Feb. 17th 2012 – Car of the day (Ferrari’s) #4

Ferrari 250 GT California

The Roger Vadim?s California

1959 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder with factory hard-top


? Roger Vadim

? Collection Jean-Claude Bajol

 We are delighted to present here the very car that turned heads while in the hands of one of the most famous playboys from the South of France.


Ferrari?s destiny was changed by the 250. Starting as a small-scale constructor, it took on an industrial dimension and gained the international reputation that it enjoys today. Centred on the famous V12 3-litre engine, which had nothing further to prove, two Ferrari families were born: one destined exclusively for the track and the other, offering a level of comfort and equipment missing until that point, for the road. The racing line gave birth to such legendary cars as the Testa Rossa, Tour de France berlinetta, 250 GTO and the 250 LM. Meanwhile stars, tycoons and amateur enthusiasts fought over the road-going line which produced splendid coupés and cabriolets. A constant characteristic of Maranello was the strong link between these two groups, which meant that the road-going cars were never far from the race track…The 250 GT California Spyder is the child of this perfect marriage. Indeed, while the 250 GT cabriolet by Pinin Farina is derived from the GT coupé, the California Spyder is drawn from the competition berlinettas. So much so that the brilliant design by Pinin Farina was bodied by Scaglietti who built all competition cars for Ferrari. The Spyder used the same chassis with 2.6m wheelbase as the Tour de France, had a comparable engine and featured the same rear wing styling as the closed version. Being geared less towards racing, it was a little heavier than its counterpart, but still lighter than the cabriolet. Also, there were certain models, specially prepared with a stopwatch in mind, that distinguished themselves on the circuit : Ginther and Hively finished first in the GT category and ninth overall in the 1959 Sebring 12 Hour race, and Grossman and Tavano took fifth place in the Le Mans 24 Hour race the same year, at the wheel of a spyder from the NART team belonging to enthusiast Luigi Chinetti. The aforementioned Chinettii was involved in the « California » title of the 250 GT Spyder : originally from Milan and a close friend of Enzo Ferrari, he was largely responsible for the widespread and efficient distribution of Ferrari throughout North America. This became an important market for the model that evolved alongside the competition versions, and enjoyed great commercial success with demanding wealthy amateur drivers. In all, forty-seven examples were sold in under two years, with surprisingly just six going to California. Two further Californias left the Scaglietti workshop at that time, a « Boano » coupé and a Pinin Farina cabriolet, both rebodied after accidents. And one must not forget the 52 short-chassis examples which followed on between 1960 and 1962. An exclusive and high-performance model, the California Spyder holds a special place in the history of Ferrari, as it embodies an unrivalled fusion of qualities for road and track, the two paths on which Ferrari built its global success. The open versions of this marque are particularly rare, which explains the growing success across the decades of the California, the most expensive road-going Ferrari today.

 Leaving the factory on 11 April 1959, this was the 22nd Ferrari California to be built, including the prototype. Finished in lacquered silver grey, with black leather interior, black fabric hood, a hard-top and the preferred optional covered headlights. The Pubblico Registro in Modena indicates that 1283GT was first registered on 15 April 1959 as MO 51012, to Franco Mattioli from Sassuolo, the neighbouring district to Maranello. Clearly, this 25-year old youngster did not pay the five and a half million lira needed to complete the transaction. He was simply the frontman for a certain Roger Plemiannikow, alias Roger Vadim. Accompanied by his second wife, the Danish actress Annette Stroyberg, Vadim drove this Ferrari for nearly six years without changing its Italian plates. In 1959 he returned the car to the factory to have the drum brakes replaced with the Amadori disc brakes that were standard on models produced from that year. He then ordered the new short-chassis California model, and chassis number 2175GT was delivered to him at the start of 1961 by the garage Montchoisy, the Swiss Ferrari importer based in Geneva. According to Marcel Massini, the « long » California was re-sold in 1965 by the same garage Montchoisy to Georges Lang, a shipper from Annecy. The car was registered in the Haute-Savoie department, 10 FY 74, and was repainted Bordeaux red. In 1967, Lang acquired a Lamborghini Miura from the Atomic Garage in Lyon, trading in the California at the same time. A friend of the vendor remembers seeing the car for sale for 7,000 F, and later in 1973 in a neighbouring garage in Pont-de-la-Caille, on the road from Annecy to Geneva.

 It was rediscovered in 1993 and sold to an important American dealer who had it transported to Amsterdam for export. However, Jean Guikas, on discovering the car at the docks, bought it and took it to Marseille where he kept it until 1997. When Jean-Claude Bajol realised that this was the actual car owned by Vadim that he had dreamed about for so many years, he wrote a cheque to the dealer immediately. He undertook a nut and bolt restoration of the car which was carried out in Modena, so thorough that it even included replacing the Luppi leather upholstery with period Ferrari leather. Bajol recollected driving with Vadim with an eye to buying the car, but his many attempts at that time failed. Forty years later, he finally fulfilled this dream, and was able to park the car alongside his 250 TdF, 512 BBLM and other cars from his collection that will also be offered in the sale.

 This exceptional Ferrari contains all the ingredients that make up a work of art: a mythical marque, powerful and highly developed engine, matching numbers, beautiful styling with desirable covered headlights, designed by a major coachbuilder, easy to use in summer or winter with its factory hard-top, unrivalled driving sensations, superb condition and, the part that makes all the difference, a continuous and fascinating provenance. A very rare opportunity.

Est. ??

Sold (3/2/12 Retromobile Paris) 4.507 mil. Euro/ $5.8 mil USD

Comment – There are several California’s for sale at any one time, this was the one to have, with its hard top and superb restoration (plus european star factor) it was another no – brainer.


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