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Coachwork by Vignale
Analyzed strictly by the numbers, chassis number 0255 EU is about as rare as an early Ferrari road car gets; it’s one of just four cabriolets built by Vignale for the 212 Europa platform. The 212 Europa itself was produced in a relatively sparing quantity and was one of the final evolutions of the marque’s initial road-going series. With the use of the EU suffix on the chassis designation, it is evident that Ferrari was already gearing up for the soon-to-arrive 250 GT Europa, which would catapult Ferrari to an unprecedented degree of series production.
Beyond 0255 EU’s extreme rarity, however, the car boasts a number of characteristics that bolster its impressive credentials, including a comprehensive show-quality restoration, numerous concours awards, participation in the finest vintage rallying events, and a full attestation of authenticity by Ferrari Classiche.
Chassis misidentification issues are hardly unknown in the Ferrari realm, but the story of 0255 EU is unique, as its identity was swapped by the Ferrari factory with 0227 EL during the initial build process, and both cars continue to wear both chassis stamps to this day (as recently confirmed by the factory). With the occasionally vague nature of Italian record keeping during this era, there is virtually no indication of the switch in Ferrari’s original factory documentation, and it took a considerable amount of investigation (and collaboration with several different collectors’ paperwork) to unravel the unusual mystery.
It all began on August 11, 1952, when a certificate of origin was issued for 0227 EL, a Vignale-bodied cabriolet that had been ordered by John McFadden, an Englishman residing in Paris. It is believed that at some point during production, Mr. McFadden became aware that his 212 was being built as a right-hand-drive car. Intercepting the order at the factory, Mr. McFadden insisted on switching his car to a left-hand-drive example as he intended to use the Ferrari on the Continent.
As rebuilding his original car (0227 EL) to left-hand-drive specifications would have been inordinately expensive and time-consuming, the quickest solution was to simply stamp the serial number of the original order onto the first available left-hand-drive car. This happened to be chassis number 0255 EU, the very next Vignale-built cabriolet in sequence, and the first left-hand-drive Ferrari road car.
The left-hand-drive car was re-stamped with “0227 EL” and delivered to Mr. McFadden, while this car, the earlier right-hand-drive example, was re-stamped with the later chassis number, “0255 EU,” and sold new on May 22, 1953, to Umberto Nuvoli of Rome. A photograph of the car taken on June 1, 1953, was printed in Jonathan Thompson’s 1985 book, Ferrari Cabriolets & Spyders.
Sold in 1954 by Renato Nocentini’s Garage La Rotunda near Florence, Italy, the Europa was soon imported to the US, and by 1956 it was owned by William Anthony of Los Angeles. The Europa Cabriolet is depicted in a 1956 photo taken by Mr. Anthony with his Vignale Export Coupe, 0080E, which was eventually featured in both a 1995 edition of Prancing Horse magazine and the August/September 2010 issue of Cavallino.
Quickly passing through three more California-based owners, 0255 EU was sold in May 1968 to Dean and Joy Macari of Pleasanton, California, who retained possession of the rare Ferrari for almost 25 years. A highlight of this period was presentation at the Ferrari Owners’ Club Concours in Carmel Valley in 1984, where the car was photographed and depicted in marque historian Marcel Massini’s 1993 book, Ferrari by Vignale.
Acquired by New Hampshire resident Peter Hosmer in 1992, the 212 Europa was sold a few years later to Diego Ribadeneira of Ecuador, who drove the car in the 1997 Historic Tour Auto in France. Offered by Coy’s of Kensington later that year, 0255 EU was sold in February 2000 to John R. Queen of San Diego. Truly appreciating the potential of the rare Europa Cabriolet, Mr. Queen began to gradually restore the car, a process that led him to the riddle of the multiple chassis number stampings, which had not yet been diagnosed and solved.
Mr. Queen assembled an impressive compendium of documentation on 0255 EU, including an e-mail correspondence with the Ferrari factory, experts such as Gerald Roush, and Ferrari writers Keith Bluemel and Antoine Prunet. It was, in fact, Mr. Prunet who first noticed 0227 EL’s significance as a left-hand-drive car (positing that this might be a factor in the mystery), while Mr. Roush owned chassis build sheets not in the factory’s possession with erasure marks indicating that in-period changes had been made. Finally completely vetted by Ferrari Classiche after initially implying that such a mistake was very unlikely, it was determined that identical gearbox and differential stampings on both cars’ build sheets indicated that a switch and re-stamp of the two vehicles had occurred during original manufacture.
Accepted and presented at the 2002 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, 0255 EU still required some cosmetic details necessary for judging success, and Mr. Queen began a comprehensive multiyear restoration conducted by Symbolic Motor Car Company of La Jolla, California. Copious parts receipts and work invoices from this process fill a large binder of documentation. The engine was removed in 2006 and lavished with the attention of a full rebuild care of Patrick Ottis, one of the world’s foremost experts in Ferrari engines. As per any Ottis rebuild, a detailed set of his handwritten work-order cards is included.
Mr. Queen entered the beautiful Vignalebodied Ferrari in the California Mille in 2004 and 2010; the Tour Auto in 2002, 2005, and 2008; and the Mille Miglia Storica in 2005; and the car vigorously completed every event. 0255 EU was also presented at the 2007 Quail Motorsports Gathering, and garnered Platinum Awards at the 2007 Cavallino Classic and the 2009 FCA Concours in Monterey.
In the biggest boost to its overwhelming provenance, the car was extensively evaluated by the Ferrari Classiche department and, in January 2009, the highly desirable Red Book was issued, fully confirming the car’s authenticity (including the presence of its original drivetrain, motor, and unaltered bodywork). Benefiting from more recent attention to the carburetors, suspension, brakes, and steering box, 0255 EU is a sensationally restored example of the celebrated Ferrari 212, and a unique statement of elegance with its rare Vignale-built Europa Cabriolet coachwork.
The car is accompanied by extensive restoration invoices, a FIVA card, original factory build sheets, concours judging sheets, and the Ferrari Classiche binder. Few early Ferrari road cars can compare to 0255 EU in terms of rarity, quality of restoration, documentation, and factory attestation of authenticity. It fabulously offers serious collectors a rare opportunity to acquire one of Maranello’s earliest important road-going cabriolets.