Achieved 3rd in class and 19th overall at the 1962 Targa Florio
The second of 56 short-wheelbase examples built, and one of 18 built with uncovered headlamps
One of two examples fitted with a Tipo 128 F engine; and one of three built without side vents
Exhibited by Ferrari at the 1960 Turin Motor Show
Former ownership by noted American privateer Bob Grossman
Restored by Italian craftsmen from 2013 to 2016 and recently refinished in its 1962 Targa Florio livery
Retains matching-numbers engine, gearbox, and rear axle example, as documented by its Ferrari Classiche Red Book
Successfully campaigned on the Colorado Grand and the Ferrari Factory Cavalcade Classic
Presented at the Cavallino Classic, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, and Retromobile
Documented with factory engine build sheet, Auto Club d’Italia estratto cronologico, and report from historian Marcel Massini; accompanied by original factory hardtop
The proverbial sports car pantheon is full of models that have achieved one kind of metric or another, but at the very peak of Olympus two words loom larger than most any other: California Spider.
Ferrari achieved great heights with its 250 GT platform, finding remarkable success in sports car competition with the Tour de France and Testa Rossa models. In 1957, however, one man dared to push the boundaries even further. John von Neumann was a California-based importer and co-founder of the local sports car club who had become a regular distributor for Ferrari sales on the West Coast. He proposed the idea of a dual-use open Ferrari that could be driven to the track and raced before being gently driven home, in the tradition of Maranello’s great berlinettas. Official Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti supported the idea and before long a new 250 GT appeared: the California Spider.
Sportier than the concurrent 250 GT Cabriolet, the California Spider shared the Tour de France berlinetta’s chassis, and the open coachwork was designed and built by the legendary Sergio Scaglietti with beautifully sculpted curves and a commanding stance. This was a Ferrari for every sense to enjoy; wondrous to hear, viscerally thrilling in performance, and beautiful to admire.
Initially built on Ferrari’s 2,600-millimeter wheelbase chassis, the early California Spiders made a splash in GT competition, taking a class win at Sebring in 1959 and finishing 5th overall at Le Mans a few months later. Fifty examples of the California Spider were eventually built on the long-wheelbase chassis before Ferrari introduced its 2,400-millimeter short-wheelbase platform. Unveiled at the 1960 Geneva Salon, the SWB California Spider featured several performance upgrades over its predecessor, including a wider track, Koni adjustable telescopic shock absorbers, four-wheel disc brakes, and the latest evolution of the highly developed short-block V-12 engine.
As the most advanced iteration of the model’s design, the SWB California Spider was as thrilling to drive as it was to behold, and the car quickly gained favor with an illustrious group of jet-set owners, including James Coburn, Roger Vadim, and the Aga Khan. Ultimately produced in a modest quantity of 56 examples, the SWB California Spider has evolved into one of the most desirable Ferraris ever built, cherished by today’s collectors for its deft combination of 1950s styling elements and 1960s performance advances.
CHASSIS NUMBER 1883 GT
Claiming period racing and exhibition use, a three-year restoration conducted by Italian craftsmen, certification by Ferrari Classiche, and a recent refinish in its period racing livery, this exquisite Ferrari is a benchmark example of Maranello’s short-wheelbase spider. A flurry of production metrics demonstrates just how special this 250 GT truly is. In addition to being only the second SWB California Spider built, 1883 GT is one of 18 such cars that were configured with uncovered headlamps. The spider is furthermore distinguished by being one of 25 cars delivered with a factory hardtop, one of just three examples bodied without side vents, and one of two to be fitted with the Tipo 128 F engine.
According to a history report by marque expert Marcel Massini, this steel-bodied California Spider completed assembly in August 1960, finished in Blu Medio paint with an interior upholstered with Rosso vaumol leather by Connolly. The 250 GT was purchased new through the Turin-based dealer Garage Fontanella & Co. by Litex S.a.S. on behalf of the company’s president, Robert Fusina, and he allowed Ferrari to exhibit the car on their stand at the 1960 Turin Motor Show.
