The annual auctions held at Amelia Island, Fla., are celebrated occasions for classic car enthusiasts and collectors around the world. On March 3, Gooding & Company holds its sale at Racquet Park, Omni Amelia Island Resort, and it is one sure to tempt Ferraristi with an appreciation for the most significant cars of the Italian marque’s illustrious past.
That past goes back nearly 76 years to 1947, when Enzo Ferrari built the first Prancing Horse to wear the enamel Cavallino emblem bearing his name. To look at a Ferrari from the first decade of the company’s history aside a modern supercar like the limited-production Ferrari 812 Competizione requires a suspension of disbelief that both could somehow be related, so different is one from the other. Yet the modern machines are legitimate descendants, alive only because their blood courses with the DNA of their ancestors.
An especially notable patriarch is the 1953 Ferrari 250 MM Spider Series II that will be showcased by Gooding & Company at Retromobile in Paris, from February 1 through 5, in advance of the Amelia Island auction. This is an historically significant car, whose even serial number (as opposed to odd) establishes it as a true competition Ferrari, and one of only 12 examples of the Vignale-bodied spider built on a Ferrari 250 MM (Mille Miglia) competition chassis.
This was the first series-built competition model to bear the 250 name. The heart and soul of early Ferraris was a V-12 engine, but two schools of thought pertained. Engine designs by engineers Lampredi and Colombo each saw success, and the 250 MM was fit with a Colombo-designed 3.0-liter V-12 with Lampredi-style heads, which featured individual porting, hairpin valve springs and four-choke Weber carburetors. The engine develops 240 bhp at 7,200 rpm, formidable output for its day, and performance is further enhanced by the relative light weight of the Vignale body.
The winning combination of lightness and prodigious performance garnered the car acclaim at the 1953 Giro di Sicilia and, in April of the same year, at the Pebble Beach Road Races. It was at the latter competition that Phil Hill was victorious behind the wheel—his first time driving the 250 MM Spider. Victories at Monza and the Coppa d’Oro della Dolomiti soon followed at the hands of Luigi Villoressi and Paolo Marzotto, respectively. The Ferrari’s debut was an auspicious one.
The 250 MM Spider Series II is a very rare Ferrari, especially considering its coachwork. Of just 31 examples built, 20 wore Pininfarina Berlinetta (coupe) bodies, while 13 were bodied by Vignale, all but one in spider form. Alfredo Vignale was a master coachbuilder, and his carrozzeria hammered bodies for about 155 competition and road-going Ferraris in period. Those cars bear the signature of designer Giovanni Michelotti, an undisputed master whose pen designed automobiles for many marques of the day and in the following decade. His 1950s aesthetic is notable for its rounded, compact proportions, oval portholes, triangular rear-fender openings and capacious grilles—Michelotti was a trendsetter decades before the “grille wars” of the 21st century.
This car, chassis No. 0274 MM, was the first of three examples constructed with a staggered seat arrangement and long-range 150-liter fuel tank, all likely specified by the original owner, Florentine racing driver Piero Scotti. He entered the Ferrari in the 1953 Mille Miglia and Targa Florio, failing to finish either event due to mechanical issues. But the car continued to compete and went on to achieve considerable success in its debut year before being owned and raced by notable drivers throughout the late 1950s, including a number of Brazilian owners.
Finally coming to the United States, No. 0274 MM had subsequent owners and was eventually acquired by famed Ferrari historian Jess Pourret. During his stewardship, the car was restored and a spare engine block, later stamped with the original serial number, was installed. This original block, stamped with internal No. 018, was retained and accompanies the vehicle today. The car has also been documented by Ferrari Historian Marcel Massini.
Whether a precious ruby or a brilliant red automobile, the valuation of any exquisite jewel is ultimately dependent on the response of the collector market at the very moment the gavel hovers. Gooding & Company estimates this Ferrari gem to bring between $3 million and $5 million. As with so many rarities when appraised in retrospect, it’s easy to imagine these estimates seeming laughably modest in the years to come.
Click here for more photos of this 1953 Ferrari 250 MM Spider Series II.