The Shah of Iran was so impressed with his 500 Superfast that he bought a second one.
{vsig}2004-6_1225{/vsig} The high-performance, luxury gran tursimo was a new automotive idiom in the prosperous years following World War II. Powerful, limited-production GT's supplanted the great cars from Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, and the grandes routieres of France, which had ruled European highways in the 1930s. GTs became the cars of choice for royalty, celebrities and successful industrialists. Combining powerful engines and competent chassis, they were equipped to the highest standards and trimmed with the finest materials. Ferrari's gran tursimo was the Superamerica, which later gave way to the 500 Superfast. Featuring Pininfarina coachwork, the Superfast was equally impressive in style, speed and grace. Thin, almost delicate pillars set off a large and airy cockpit, while the steeply raked backlight blended smoothly into the gently sloping rear deck. A subtly truncated tail balances the traditional oval Ferrari air intake. Fine leather and wood trim coddle the driver, whose space is perfectly arranged for comfort and high-speed motoring. The 500 Superfast offered here is one of 12 second-series examples built. Fitted with many of the available options, this example has circular Carello lights, air conditioning, power windows, radio, and three-panel side vents. Its powerful engine and Marelli transistorized electrical system handle the powered options quite well. The car was originally ordered by Joseph Bettendorf of Miami, FL. Originally delivered in Azzurro Italver (silver-blue) with beige interior, S/N 8739 was repainted red during the 1970s. It shows a nice patina and honesty that comes with cars having few owners. It is ready to be driven or shown proudly at the most exclusive events.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1966 Ferrari 500 Superfast

This 1966 500 Superfast sold for $264,000 at RM’s Phoenix auction, January 23, 2004. At RM Monterey in August 2003, we saw it bid to $270,000 without selling.

Forgive me if you’ve heard this story before, but it’s particularly applicable. A while back, a representative from Bell Helicopters was soliciting a wealthy Texan, hoping to sell him one of its helicopters. The salesman told him it would be the perfect solution to the long commute from his West Texas ranch to his Houston office, some 200 miles away. He said he’d take a look, and to bring the helicopter by the ranch. After inspecting the aircraft, the Texan told the salesman that they needed to go to Houston to further the discussion. As the ‘copter whirled into the air, blowing clouds of dust and scaring the livestock, the Texan walked to his garage, hopped in his 500 Superfast and headed east. You might imagine the look on the salesman’s face when he arrived in Houston and the Texan was already there to greet him.

Indeed, the 500 Superfast was a special car for special people. Ferrari’s equivalent of Bugatti’s Royale, it was an ultra-high-end car, built in small numbers for an exclusive clientele. Prince Aga Kahn, Prince Bernard and Peter Sellers all bought new Superfasts, as did racers John von Neumann and Col. Ronnie Hoare. Peter Livanos, who would later own Aston Martin, was a Superfast owner, and the Shah of Iran was so impressed with his 500 Superfast that he bought a second one.

At $29,500 (or $171,000 in 2002 dollars), nearly twice the cost of an alloy-bodied, six-carb 275 GTB, the Superfast was staggeringly expensive. Just 37 cars were produced, 25 series-one models and 12 series-twos. There were only small differences between the two versions, with the latter cars featuring five-speed transmissions rather than overdrive four-speeds, and suspended rather than floor-mounted pedals. Cosmetically the cars are identical except for an eight-panel front fender vent on the SI and a more attractive three-panel vent on the SII. Both versions used an exclusive Lampredi-inspired “long block,” with removable cylinder heads like the Columbo-designed engines.

At a rated 400 horsepower, the 500 Superfast has a full 120-hp advantage over its 275 GTB sibling. Perhaps more importantly, the 5-liter’s 350 lb-ft of torque dwarfs the 188 lb-ft of the 3.3-liter. The big engine is smooth and predictable, with wheel-lifting power limited by the smallish tire profile. The chassis, suited more to touring than competition use, is well engineered for its task. Top speed is claimed at 174 mph, though the Superfast is as comfortable in city driving as it is at speed. Many peg it as the best multi-use car of its time.

So was this a fair price? The South Florida dealer/collector who purchased it was quite pleased and he probably knows more about 500 Superfast values than anyone. He has a second Superfast that he’s owned for years and recently sold another one in anticipation of this purchase. A collector of low-mileage, late-serial-number cars, this second-from-the-last Superfast, sold by just the second owner, really hit the buyer’s hot button.

S/N 8739 was no stranger to its new owner, as he has been chasing this particular car since 1973, when he saw it at the old Bob Cressman Ferrari dealership in Ft. Lauderdale. Henry Desormeau beat him to the billfold back in ’73, paying $11,000 for the car, but a second chance came with the Desormeau estate’s consignment. Now the buyer proudly displays his trophy near his desk.-Steve Ahlgrim

(Photos, historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)

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