Ferrari Spider sale in California sets new world record

Classic 1967 Spider model - one of 10 built - becomes the most expensive road car ever sold at auction

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 3:13am

The auctioneer opened the sale at US$10 million. The first bid pushed that to an astonishing US$16 million. The final gavel fell minutes later at US$27.5 million for the ultra-rare 1967 Ferrari.

The price, including commission, was a world record for the most expensive road car ever sold at auction.

The cheers got louder as the price rose in downtown Monterey, California, where the Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S NART Spider passed to new owners from the family that originally bought the car.

The sale was a highlight amid a strong night of sales for RM Auctions, which handled the Ferrari sale, and rival Gooding & Company. In all, US$149 million worth of cars sold on Saturday night alone as part of Monterey Classic Car Week.

RM, Gooding and other auction companies sold US$244 million worth of the world's most desirable classic vehicles during the week to Saturday.

The single-family ownership of the NART Spider - one of 10 built - only added to the interest and the car's record-breaking value.

Owner Eddie Smith Jnr's late father took delivery of the car in North Carolina in 1968. "This is a bittersweet moment for us," Smith Jnr told a packed crowd before the bidding started. "Ferraris came and went, but this one never went, thank God. We enjoyed it as a family for 45 years."

He had advice for its new owners: "Drive it, love it, enjoy it and, more importantly, share it with others so they can see it."

Smith reminded those in attendance that his family would be donating proceeds from the sale to charity.

At this, the crowd took to its feet to cheer, and many people remained on their feet as the bidding started. After the first bid of US$16 million, the figure quickly jumped to US$20 million, then US$21 million, with each new bid drawing roars of approval from the room.

The final bid was US$25 million without commission, and the crowd erupted into cheers and applause as four white-gloved attendants took to the stage to roll the red Ferrari off to its journey to a new home. The auction house has not disclosed the name of the new owner.

The sale almost set the world record for any car sold at auction. That figure stands at US$29.6 million, paid last month for a 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 race car.

The 275 NART Spider is widely considered one of the prettiest Ferraris ever made. A bright-red version was featured in the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair.

NART refers to the North American Racing Team, a Ferrari-backed venture created in the late 1950s to promote the brand in the US.

This limited run of 275 NART Spiders boast a 3.2-litre V-12 with six Weber carburettors, making 300 horsepower. The engine is paired with a five-speed manual transmission and four-wheel independent suspension.

Smith, a self-made millionaire, bought the car for US$14,500 when it was new, the equivalent of about US$100,000 in today's dollars.

Never a Ferrari collector, Smith enjoyed using the car for its intended purpose: driving. He was known throughout the small town of Lexington, North Carolina, for giving children a ride in the car so they could share the experience.

Smith said the family decided to sell the car because it's been "kept in a prison" without being driven as much as their father would have liked.

In keeping with Smith's emphasis on philanthropy, the money from Saturday's sale would go to various charities in Lexington, as well as the family foundation, he said.