|1963 Ferrari 250 GTL Lusso
|Original List Price:
|Tune Up Cost:
|2 @ $400 each
|Chassis Number Location:
|Front frame tube
|Engine Number Location:
|Engine rear mount
|Ferrari Club of America, Box 720597 Atlanta, GA 30358
|B without McQueen, A with
This 1963 Ferrari 250 GTL Lusso Berlinetta sold for $2,310,000 at Christie’s August 2007 Monterey auction, certainly a world record for a Lusso and over five times the $400,000 that an excellent Lusso without celebrity provenance would otherwise bring. The McQueen legacy seems to produce prices about five times normal based on sales of his stuff at the Bonhams Petersen Museum auction last November. And the Lusso sold in that range.
So what does this outstanding result say about Lusso values? Absolutely nothing. On inspection, I found little to fault-it was beautifully done. It wasn’t a winner at its one Pebble Beach appearance, but good enough to garner Platinum status-95 points-plus-at Ferrari concours.
Collectors own objects for the value they provide. Collector car value resides in the associations with technical or aesthetic superiority during the period. Celebrity ownership causes cars to be valued highly, because of the value associated with famous people.
Value based on proven connection
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s BMW 325i sold for $79,500 in 1995. Like most everything else at her estate auction, it was considerably more than Sotheby’s estimates of $18,000-$22,000 before the sale.
“As long as she left those cigarette butts in the ashtray and the horse show programs in the trunk,” said Dave Brownell, then editor of Hemmings Motor News, “That’s what they were buying. They weren’t buying a car.” But after the comprehensive restoration this Lusso received, there were certainly no cigarette butts left, or anything McQueen had ever touched. So the associative value here is based on the excellent documentation that Christie’s and Regalia provided of McQueen’s attachment to the 1963 250 GTL Lusso.
Christie’s and the owner’s excellent promotion brought together serious car collectors and the most fervent of nostalgia buff to achieve this outstanding result. Are there any rules that determine why one celebrity’s artifacts bring high premiums? The question of how much celebrity provenance adds to a car is complex. In a recent article on such provenance, Publisher Martin concluded that investing in celebrity ownership has its pitfalls and that verifiable historic competition achievement is the safer bet.
As far as increased dollars for celebrity ownership, the congruence of the celebrity inherent in the 250 GTL Lusso and the nature of McQueen’s own celebrity might have importance. The Lusso is itself a celebrity; the mystique of Ferrari, some would say, is the ultimate automotive symbol of car coolness. And McQueen was the quintessentially cool car guy.
Ferraris for McQueen were what Nike basketball sneakers are to Michael Jordan. A Michael Jordan iPod would not garner as much celebrity value, since it’s hard to visualize Jordan using one during a game, whereas McQueen’s “car guy coolness” was built on his reputation for doing many of his own stunts, including those in “Bullitt” in 1968, and his ownership of many great fast cars. It’s easy to visualize McQueen driving the Lusso up Highway 1 at unwarranted speeds. So the new owner can make the ultimate nostalgia trip.
Another important addition of value, whether in the art world or in celebrity artifacts, is rarity and the sanctity of the artist’s/owner’s image. So artifacts of deceased celebrities should be worth more, since there is a finite number of items. Elvis or Rembrandt aren’t going to buy/produce more cars or masterpieces. Of course, celebrity reputation is also a factor-Michael Vick artifacts took a precipitous drop recently. Deceased celebrities’ stuff should be a safer buy, as it’s hard to imagine a corpse being booked for a DUI, steroid use, or shoplifting.
Celebrity can be fleeting
Another consideration, as Martin pointed out in his article, is that celebrity can be fleeting. And the recent explosion of multimedia content on the Internet has led to an increase in the number of celebrities. Reality TV and YouTube produce short-lived celebrities fulfilling Warhol’s prediction: “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” Recently, a study by psychologists shows that nearly one third of Americans display signs of “celebrity obsession.” Americans not only have more celebrities from which to choose, but they appear to care more about them. A recognized celebrity like McQueen, who died in 1980, is a safer bet than, say, Paris Hilton.
McQueen’s 1963 Lusso Berlinetta has many favorable attributes, so maybe the five-times sale price factor is justified. After all, Elton John’s 20 cars at Christie’s 2001 London auction all sold above Christie’s generously high estimates; some reached close to three times the estimate. And Elton is still buying cars. As he said later, “There’s obviously a lot of money to be made from second-hand cars!” And as the Christie’s sale showed, there is even more money to be made from collector cars belonging to departed celebrities, especially if they are “car guys.”
In the end, the sale of this car says more about McQueen than it does about Ferrari.
Studio Photos Copyright Mike Regalia / Regalia Concours Restorations
HISTORICAL PHOTOS COURTESY OF WILLIAM CLAXTON / DEMONT PHOTO MANAGEMENT, LLC