Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Pinin Farina
Formerly the Property of John "Buck" Fulp and Robert Donner Jr.
The Series 1 Cabriolet
That the 40 Pinin Farina cabriolets produced between 1956 and 1959 are referred to and grouped as a distinct “series” is somewhat misleading, as each of these spectacular cars are utterly unique in their mechanical specifications, interior appointments, exterior details, and overall character. Despite their differences, all 40 examples share the same basic 250 GT chassis, purity of line, and memorable design cues, such as razor-edged taillamps, auxiliary driving lights, upswept rear haunches, and a steeply raked windscreen.
The Series 1 Cabriolets were all assembled by Pinin Farina in their custom shop – not just in the effort of maintaining a superior build quality – but also in the interest of accommodating the wide variety of details specified by the car’s original owners – generally Ferrari’s top clients.
When compared directly to the Scaglietti- bodied California Spider, a 250 GT that shares a similar design and chassis, it becomes clear that Pinin Farina’s Cabriolet is the more refined product. This extraordinary quality, style, and exclusivity came at a price; when new, the Cabriolet was not only the most expensive 250 by a wide margin, it was one of the most expensive automobiles one could buy. Factory literature indicates a list price of $14,950 for a new Cabriolet, $3,000 more than the California Spider, and $2,500 more than the competition Berlinetta.
In the eyes of many Ferrari connoisseurs the Series 1 Cabriolets are the most beautiful Ferraris ever made. Many would argue that the early cars – easily spotted by their use of bumperettes and driving lights mounted ahead of the eggcrate grille – are the most attractive of all.
The Series 1 Cabriolet will long be regarded as one of the most successful collaborations between Ferrari and Pinin Farina and, by all accounts, a masterpiece of the coachbuilder’s art.
The Ferrari presented here is a prime example of what many would consider one of the greatest sports cars of the 1950s – a 250 GT Series 1 Cabriolet with an unbroken provenance, desirable factory upgrades, and a stunning presentation that is sure to impress the most discerning eye.
The history of this special 250 GT begins in October 1957, when Ferrari sent a Tipo 508C chassis to Carrozzeria Pinin Farina in Torino. Inside the coachbuilder’s workshop, the bare chassis of 0791 GT was fitted with Pinin Farina’s elegant new cabriolet body, finished in white over blue Connolly leather and tastefully equipped with covered headlamps and bumperettes.
As completed in February 1958, 0791 GT was just the 14th Series 1 Cabriolet built.
In March, the Ferrari was delivered to official concessionaire Parauto S.r.l. in Genoa, but was soon redirected to Luigi Chinetti Motors in New York City. Shortly after its arrival in the US, 0791 GT was sold to its first private owner, John “Buck” Fulp, a 20-year-old sports car enthusiast from Anderson, South Carolina.
A well-heeled amateur racer, Fulp was the ideal customer for a Series 1 Cabriolet. Around the time he bought the new Pinin Farina Cabriolet, Fulp also acquired a pontoon-fender Testa Rossa and a 410 Superamerica Series III Coupe. Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, he drove the latest Ferrari sports racing cars for Chinetti’s North American Racing Team at major international events like Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring, and Nassau.
As noted on the factory build sheets, 0791 GT returned to the Ferrari factory in Maranello in March 1962 for conversion from drum to disc brakes. Evidently Fulp, much like fellow Cabriolet owner Peter Collins, found disc brakes to be superior in competition and elected to apply the upgrade to his preferred road car. In addition to installing the Dunlop calipers on all four corners, the Ferrari factory fitted a new hand-brake mechanism and exchanged the original RW 3264 Borrani wire wheels for a set using the new RW 3526 pattern.
Fulp retained his Ferrari until 1964, when he returned it to Chinetti Motors. The following year, Chinetti sold the Series 1 Cabriolet to James S. Harrison – an American who maintained residences in Paris, Manhattan, and Palm Beach. Early on in his ownership, Harrison refinished the coachwork in silver with red upholstery and had French Ferrari importer Charles Pozzi SA revise the dashboard layout in a style similar to the 400 Superamerica.
In 1969, after 0791 GT suffered engine failure, the Ferrari factory supplied Harrison with a more robust outside-plug engine with twin distributors and Weber 40 DCL6 carburetors. Significantly, this engine (internal no. 0242F) had not been previously used in another car and was supplied by the factory through Chinetti stamped with 0791 GT on both the block and water-pump housing.
