Lottery Winner, Sir?
I would guess that all of us have dreamed, at one time or another, of winning the lottery. All that cash in hand, virtually nothing out of reach financially, an alluring prospect. For those inclined towards the automobile, the list of desirable models is endless, but as George Orwell might have put it: "All cars are equal, but some cars are more equal than others." Last week in Paris, one of the truly special machines came up for sale. It was a Ferrari (what else?), but even by Maranello standards, this car is exceptional.
The late '50s are considered by many to be one of the golden ages of long distance motorsport; indeed, one of the reference books sitting on my shelves dealing with the period is entitled "Sportscar Heaven." In 1957, when this Ferrari was built, the contest was between the men from Maranello, Modena (Maserati), Feltham (Aston Martin) and Stuttgart (Porsche), with a strong privateer presence from Coventry (Jaguar), though it would be fair to say it was the last hurrah for the D-type Jaguar.
Enzo Ferrari’s answer to the threat from his neighbors and bitter rivals down on Viale Ciro Menotti in Modena’s city center and to the new challenge of the Aston Martin DBR1 was to create the Ferrari 335 S Spider. Clothed in a curvaceous bodywork from Scaglietti, just four examples of this brutal and effective sportscar were built.
This chassis, 0674, is about as original as one can imagine. It started life with a 3.8-liter V12 engine that was replaced prior to Le Mans with a 4.1-liter unit delivering over 400bhp. It missed the opening round of the 1957 Sportscar World Championship in January at Buenos Aires, but was on the grid for the 12 Hours of Sebring. Driven by Peter Collins and Maurice Trintignant, the Ferrari led for the first hour but then suffered brake problems, eventually getting home in sixth.
0674 enjoyed a better run in the Mille Miglia the following month, with Wolfgang “Taffy” von Trips scoring a fine second to the sister car of Piero Taruffi. However, it was a joyless victory for all concerned as Ferrari teammate Alfonso de Portago and co-driver Ed Nelson were killed in a 315 S when a tire burst towards the end of the event. The crash also caused the death of ten spectators, five of whom were children, and ensured the end of the Mille Miglia.
The Ferraris were impounded in the wake of the disaster as the Italian government and the Catholic Church railed against Enzo Ferrari, holding him responsible, either directly or indirectly, for the carnage. Matters were resolved in time for the cars to be released to race in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Here Mike Hawthorn posted the fasted lap ever recorded during the 24 Hours race while leading, but he and Luigi Musso were out before nightfall with a failed piston, possibly, some murmured, as a result of the exertions so early in an endurance race.
The penultimate round of the Championship was the Swedish Grand Prix held at Kristianstad during August. The title fight was a strictly Modenese affair, with Ferrari having the upper hand over Maserati; and although victory went to Stirling Moss and Jean Behra in the fearsome 450S, a second for Ferrari was enough to retain the lead in the World Championship. 0674, once again in the hands of Hawthorn and Musso, ended up fourth.
The late confirmation of the final round in Venezuela re-opened the title battle. However, the race turned out to be a complete catastrophe for Maserati with all four cars out in the race, three totally written off. It was the end of the Maserati Competitions Department as potential bankruptcy loomed. In contrast, Ferrari sailed home in the top four spots with 0674 in second with the usual pairing of Hawthorn and Musso.
The final act in the international career of Ferrari 335 S/0674 took place the following February when Stirling Moss and Masten Gregory won the Cuban Grand Prix for the car’s new owner, Luigi Chinetti. A season in US domestic racing yielded a few more wins until it was time for retirement.
A decade passed and the racer was acquired by Pierre Bardinon, one of the pre-eminent Ferrari collectors on the planet. He had the car restored to original race condition and enjoyed driving it on his private track on his estate at Aubusson in France. The 335 S was rarely seen in public, and Bardinon refused many requests to sell a mystique built up around 0674.
After Bardinon passed away in 2012, his estate finally put the Ferrari for auction, with the Artcurial sale at this year’s Paris Rétromobile as the venue. Those of you paying attention might remember the corresponding auction last February when the Baillon "Barn-Find" collection was sold. We looked at some of the lots HERE.
Many observers feel that the current overheated classic car market has passed its peak; certainly there is evidence to support that assertion, especially in the recent Paris sales. However, for the right car, a buyer might be found... and this proved to be true near the end an evening of high drama and tension as bids ebbed and flowed. When just two remained contesting the ownership of the car, Hervé Poulain’s gavel finally sounded and a new record price of €32,075,200 was posted... Sacré Bleu!
A few days later, and a final twist to the tale emerged with the story that two of the top soccer players on the planet were the final protagonists in bidding for the Ferrari. Lionel Messi, Barcelona and Argentina, beat Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid and Portugal, to the prize. The athletes and their clubs are fierce rivals on the pitch, and now, it would appear, this rivalry had spilled over to the auction house floor. The price, though eye-watering, is around a year’s salary for either player, not including all their other activities. Of course there are denials all around, and it would not be the first time that the truth will not be allowed to get in the way of a good story.
Whatever the identity of the new owner of 0674, the car will be the real star; hopefully we will all get to see it on a more regular basis, as it is truly special.