Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Scaglietti
*Please note this vehicle is titled 250GT2903.
Alain Cheuvrie, Geneva, Switzerland (frst recorded private owner)Barbara Hershey, Los Angeles, California (acquired in 1970)Hollywood Sports Cars, Beverly Hills, California (acquired circa 1972)Spencer Stillman, Beverly Hills, California (acquired from the above in 1976)Ferrari of Los Gatos, Los Gatos, California (acquired in 1992)Bob Giase, Tiburon, California (acquired from the above in 1992)Charles Wegner, West Chicago, Illinois (acquired in 1993)Chris Cox, Raleigh, North Carolina (acquired from the above in 1994)James Matthews, Warsaw, North Carolina (acquired from the above in 1994)Gary Schaevitz, Mount Kisco, New York (acquired in 1997)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2000)
Paris Auto Salon, Paris, France, October 1961Vintage Ferrari Concours, Carmel Valley, California, August 1993 (Third in Class)Cavallino Classic, Palm Beach, Florida, February 1994Ferrari Club of America National Meeting, Monterey, California, 1994Colorado Grand (1997, 1998, and 1999)Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, Greenwich, Connecticut, 2003 (Best Italian Sports Car)Scarsdale Concours d’Elegance, Scarsdale, New York, 2006Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, Greenwich, Connecticut, 2007 (Best Italian Sports Car)Hartford Concours, Hartford, Connecticut, 2008 (Most Desirable Car to Drive Home)West Point Ferrari Concours, West Point, New York (Best in Show)Lime Rock Concours, Lime Rock, Connecticut (Best in Show)
In late 1957, just as production of Pinin Farina’s Series I Cabriolet was getting underway, a new open 250 GT variant was being developed 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 the 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 (LWB) chassis 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 modern Dunlop 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, and 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 more sophisticated chassis, and its Scaglietti coachwork was more aggressive and sporting in appearance – a function of its compact proportions. In keeping with their competition bloodline, several SWB California Spiders were raced at major European events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Targa Florio.
In total, 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 2903 GT, is among the most desirable SWB California Spiders as it features the highly attractive covered-headlight treatment, which Scaglietti applied to just 37 of the 56 examples built. In addition to this significant distinction, this is one of a limited number of SWB California Spiders factory equipped with an optional hardtop. Further, it was originally finished in a dramatic color scheme with the coachwork painted black and the upholstery trimmed in natural leather.
As completed on September 20, 1961, 2903 GT was the 24th SWB California Spider built. In October, the black California Spider was delivered to Ferrari’s French distributor Franco-Britannic Autos Limited, where it was prepared for its public debut at the 48th annual Salon de l’Automobile held at the magnificent Grand Palais in Paris.
Between October 5th and 15th, the striking California Spider served as the featured display at the center of the Franco-Britannic stand, alternating day to day with its closed 250 GT counterpart, an SWB Berlinetta. Following its show debut in Paris, 2903 GT was sold to the factory’s official Geneva concessionaire, Garage de Montchoisy.
The first recorded owner of the California Spider is Alain Cheuvrie, a resident of Geneva, Switzerland, who is known to have owned the Ferrari during the late 1960s.
In 1970, 2903 GT was imported into the US and sold to famed actress Barbara Hershey of Los Angeles, California. In 1970, Ms. Hershey was a 22-year-old rising star just coming of of major roles in the films Last Summer and Glenn Ford’s Heaven with a Gun. On set, she met David Carradine – best known for his leading role in the television series Kung Fu – and the two developed a close personal relationship, which they maintained until the mid-1970s. During this period, Ms. Hershey and Mr. Carradine were generally regarded as the quintessential Hollywood hippie couple. They appeared in films together – including Martin Scorsese’s Boxcar Bertha.
A well-known apocryphal story about Mr. Carradine, Ms. Hershey, and the California Spider has circulated for many years, the premise revolving around an ill-timed trip during a rainstorm that led to the Ferrari’s hardtop being forgotten on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway. However, like many Hollywood legends, this particular tale may be based more on fiction than fact.
In October 1972, Ms. Hershey’s California Spider was reported stolen but was recovered the following month and subsequently sold. From there, 2903 GT – which had already been repainted silver and registered on blue and yellow California vanity plates that read “HUNNY” – was stored at Cris Vandagrif’s Hollywood Sports Cars until July 1976, when Spencer Stillman of Beverly Hills paid $22,000 for it.
2903 GT then led a quiet existence in Southern California where it remained until 1992, whereupon it was sold to Ferrari of Los Gatos. Later that year, the California Spider was displayed at Concorso Italiano in Carmel Valley and sold to Bob Giase of Tiburon, California.
The following year, Ferrari collector Charles Wegner acquired the California Spider and commissioned a comprehensive restoration that remains the foundation of the car’s outstanding presentation today. During his ownership, Mr. Wegner exhibited the freshly restored Ferrari at two leading marque gatherings – the Monterey Vintage Ferrari Concours in Carmel Valley, California, and the Cavallino Classic in Palm Beach, Florida.
In 1997, after spending three years in two prominent North Carolina collections, Gary Schaevitz of Mount Kisco, New York, acquired the California Spider for his growing collection of important sports and racing cars. Recognizing the outstanding touring capabilities of the SWB California, Mr. Schaevitz drove 2903 GT during three consecutive editions of the prestigious Colorado Grand rally.
In spring 2000, the California Spider joined the stable of the current owner, an East Coast collector with a passion for the finest postwar sports cars. Under his ownership, 2903 GT has received several prestigious awards at regional concours events and participated in the Copperstate 1000 and Nova Scotia 1000 rallies.
In 2014, the current owner applied for and was subsequently granted Ferrari Classiche Certification for 2903 GT. After inspecting the car and referencing the findings against factory records, the Ferrari Classiche Department concluded that this California Spider is a correct and authentic example, retaining its original chassis, coachwork, engine, gearbox, and differential, as well as its braking and suspension systems. It should be noted that while the Classiche Certification was approved, delivery of the “Red Book” Certification is pending.
In addition to the Ferrari Classiche documents, the sale of 2903 GT includes a history report compiled by marque historian Marcel Massini, copies of the factory build sheets, and an original California Spider hardtop. The rare steel hardtop was recently sourced for the car and is currently in an unrestored state, allowing its new owner to prepare it according to his or her individual needs and tastes.
The 250 GT SWB California Spider is the Ferrari that has it all: outstanding performance, timeless style, exclusivity in limited numbers, and the immediate recognition of classic car enthusiasts the world over. The mystique and emotional appeal of the California Spider remains as strong as ever, and the SWB model in particular – the most technically advanced and sporting variant – is undoubtedly among the most glamorous and iconic Ferraris ever built.
Offered for sale for the first time in over 14 years, this is an exceptionally desirable 250 GT – a Ferrari Classiche-certified, covered-headlight SWB California Spider that served as Franco-Britannic’s 1961 Paris Show Car and was later owned by a well-known Hollywood actress.
No world-class Ferrari collection can be considered complete without a 250 GT SWB California Spider. When the next example might become available is anyone’s guess, but it will almost certainly pale in comparison to 2903 GT.