The following year, Harrison drove the Ferrari from his home in Palm Beach to Colorado and, following his stay, left it in storage at the famous Broadmoor Hotel on Cheyenne Lake. In March 1971, 0791 GT was sold to its third owner, Robert Donner Jr., a Colorado Springs resident who reportedly bought the Ferrari on an impulse over lunch.
A much-admired figure in the classic car world, Donner started his racing career with MGs and Jaguars, before moving on to Porsches. Between 1955 and 1961, Donner almost exclusively raced Porsches – particularly the exotic four-cam Spyders – and found great success on the racetrack, capturing many wins in the under-two-liter class. Not only did he post outstanding results at circuits like Sebring and Road America, Donner drove Porsche Spyders to class wins at the grueling Pikes Peak Hill Climb three consecutive years.
In the mid-1960s, Donner developed an appreciation for Ferraris and began buying the latest road-going models as well as important classics. By the 1970s, his stable of road cars grew to include a 330 GTC, a 330 GTS, a Daytona, and a Dino 246 GT – all finished in silver in a nod to his Porsche days – while his collection of vintage racers consisted of a 250 GTO, a 512M, and a Comp Daytona. A true enthusiast, Donner worked on his own Ferraris, drove them often, and even served as president of the Rocky Mountain Region of the Ferrari Club of America.
After being restored in 1975, the Series 1 Cabriolet occupied a unique role in the Donner collection, as it was the go-to Ferrari for open touring. In 1990, Donner entered 0791 GT in the 2nd Annual Colorado Grand and found the Ferrari to be such a pleasure that he returned with it no fewer than 11 times over the next two decades. Every year, before embarking on the Colorado Grand, the Ferrari was meticulously checked over and serviced as needed, a process that ensured reliable operation for tens of thousands of miles.
Though 0791 GT was primarily enjoyed for its dynamic qualities, Donner displayed the car at the 2007 Quail Motorsports Gathering in Carmel Valley, California, where a special class was assembled to honor Pinin Farina’s Series 1 Cabriolet.
Following Robert Donner Jr.’s passing in 2010, the Series 1 Cabriolet was sold to the current owners, who have owned a variety of outstanding Ferraris.
While in the hands of the consignors, the Ferrari has benefitted from much cosmetic attention and presents beautifully in all respects. Finished in rich, dark blue paint, the Pinin Farina Cabriolet has a style that is at once elegant and understated. The interior, upholstered in high-quality tan Connolly leather hides, has been carefully restored to the original appearance, with its classic wrinkle-finish dashboard carrying jewel-like Veglia gauges.
As a Series 1 Cabriolet, 0791 GT is among the most beautiful sports cars ever built. Equipped with covered-headlights, bumperettes, and finished in a gorgeous color scheme, it is all the more rare and enticing. Consider then that it is equipped with factory-supplied Dunlop disc brakes and an outside-plug motor, this Pinin Farina-bodied 250 GT is perhaps the perfect 1950s open sports car.
Not only is 0791 GT a significant Ferrari of unrivalled rarity and beauty, its history and provenance are second to none.
Since leaving the factory in spring 1958, this exceptional Series 1 Cabriolet has benefitted from the care of just four knowledgeable owners. Its rich history is supported by comprehensive documentation that speaks to decades of responsible stewardship in the hands of true Ferrari enthusiasts.
The remarkable file that accompanies the sale of 0791 GT includes correspondence between Robert Donner Jr. and James Harrison; an impressive collection of service records, restoration invoices and registration cards dating back to 1970; copies of the original factory build sheets; various articles and advertisements related to the history of the Series 1 Cabriolets; and a complete history report produced by marque authority Marcel Massini.
As Ferrari 250 GTs of all types have become increasingly sought after, the most desirable open models are especially prized and difficult to come by. These magnificent Pinin Farina Cabriolets are objects of exceptional beauty and sophistication that have long captured the interest of connoisseurs. Today, Series 1 Cabriolets are found only in the finest collections and continue to reward those who seek out only the very best.
This is a rare opportunity indeed, and we encourage serious consideration of this splendid Pinin Farina Series 1 Cabriolet – one of the most appealing Ferraris ever built.