Spotted! 1959 Ferrari 250GT California Spyder LWB, Greenwich, CT

While at the Greenwich Concours this June, I walked around the hotel across the harbor and came across this unrestored California Spider in the front parking lot.  It is number 1581GT, the 41st of only 50 made.  According to Hemmings Motor News (in their December 2011 issue), the current owner, Thierry Morin, has had it since 2002, when he was the high bidder at Christie’s Pebble Beach auction in 2002, for over $1.2 million–it had less than 26,000mi when he purchased it from the previous owner, William Ruger Jr. The first owner, Alfred E. “Erwin” Goldschmidt, was a successful amateur racer, but Ruger took it off his hands when the car was about six months old. It is still a completely unrestored car and won Best Preserved at the 2005 New York Concour.  It was shown as well at the  2008 Greenwich Concours and the 2011 Fairfield Concours.  This is one find I will not soon forget.  

Spotted by: Albert S. Davis

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One thought on “Spotted! 1959 Ferrari 250GT California Spyder LWB, Greenwich, CT”

  1. Here’s an interesting bit of added history on this car, as I recall from the mid to late 80s. I happened to be looking for information about it today for something I was working on that is completely unrelated, and noticed this page on your site. Thank you for posting it.

    Some friends of mine and I spent the night with Bill Ruger Jr in the winter of 1987 at his dad’s 2,500 acre (approx) hunting camp near the Sturm Ruger plant in Newport New Hampshire. One of the things we talked about that night was a (1974/75) Harvard Business School case written by HBS professors, Norman Berg and Hassell McClellan, about the Ruger’s foray into auto manufacturing. Two of my friends had just graduated from HBS and had reviewed the case in class. It was a general management case about why it might not be such a good strategic idea for a gun manufacturer to start making luxury cars.

    There was actually one of the Rugers in the garage, alongside his other “drivers” – a Bentley, a 59 Ferrari 250 GT California Classic (the vehicle above), and the Grand National he would drive up to NH with from his house in Connecticut. The Ruger was actually positioned as an American Rolls Royce/Bentley knock-off. There was a large barn on the property that housed his father’s, Bill Ruger Sr’s, car collection of around 30 vehicles. As I recall, that garage was off-limits to even family members unless Mr. Ruger Sr. was there since those vehicles were rarely driven outside of maintenance work or associated with showing them at car shows.

    It appears that Bill Ruger Jr., when his father died about 15 years later, sold most of his father’s car collection in a no-reserve auction. I sat in the Ferrari pictured above that night. It was the second 59 California Spyder I had seen. The first was in the mid to early 1970s in a dusty closed former repair facility on Lake Street in Webster, Mass. Ruger told me that day that it wasn’t one of the more valuable Ferrari’s and that he actually drove it regularly. Obviously not much, with only 26,000 miles today! But in relative terms it is somewhat unusual for a car of this value to have even that. I remember asking him if he was sure it wasn’t too expensive to be using as a driver? If Bill Ruger happens to read this, perhaps he’ll clarify my recollection since it has been a while.

    At $1.2 million, this vehicle commanded a much higher price than the 1923 Kissell that was in his father’s collection that sold at the same auction for $82,000, and I suspect was in the barn under lock and key that night. There is a provenance document on the Web on that vehicle that offers some interesting facts about that car specifically, and why it was in Bill Ruger Sr’s collection.

    A former market research colleague of mine used to work for a Boston bank as a newly minted MBA, and he had some thoughts on why that might be. At one point he was asked to determine the factors that impact value when it comes to classic cars. Apparently the bank was attempting to assess portfolio risk for loans to wealthy individuals where vehicles like these were used as collateral. The study determined, of course, that supply and demand figure into the equation. No surprise there. But the other factor that caused some vehicles vs. others to set extrordinary highs was what vehicles men tended to yearn-for when they were first of driving age, and couldn’t possibly afford – combined with when most men would pass through what is often termed a “midlife crisis” when they also happen to have large amounts of disposable income. That seems to fit this example well. The pool of potential buyers for a 59 Ferrari 250 GT “California Classic” that was 41 of 50 made was very large in relative comparison to the relatively small number of people still alive that might have been passionate for a 23 Kissel 6-45 “Gold Bug” Speedster, that was 1 of 348 made.

    This now becomes the most expensive vehicle I’ve ever sat in. Thanks again for the post!

    Like

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