hit Ferrari prices. But as in the stock market, we don’t know where the top is (or the bottom, for that matter), and unfortunately, there are few hedging strategies for collectibles. So when viewed in terms of the current market, I would have to call this 410 Superamerica very well sold indeed.