A report by Fang Block for Barrons. This item is a little dated, as the auction was in January, but we thought fans of Rubirosa would find it interesting.
A vintage Ferrari that comes with celebrity provenance led Bonhams annual car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Jan. 17, and was expected to sell for between $5 million and $6 million.
Another highlight of the auction is a 1964 Porsche 904 GTS that was owned by Robert Redford, the American actor and director, and founder of the Sundance Film Festival. The German coupe is expected to fetch up to $1.6 million.
The 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider, featuring a mid-engine, lightweight body, was named to celebrate Ferrari’s consecutive Formula 1 World Championships in 1952 and 1953. (Mondial means “global” in French.) It’s one of only 12 models made, according to Bonhams.
“What is unique about the car is its early history,” says Jakob Greisen, specialist and head of the department of Motor Cars at Bonhams. “It’s owned, raced, and admired by famous collectors and drivers.”
The Mondial was originally owned by Porfirio Rubirosa, a Dominican diplomat, race car driver, and polo player. He raced the car in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he was often accompanied by his then-lover Zsa Zsa Gabor.
The car was later bought by John von Neumann, a race car driver and the Ferrari distributor for California. He drove the car at the Santa Barbara road races and was extensively photographed with an admiring James Dean. Dean, best known for his role in Rebel Without a Cause, also had a career in racing before his death in a car accident in 1955 at age 24.
While under Neumann’s ownership, the Ferrari was driven by Phil Hill, the only American-born driver to win the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship at Palm Springs, Calif.
The current owner, a private collector in California, procured the car about a decade ago, according to Greisen, who declined to disclose the consignor’s identity.
In addition to its celebrity pedigree, the car is well-maintained, which is rare for sports racers.
“The car was restored by Ferrari’s in-house Classiche department, went back to its original roots, refurbished to match its original colors,” Greisen says.
It has received first in class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, as well as the Platinum Award for Best Restored Ferrari and the Phil Hill Trophy for Best Competition Ferrari, both from the Ferrari Club of America.