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Rare Ferrari could raise millions for charity, set record at Pebble Beach auction

August 07, 2013|By David Undercoffler
  • This rare 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider is one of only 10 made and has been owned by one family since new. It could bring between $14 million and $17 million at auction, with all proceeds going to charity.
This rare 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider is one of only 10 made… (Darin Schnabel/RM Auctions )

Happiness may be impossible to put a value on, but exclusivity comes with a firm price.

That much will be evident next weekend at Pebble Beach, as an ultra-rare 1967 Ferrari 275 rolls across the auction block.

The car is one of only 10 ever made, according to RM Auctions, which will put it up for bidding on Saturday, Aug 17. Officially known as a 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider, such exclusivity has pushed the car’s pre-sale estimate to between $14 million and $17 million, including commission.

PHOTOS: 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S  N.A.R.T. Spider

“This is undoubtedly one of best competition Ferraris you could buy” today, said McKeel Hagerty, founder and chief executive of Hagerty Insurance, which insures classic cars. “The person who’s going to buy this is very much interested in the rarity here.”

If this 275/4 does hit the upper end of that estimate, it may steal the record for most expensive Ferrari ever sold at auction. The current $16.4-million record, which includes commission, was set in the 2011 Pebble Beach auction of a 1957 Testa Rossa.

Such a high potential sale price and the rarity of the car itself mean bidding on the Ferrari will one of the most highly-anticipated events of the Pebble Beach weekend.

Among the crowd watching the sale will be members of the North Carolina family that has owned the car since it was delivered new to them in 1968 by famed Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti.

The family of the late Eddie Smith Sr. has lofty plans for the money garnered from the sale of their patriarch’s car, promising that all proceeds will go to local charities and the family foundation.

They decided to sell the car after taking it to a Ferrari Club of America meet in 2012 and seeing how warmly it was received.

“That's really what tripped my trigger,” Eddie Smith Jr. said in an interview. “When we saw people’s reaction, a lot of them were Ferrari owners, and we realized they had never seen one, the darn thing is in a prison,” referring to the climate-controlled garage where the car is stored.

The younger Smith was 26 when his father took delivery of the car, which was originally painted metallic blue (it's since been repainted a brillant red). His dad paid $14,500 for the car when it was new, or just over $100,000 in today’s dollars. It was a steep price for the family at the time, Smith recalled, but it was immediately clear that this was a car worth hanging on to.

“We knew it was special,” Smith said. “It sounded so good, it looked so good, it drove so good. Dad knew it was a very special piece of equipment.”

The Ferrari was his father’s third. The elder Smith, never a car collector, only owned one Ferrari at a time. His first was also a Spider -- Ferrari parlance for convertible.

His second was a hardtop 275/4, though the elder Smith returned it after a few months when Chinetti informed him that a small number of convertible 275/4’s would be made exclusively for U.S. buyers. Convertibles had always been Smith's preference, his son said.

In all, just 10 275/4 N.A.R.T. cars were built, and many in the classic car community consider this particular model to be one of the prettiest Ferraris ever made. A bright red version was even featured in the original film “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

N.A.R.T. refers to the North American Racing Team, a Ferrari-backed venture created in the late-1950s to promote the brand in the U.S. at a time when the name meant little to most racing fans.

This limited run of 275 N.A.R.T. Spiders mix good looks with esteemed performance; a 3.2-liter V-12 with six Weber carburetors makes 300 horsepower and is paired with a five-speed manual transmission and four-wheel independent suspension. The car also has taller gear ratios than other 275s, to accommodate the longer straightaways of U.S. tracks.

Because these cars were originally built with a U.S. customer in mind, it’s likely that this 275 Spider will find a new home with another American collector.

“It’s probably going to have the greatest historical interest from a big American collector,” Hagerty said. Because the car doesn’t quite have the panache of something like an earlier Ferrari 250 GTO and its more storied racing history, it won’t command the $30 million to $40 million that pristine 250 GTOs have sold for in recent private sales.

Even the high end of the estimate might be tough to hit. Seventeen million "would be a really big number for a ‘67,” Hagerty said. “But you never know.”

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