The ex-Jo Siffert
1959 FERRARI 250 GT LONG WHEELBASE CALIFORNIA SPYDER
COACHWORK BY SCAGLIETTI
Chassis No. 1217 GT
Engine No. 1217 GT (Type 128D)
Black with red leather interior
Engine: V12, single overhead camshaft per bank, 2,953cc, 250bhp at 7,000rpm; Gearbox: four-speed manual; Suspension: front, independent with coil springs, rear, semi-elliptic leaf springs; Brakes: four wheel disc. Left hand drive.
Convincing Enzo Ferrari to produce an open version of the highly successful competition 250 Berlinetta was an effort credited to the famous American Ferrari importer and driver, Luigi Chinetti. The resultant 'Spyder California' was clearly aimed at the American market, and the first prototype was completed in December 1957. Its mechanical specification was very similar to the 250GT Tour de France. The incredible Pininfarina design was built by Scaglietti and provided an elegant two-seater sports car that has to this day lost none of its appeal. Following the initial series of cars, a revised second series was produced, of which only 27 examples were built, with an engine and chassis that were more akin to the 250 SWB Berlinetta. The second series cars were fitted with the improved type 128D motor with reinforced connecting rods, and improved crankshaft and twin distributors. Some minor bodywork changes were evident such as a new profile to the rear wheel arches, and few cars received the uncovered open headlight arrangement. Some vehicles were also uprated with competition specification engines and a few rare examples were fully bodied in lightweight aluminum for racing purposes. Success on the racing circuits included 8th overall and first in the GT class at the 12 Hours of Sebring for Richie Ginther and Howard Hively in 1959. Perhaps even more impressive than this result later the same year was the 5th place finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans by Fernand Tavano and Bob Grossman in the NART-entered Competition Spyder.
After being delivered to the Officine Navali Campanella port in Genoa, Italy, chassis number 1217 was first purchased by Swiss racing great Jo Siffert. It was under Mr. Siffert's ownership that the original drum brake configuration was converted to the more effective and desirable disc brake set up. As seen in the accompanying archival photograph from the Stanley Nowak book, Ferrari On The Road, the car was originally delivered with a factory hardtop (now no longer with the car). Also noticed in the archival images, is the rare passenger hand brace, which still exists today. Changing ownership through Rob de la Rive Box of Lenzburg, Switzerland, the car then came to the United States under the ownership of Mr. Richard Merritt, the well-respected Ferrari collector and historian. At the time, Mr. Merritt noticed that the car was delivered to him fitted with engine No. 2057 (from a 250 GTE). The correct engine was now in a 1958 Boano, No. 0815, and it was under its next owner, Mr. George Heiser of Seattle, Washington, that chassis No. 1217 GT was reunited with its original engine in 1979. After an extensive search, Mr. Heiser was able to locate the Boano, purchase the car and perform the exchange. The Spyder California remained in Mr. Heiser's collection until 1987, when it returned to Europe for the next 6 years. In 1993, prominent California collector John Mozart acquired 1217 GT. It remained with him for a year, before it was purchased by the current owner, also a noted California collector. Under his ownership, 1217 underwent an extensive engine restoration in 1994. Performed by noted marque specialist Phil Reilly & Co., this work included new pistons, bearings, valves, etc. Along with the engine work, any additional concerns were addressed as well, such as installing a new canvas top, fitting the correct steering wheel, and fine-tuning the suspension. All receipts acknowledging this work, amounting to over $46,000 accompany the car.
Ferrari historian Antoine Prunet has summed up the California Spyder: "Its limited production (106 examples) has not stopped the 250 GT Spyder California from being among the most desirable Ferraris ever produced." 1217 GT is certainly one of the best long wheelbase examples owing to its overall originality, superb mechanical and cosmetic condition, and a well-documented history of ownership. Along with being an ideal entry for many of the great touring and rally events, 1217 GT has been off the concours circuit for many years, and would be a welcome addition worldwide.