Courtesy of Bonhams

In July 1966, the Ferrari factory received an order from SAVAF for a 275 GTB Competizione, later specified to be chassis 09079. Late in the specialty model’s limited run, the car was the penultimate example of the thinly aluminum-skinned competition GTB, making it the second-to-last GT car ever produced by Maranello’s factory competition department.

Factory records indicate the Tipo 213 competition engine was completed on September 8, 1966, with dynamometer testing occurring a day later. Trimmed with a light gray headliner, blue cloth seat upholstery with matching leather paneling, and complementary blue carpets, the rare GTB/C was finished in Rosso Chiaro paint, paving the way for the famous white-striped Scuderia Filipinetti livery. The car also featured right-hand-drive steering, in the tradition of Maranello’s great racing sports cars.

At Le Mans in June 1967, three cars wore the Scuderia Filipinetti livery: Muller’s 412 P, a GT40, and Spoerry and Steinemann in number 28, the brand-new 275 GTB Competizione chassis 09079. Competing mainly against Porsche 911s and Corvettes in the GT Class, the 275 GTB/C was a very well-sorted model, featuring Ferrari’s typical evolution of refinements and improvements during a two-year production period.

With the car’s minor bugs long since ironed out, 09079 promised to be reliable if not burningly fast. Over the course of the 24-hour endurance race, in fact, the car proved to be far more consistent than the litany of prototypes that retired early.

With a strategy of steady, unwavering progress, Spoerry and Steinemann patiently pushed the GTB/C up through the ranks, passing some cars while watching numerous others drop out of the race. By Sunday morning, they had entered the top 10, with a commanding lead over the other GT cars. After some minor brake problems forced a brief pit stop, the 275 settled into 11th place overall, a position it would hold until the checkered flag waved after the 24th hour.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Competizione
Years Produced:1966
Number Produced:12
Original List Price:$5m–$7.5m
Chassis Number Location:Left front suspension mount
Engine Number Location:Right rear of engine block
Club Info:Ferrari Owners Club
Alternatives:1964–65 Ferrari 250 LM, 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, 1964–69 Ford GT40

This car, Lot 128, sold for $9,405,000, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Scottsdale, AZ, auction on January 15, 2015.

We’re going to talk about a very expensive Ferrari, but today’s profile also will concern itself with standard candles, the importance of true competition history in valuing collectible cars, and pixie dust.

Sound interesting?

Ferrari’s standard candle

Let’s start with the idea of a “standard candle.” In astronomy, a basic problem is figuring out the distance of stars from Earth — when they are just points of light in an immense black void.

This was resolved by the discovery of a type of star called a Cepheid variable that has a standard brightness and can be identified by the way its light fluctuates. As these stars are all the same brightness to start with, determining their distance from Earth is simply a matter of seeing how bright they appear to us. The dimmer they are, the further away they are. So, find one in a galaxy and calculate back.

Ferrari’s production during the classic years was a large variety of cars built in very small numbers for any given example, so trying to keep track of the overall market is easier if there is a representative single model to watch.

I like to think of the Ferrari 275 GTB as the standard candle of the Ferrari market. They are beautiful, highly desirable, wonderful drivers that every serious collector either has or wants to have. Ferrari built enough of them (almost 800 in the various configurations) that there are always enough changing hands publicly, and thus reliable information on the price is available. 275 GTBs are also close enough to the middle of the market (neither a GTO nor a GTE) that you can track the center rather than the extremes.

This is not to suggest that $9.4 million for our subject car isn’t an extreme, but we can talk about that next.

Race variations are the best

For a car with a common designation and basic architecture, 275 GTBs came in an amazing variety of configurations: 2-cam vs. 4-cam, short nose vs. long nose, open driveshaft vs. torque-tube, steel vs. alloy body, three-carb vs. six-carb — each of which could be and occasionally was matched with any of the others.

On top of all of these were the factory competition cars. Racing is the core of the Ferrari mystique. From the very beginning — and as long as Enzo was in charge — the road cars only existed to pay the bills for his racing passion. To this day that hierarchy is maintained: Racing history — and particularly history in cars built specifically for racing — at least doubles the value of a given car.

Some of the most desirable variables of a model almost always are part and parcel of the racing heritage — for example, competition models are almost always alloy bodied — while others are not what you would expect.

Everybody lusts after the glory of six downdraft Webers sitting atop the engine and expects to see them, but competition 275s all used three carburetors. The story behind this has to do with some hapless clerk at Ferrari who forgot to include a six-carb option when they filled out the required FIA Homologation papers for racing certification, thus dooming all true competition 275 GTBs to using the three-carb setup. It’s all part of the legend, and racing heritage trumps sexiness — the six-carb setup on the 275 was for street posers.

Pixie dust and big bucks

It’s time to talk about pixie dust. Originality and correctness — the idea that all or as many as possible of the important components of a car should be the exact ones that were on it when it left the factory and/or achieved its greatness — is important to all collectors, but with Ferrari it reaches the level of obsession.

This is partially because Ferrari was so conservative in its design and careful in manufacture that parts seldom broke seriously, and racing cars normally survived their careers with original parts (as opposed to, for example, a Corvette, where making it past the second race on the original engine meant you weren’t trying).

The Ferrari factory has formalized this obsession with originality into what is formally called “Classiche Certification” and is frequently referred to as “pixie dust” because the formal factory blessing bestows an almost magical aura to any Ferrari that receives it. Any stories that may have existed regarding a car’s history are wiped away, leaving a certified and perfect car for the market to fight over.

In the beginning, certification was an extremely demanding process — every serious Ferrari collector has tales to tell about having a superb car rebuffed on a technicality — but lately Ferrari has become more adaptable.

Our subject car is an excellent example. Buried in the catalog notes was the line: “After incurring body damage in a fire in Wallace’s garage, chassis no. 09079 was offered by European Auto Sales.” This line acknowledges there was a problem but minimizes it.

Courtesy of Mike Sheehan (who bought it burned) I have a photograph of the car in 1984 sitting on a trailer showing the body damage. The car was all but utterly destroyed. The frame, engine, transaxle and a few suspension parts were all that could be saved.

The car made its way to Italy, where it was superbly restored, but aside from the components mentioned, everything is new. Should this affect the car’s collector desirability and value? It has been sprinkled with factory pixie dust, so apparently not.

Rare, valuable objects of intense desire

Let’s close with a quick discussion of valuing racing Ferraris.

As the most desirable subgroup of the world’s most sought-after marque, racing Ferraris from 1957 through 1966 have seen explosive gains in market value over the past years. The reason is simple: There aren’t very many in the first place, and even fewer are available for purchase.

If you want one, you are simply going to have to outbid the other billionaires who want it too. The amounts are stupendous, but it is not the same money as you or I use to buy groceries, and it can’t be thought of that way. Simply put, this is Monopoly money spent by people for whom cash has an entirely different value than the rest of us.

The 275 GTB/C is a superbly collectible racing Ferrari with excellent history and the advantage of being easy to use and a joy to drive on the street or track, which is a unique combination in this category. The buyer wanted it badly enough to outbid the others, and who am I to pass judgment on that decision? I will say fairly bought in a very hot market environment. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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