Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Scaglietti
Three Owner, Covered-Headlight ExampleGianfranco Frattini, Milano, Italy (acquired new in 1961)Terzo Dalia, Casalgrande, Emilia-Romagna, Italy (acquired from the above in June 1978)Current Owner (acquired from the above in December 1985)
ACI Raid Ferrari d’Epoca, Modena, Italy, September 1981 (Elegance Trophy)ACI Ferrari Days, Modena, Italy, September 1983 (Originality Trophy)
In late 1957, just as production of Pinin Farina’s Series I Cabriolet was getting underway, Ferrari was in the process of developing a new open 250 GT variant for the booming North American market. Ferrari’s leading US dealers, Luigi Chinetti and John von Neumann, impressed upon the factory the need for a simple, dual-purpose 250 GT Spider – a car that could be used to commute during the week and then raced with success on the weekend.
As a result, Ferrari produced the California Spider, a high-performance 250 GT with striking coachwork by Carrozzeria Scaglietti. As its name suggested, the California Spider was aimed at a very specific segment of Ferrari’s American clientele: young, well-heeled enthusiasts who wanted a stylish, thoroughbred sports car that was equally at home on road or track. Like other high-end European sports cars built for the American market, the California Spider featured a racy, swept-back windscreen, minimal interior appointments, a lightweight folding top, and supportive competition-inspired bucket seats.
The earliest examples were built on the long-wheelbase chassis (LWB) shared with the 250 GT Tour de France Berlinetta and Series I Cabriolet, and it was not until late 1959 that the California Spider was finally made available with disc brakes and tubular shock absorbers.
Faithful to its original concept, the LWB California Spider was often put to use as a GT racing car; several examples were factory-equipped with competition features such as aluminum coachwork, high-lift camshafts, and long-range fuel tanks with outside fillers. In this form, California Spiders achieved a remarkable degree of success in racing, including a 5th Place finish at Le Mans, a class win at Sebring, and many victories in SCCA B-production events.
With the introduction of Ferrari’s short-wheelbase (SWB) Berlinetta in 1960, the California Spider was thoroughly redesigned to complement its new stablemate. When compared to its predecessor, the 250 GT SWB California Spider benefited from a much more sophisticated chassis, with standard four-wheel Dunlop disc brakes, a more refined suspension, and new outside-plug Tipo 168 and 168/61 engines.
Scaglietti redesigned the California’s coachwork around the updated chassis, resulting in a much more aggressive and sporting appearance, with curvaceous front fenders and muscular rear haunches. While the earlier LWB California Spiders featured a rather spartan interior, the updated SWB variant was more luxuriously trimmed. Stitched leather took the place of wrinkle-finish paint on the dashboard, wool carpeting replaced rubber floor mats, and redesigned seats made the new car more comfortable for long journeys.
Despite being more refined and well-rounded sports cars, the SWB California Spiders were true thoroughbreds; several examples raced at major European events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Targa Florio.
Between 1957 and 1963, Ferrari built just 106 250 GT California Spiders – 50 of the early LWB version and 56 of the final SWB variant.
The Ferrari 250 GT presented here, chassis 2871 GT, is among the most desirable California Spiders, as it is an SWB version featuring the highly attractive covered headlight treatment that Scaglietti applied to just 37 examples. Originally finished in the classic color scheme of Rosso Cina (China Red) with black leather upholstery, 2871 GT was equipped with features typical of the late-production SWB models: a Tipo 168/61 engine, three Weber 40 DCL 6 carburetors, Abarth exhaust system, Veglia instruments, Miletto shock absorbers, and Borrani RW3591 wire wheels wearing Pirelli Cinturato tires.
Completed on September 2, 1961, 2871 GT was the 22nd SWB California Spider built. It was delivered new to Gianfranco Frattini, who paid Lire 5,500,000 for the new Ferrari.
