Even the most ardent of Ferrari enthusiasts might not recognize the Meera S. The car is unique in every sense of the word, as a one-of-one special built for Saudi Arabian royalty in the 1980s.
The Meera S takes a design of its own with protruding body panels, open-slatted bonnet grille, and the illusion of wrap-around front and rear windscreen glass thanks to discreetly hidden roof pillars. Technologically advanced for its age, the car features window wipers on all four sides, twin air conditioning for front passengers, and an electric sunroof.
|1983 Ferrari Meera S
|Tune Up Cost:
|Chassis Number Location:
|On top of steering column and in driver’s door jamb
|Engine Number Location:
|Stamped on the right rear of the block
|Ferrari Club of America
|1983 Ferrari Koenig 512 BBi, 1986 Mercedes-Benz AMG Hammer, 1993 Porsche 911 Strosek Mega Speedster
This car, Lot 233, sold for $489,720 (€432,500), including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Paris sale on February 2, 2022.
Once upon a time, there was a young man, who like many young men, wanted a Ferrari. This young man was different from most, however, as his father was the king of Saudi Arabia. That made him a prince; a very, very rich prince. As one does when desirous of a Ferrari, the prince contacted his dealer to review his options. He was told that the 400i was the most luxurious model in Ferrari’s catalog, and as it was available with an automatic, it would be the most pleasurable Ferrari for him to drive.
Thus begins one of the great tales of the Ferrari world, a story of what you can do with a big imagination and an even bigger budget. It is the story of a single car that is known by name worldwide, a story that weaves across continents and interesting characters, a story with chapters still being written.
There are only a few cars in the automotive world that have a name that makes them immediately identifiable. Like Cher, Madonna, or Sting, no additional information is needed. The Blue Train Bentley, the Bullitt Mustang, and the Ferrari Breadvan don’t need an introduction. So, too, the Ferrari Meera S.
To get back to the story, the prince contracted Carrozzeria Michelotti to redesign his 400i to make it a one of a kind. A common mistake is crediting the design to the prolific Giovanni Michelotti; however, he was a few years deceased before the prince’s car was built. Giovanni’s son Edgardo had taken over the firm upon his father’s death in 1980. His team, therefore, deserves the credit — or criticism — for the car.
That doesn’t mean Giovanni did not in some ways influence the Meera S. Before his death, he had designed a couple of 365 GTB/4 NART specials for Luigi Chinetti. One of these cars featured a pointy nose and upswept blunted tail. The Meera S has some similar characteristics, hinting at what may have been the muse for the project.
Dutchman Niels Schouten researched the history of the car for an article for the Dutch Ferrari Club. “In March 1982 a Ferrari was delivered to Michelotti’s shop in Turin,” Schouten writes. “The 400i was immediately stripped from its Pininfarina body.” He goes on to explain that Edgardo Michelotti could not bear to watch: “He regarded a Ferrari as art, and you do not demolish art.” According to Schouten, the body parts were sold off to a local shop and a new steel body was created. Despite an aluminum hood and trunk lid, weight increased by 5% to 10%.
On with the show
The prince wanted a unique creation and he certainly got one. The distinctive round taillights and five-spoke star wheels were the only hint the car was ever a 400i. The Meera S signature design statement was a greenhouse that made extensive use of glass. The wrap-around windshield met a stealth A-pillar, giving the illusion of the windshield blending with the side windows. The side glass was fixed, so a small window-within-a-window was added for utility.
Inside the car, Michelotti discarded the original dash in favor of one that hosted digital instrumentation worthy of Flash Gordon. A closed-circuit television system replaced the rear-view mirror. A larger console was fitted, which housed an upgraded A/C system, an audio system, and an ashtray with built-in ventilation.
It’s rumored the project cost the equivalent of over half a million dollars today. It was named “Meera” after a girlfriend of the prince, with the “S” a nod to Saud, the prince’s family name.
Buy it now
Part of the reason the car is so well known in the Ferrari community is that it has frequently been for sale, and thus promoted by dealers and auction companies. The car’s appearance is quite obviously polarizing — people either love it or hate it. The apparent consignor was in the former category. Reportedly purchased in 2005 by a Kuwaiti sheik who collected 400-series Ferraris, the 400i-based Meera S was a must for his collection.
He sent the car to Ferrari’s Classiche shop in Maranello in 2010 to be refurbished. Along with an engine rebuild and mechanical freshening, Ferrari determined it was impractical to recommission the obsolete instrumentation and closed-circuit system, discarding them in favor of a conventional 400i dash. The custom center console was similarly swapped with a stock 400i console. The rear seats were also replaced, as Michelotti had built them to work with the custom console.
The interior was a hallmark of the Meera S project and keeping it special was a goal of the refurb. Ferrari chose to use bold colors, with the carpets, seats and door panels finished in a cream color. The dash and the console were upholstered in a high-contrast vivid red. Ferrari also used red accents for the steering wheel, seat belts and emergency-brake grip.
The bill added up to nearly $275,000. It is unfortunate that Ferrari didn’t preserve the car the way it was custom built. Even non-operational, the electronics would have made the car a hit at any show.
A lowball estimate
RM Sotheby’s estimated the car at just $90,000–$110,000, an indication of the difficulty in putting a price on such a one-off car. Assuming the sheik was the consignor (the car was still on Kuwaiti paperwork), we can conclude that after Ferrari’s bill, he would have been in the car for over $400,000.
There were at least two would-be buyers who also valued the car at that level, as the bidding battle ended far north of $400k. If something is worth what someone will pay for it, this sale should represent a definitive valuation for this unique car. Its final, after-commission price of $489,720 certainly brings this latest chapter of the Meera S story to a fairytale ending. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)