Shortly thereafter the 250 GT was sold by Litex to its second owner, Trieste resident Alessandro Terni, who had the car repainted in light blue metallic. Terni then loaned the SWB to Fusina and Guido De Bonis for use in the Targa Florio in May 1962, where the car impressively finished 3rd in class and a respectable 19th overall. According to Cavallino magazine (and to the best of our knowledge), 1883 GT is the only Ferrari 250 GT California Spider of any kind—either Long or Short Wheelbase—to compete in the Targa Florio in period.
Two months later Terni sold the spider to Carlo Moraglia of Turin, although he only kept the car five months before selling it to De Bonis. In March 1963 the 250 changed ownership again when De Bonis sold the car to the Spanish-born Felix Manuel Cormin Villa, who also resided in Turin.
By the end of 1963 the Ferrari was found in Switzerland by Bob Grossman, the famed American privateer whose SCCA racing successes in the LWB California Spiders chassis numbers 0939 GT and 1451 GT helped popularize the model. Grossman exported the 250 GT to the United States and from him it passed through a chain of four private owners through early 1982, by which time the car had been refinished in rosso over a tan interior.
In 1983 the Ferrari was sold to Robert Panella of Stockton, California, a marque enthusiast whose collection included the 275 GTB/4 first owned by Steve McQueen (also being offered at RM Sotheby’s 2023 Monterey sale). Mr. Panella had the 250 GT restored, including the conversion of the nose configuration to covered headlamps, and he presented the spider at the Ferrari Owners Club Concours d’Elegance at the Rancho Cañada Golf Club in Carmel Valley in August 1984. Ten years later Panella presented the car at the FCA’s International Concours d’Elegance in Monterey.
In July 1996 the Ferrari passed to Brazilian resident Carlos Monteverde, and after just one year he sold the car to artist and collector Everett Anton “Tony” Singer of Laurel Hollow, New York. Singer is better known in the niche as the proprietor of a vintage automotive poster printing company and as the founder of Automobilia Monterey. Singer also acquired the spider’s original hardtop, which had become separated from the car during the intervening years. Chassis 1883 GT was then displayed at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance in June 1999, winning the Best Italian Sports Car award, and Singer went on to enjoy the car on the Colorado Grand for the following two years. During his ownership the spider also won a Silver Award at the 2001 Cavallino Classic, and it was presented at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance two months later.
In February 2002 the California Spider was acquired by a Swiss collector who exhibited the car at the Loris Kessel Ferrari Days at the Lugano-Agno airport and went on to retain possession for nine years. Sold to the current caretaker in January 2012, the 250 GT was submitted a year later to Ferrari Classiche to begin certification. The owner soon commissioned a complete restoration by the Carrozzeria Egidio Brandoli and Zanasi & Co. (including returning the headlamps to their original uncovered configuration, and an update of the livery to Nero over beige) and Joe Macari in London was retained to address all mechanical considerations. After completion of the three-year refurbishment in 2016, 1883 GT was certified with a Ferrari Classiche Red Book that demonstrates the spider retains its matching-numbers engine, gearbox, and rear axle.
The 250 GT was then enjoyed during select European events, including the Ferrari Factory 70th Anniversary Cavalcade Classic in Tuscany in May 2017, and the Ferrari Factory Cavalcade Classic in Rome in 2019. The car was also presented at the Suisse Concours d’Elegance held at the Chateau Coppet in June 2018, and the 2023 Retromobile.
In preparation for its current offering the California Spider has recently been treated to a refinish in light blue metallic over a rosso interior, matching the livery of its most glorious moment, the 3rd-in-class finish at the 1962 Targa Florio. As a tribute to its appearance at the epic Sicilian road race the car has also been fitted with an easily removable bolt-on rollbar, and decals with race #82 have been applied. The SWB is currently fitted with 15-inch Borrani wire wheels, and it is accompanied by a spare set of 16-inch Borranis. It is furthermore offered with its original factory soft-top and hard-top, each of which is stored in a separate flight case.
Short-wheelbase California Spiders are only rarely offered in public settings, making the availability of this period-raced, Classiche-certified example an extremely special opportunity. Nuanced marque collectors seeking to acquire one of Maranello’s most celebrated Golden Grails should be pleased with the presentation of this magnificent spider.