While the exact origins of the 250 GT California Spyder are a little doubtful, there is no doubt that Luigi Chinetti, the American Ferrari importer, played a major role in its creation. He had certainly suggested on more than one occasion that a more sporting, performance-oriented car was needed to satisfy the American market. A car that was to be admired on the Boulevard and yet could be raced at the weekend.

The prototype 250 GT Spyder appeared in December 1957 and with its long wheelbase was very similar in mechanical specification to the then 250GT Tour de France Berlinettas. In mid-1958 the first production Spyder was completed and after a further six were built the car was officially launched in December 1958.

The Pinin Farina design was built by Scaglietti and provided an elegant two-seater sports car that over time has lost none of its eloquence. Following the initial series of cars, a revised second series was produced with an engine and chassis that were more akin to the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, of which 27 examples were built. A third series appeared towards the end of 1959 which included disc brakes for the first time and an outside plug twelve-cylinder engine developed from lessons learned with the 250 Testa Rossa.

Prior to the introduction of the short-wheel-base version in May 1960, 47 long-wheel-base California Spyders had been produced, some of which had been suitably prepared for competition use with an all-alloy bodywork. The California Spyder had some notable competition results during its short life, coming 5th overall in the 1959 Le Mans 24-Hour race, 9th overall and GT Class Winner in both the 1959 and 1960 Sebring 12-Hour races.

Chassis No. 1055 GT is a 2nd Series long-wheel base example with steel bodywork and aluminum doors, bonnet and boot lid. Until recently this car has spent its life in America with enthusiast owners, the last one carrying out a complete restoration both mechanically and cosmetically, bringing the car up to its original 1959 condition. The odometer reading of just under 5,000 miles is assumed to correspond with its usage since that restoration.

The 250 GT California Spyder has become one of the most desirable Ferraris ever made in that its sheer beauty of coachline coupled to competition performance has no equal in this period of automotive history.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1959 Ferrari California LWB

“1055 GT” was scheduled to cross the block at the 1991 Christie’s Monaco Auction, with an estimated reserve of $900,000 to $1,100,000. For reasons still unclear, the owner at the last moment withdrew the car. However, at that time, $700,000 would have been more than enough for a steel-bodied, LWB Spyder.

Current price range for steel LWBs is $425,000 – $550,000, with price dependent upon condition and ‘hot-rod’ accessories. Alloy-bodied cars bring nearly double these amounts, and are often equipped with reinforced gearboxes, high-performance camshafts and stiffer suspensions.

The pricing structure of LWB spyders compared to SWB spyders presents an anomaly in the normal collector car price order. While the factory only raced LWBs ,their prices are consistently several hundreds of thousands of dollars less than the non-raced SWBs. Ususally it is the cars with racing heritage that have the highest value.

California Spyders should be regarded as fully priced at the moment, and likely to appreciate along with the rest of the market. They are among the most desirable of the post-WWII serial production Ferraris. – ED.

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