Well-known in design circles, Gianfranco Frattini was born in Padua on May 15, 1926, and graduated from the Politecnico di Milano in 1953. After working under his teacher and mentor, the famed industrial designer Giò Ponti, Frattini established his own design firm in Milano. In 1956, Frattini co-founded the Associazione per il Disegno Industriale, and throughout his decades-long career focused on interior designs, particularly furniture and lighting. Today, several of his designs can be found in prominent collections, including those of the Museum of Modern Art and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.
A true modernist, Frattini once stated, “Design is … above all an effort to improve reality…. I always try to begin with considerations of its function…. I ask myself, who needs it, which materials best suit its functions and so on.…”
Given his important role in the history of mid-century industrial design, it is only fitting that Gianfranco Frattini owned a Ferrari California Spider – the most stylish, sporting, and prestigious Italian sports car of its day.
Early on in Frattini’s ownership, 2871 GT made a cameo appearance in Vittorio De Sica’s Academy Award®-winning feature film, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. The 1963 comedy, which starred Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren, consists of three short stories about couples in different parts of Italy. The Ferrari appears in part two, in which Loren plays Anna of Milan, the wife of a wealthy industrialist. While driving her husband’s Rolls-Royce with her lover Renzo (Mastroianni), she struggles to decide which is most important to her happiness – her lover or the Rolls-Royce. In the end, she ends up crashing the Rolls-Royce and hitches a ride with the driver of the Milan-registered California Spider, abandoning both her husband’s damaged car and Renzo on the side of the road.
Remarkably, Gianfranco Frattini retained possession of 2871 GT until June 1978, when it was sold to Terzo Dalia, a resident of Casalgrande in Emilia-Romagna. Sig. Dalia, a talented craftsman specializing in highly accurate and realistic scale models of Ferrari engines and components, retained the California Spider for seven years. During his ownership, 2871 GT participated in two historic events hosted by the Automobile Club d’Italia in Modena – the Raid Ferrari d’Epoca in 1981 and Ferrari Days in 1983.
The current owner acquired 2871 GT from Sig. Dalia in December 1985, and it has been a part of his prominent Italy-based stable of important sports and racing cars ever since. As presented today, this important Ferrari remains in well-maintained and largely unrestored condition throughout, finished in red with black leather upholstery and equipped with desirable features such as a carburetor intake cold air box, SNAP exhaust extractors, and Borrani RW3801 wheels.
Unlike the vast majority of 250 Ferraris, this SWB California Spider has not been fully restored from the ground up; instead, it has always been exercised and maintained in good working order. As a result, this car retains a refreshing, authentic character. Even today, it retains its original engine and rear end, confirmed by their respective internal numbers, which match the factory assembly sheets. Beyond its own intrinsic qualities, the California Spider is offered with an original tool roll (partially complete), the original steering wheel, shift knob, front and rear bumpers, and a report compiled by Ferrari historian Marcel Massini, which includes a detailed history, copies of the Automobile Club d’Italia registration records, and period photos.
Although 55 years have passed since it left the Ferrari factory, 2871 GT has remained in regular service in the hands of just three responsible caretakers. Furthermore, it is believed that this covered-headlight SWB California Spider has never before left Italy, and it has not been publicly exhibited since its appearance at Ferrari Days in Modena more than three decades ago.
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 250 GT SWB California Spiders are the result of a brilliant collaboration between Ferrari and Carrozzeria Scaglietti, each firm operating at the height of its powers. They are mechanical objects of exceptional beauty and sophistication that have long captured the interest of connoisseurs. Today, these rare Ferraris are found only in the finest collections and continue to reward those who seek out only the very best.
Any collector determined to own an SWB California Spider is strongly encouraged to give serious consideration to 2871 GT. The opportunity to acquire a genuine, three-owner covered-headlight example with a documented history, fascinating provenance, and a silver screen appearance alongside Sophia Loren may just be the chance of a lifetime.