A guy in David Gooding’s position is used to strange calls concerning cars. Whether it’s a description of a faded hood ornament poking through hay in a barn or whisperings about a model that experts thought didn’t exist, the auction company founder is typically unruffled when it comes to “Do I have a story for you” tales.
But not this time.
“The phone rang, and I was told about what was promised to be a very nice Ferrari that was sitting inside its former owner’s office,” says Gooding. “I didn’t know quite what to make of this.”
So he went to see the car. What he found startled him: a rakish 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 parked in something that blended a den, office and garage. The Ferrari was more stationary sculpture than resting racer. But it was all there, and it was beautiful. “I walked in and didn’t want to leave,” says Gooding. “If I could have pulled up a cot, I would have.”
This 275 GTB/4 — which could bring between $3.4 and $3.8 million — is one of the highlights of Gooding and Company’s upcoming Amelia Island auction on March 13, one of the big stops on the year’s classic-autos calendar.
Besides the elemental appeal of this increasingly prized Prancing Horse — a GTB/4 owned by actor and racer Steve McQueen sold for a staggering $10 million at auction last summer — its rarity is compounded by having lived with the same family for the past 43 years. What’s more, it was parked in the owner’s auto-themed office in 1982 — and was never driven again.
“Bob, the owner (last name withheld by the auction company), worked in the office and simply liked to be surrounded by gorgeous things,” says Gooding, noting that the light blue Ferrari was kept company by a Porsche 911, a Triumph TR3 and a few open-wheeled racers. “After 10 years of driving the car regularly, he was concerned about keeping the car safe. So he just stopped driving it.”
Bob’s recent passing prompted the family’s call to Gooding, who soon enough had the full story. The car spent its first five years zipping between three Roman owners (the car still features that city’s squared off rear plate). It was then imported by an American exotic-car reseller who quickly found a buyer in Bob, who shared the car with friends and fellow enthusiasts for the next decade in and around his eastern Massachusetts hometown.
Call the car an “office find.” While it was hermetically sealed in a heated and cooled space and therefore spared the ravages of weather, the 275 is far from perfect, says Gooding.
“We had to get the brakes unstuck to get it rolled out of there, and the paint has a few flaws and some of the chrome has issues, but it’s all very real,” he says, adding that the car’s next owner will want to spend a solid sum getting it in running condition. But, he adds, the result will be worth it.
“So many of these cars have had their noses dented and then fixed, and inevitably they never look quite right, they look like a person who’s had bad plastic surgery,” says Gooding. “But not this car.”
Gooding has little time for wags who look down their noses on the car being idle for 33 years. “You could say it’s a shame it wasn’t used regularly, but there are many ways to enjoy a car,” he says. “Just appreciating its beauty works, too.”
Three other vehicles in Gooding’s Amelia line-up also stand out.
One has echoes of the GTB/4’s unusual story. Purchased new in Europe, Betsy - the nickname for a 1959 Porsche 356 A Coupe ($90,000 to $120,000) - was the cherished machine of Joseph and Erika Flynn. Joseph picked up the car in Frankfurt, and while touring Germany met his future wife, Erika. He brought both back to the Los Angeles area, where he and Erika drove Betsy in the California sun until 1971 when, presumably moving on to more modern fare, the 356 was parked. Joseph passed in 1999, and Erika in 2014, the latter event prompting the family to find a new home for the old Porsche.
“You get some people saying ‘Why pay big money for what looks like an old, dirty car,’ but with all that character it just reeks authenticity,” says Gooding, noting that the seats are slashed down to the stuffing and paintwork shows signs of distress. “But that makes the car.”
The next find is a gloriously used 1956 Maserati 200 SI ($5.5 to $6.5 million), a racing car whose drivers have included the likes of Stirling Moss, Jean Behra and Luigi Villoresi running on circuits such as the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio and the Nurburgring. Still menacing in its original stainless steel livery, the car has spent the past 10 years campaigning in a number of historic race and nabbing ribbons at a range of concours events.
“We all talk about how Ferrari prices are going through the roof, but the great Maseratis are finally getting their moment in the sun,” says Gooding. “I guess you could say that relative to Ferraris, they’re a really good value.”
And finally, would you pay $2 million for a Fiat? Before you shout “No!,” check out possibly the nicest Fiat you’ve ever laid eyes on, a visual rebuke to those “Fix It Again, Tony” slurs suffered by the automaker during its disastrous U.S. spell in the ‘70s.
The 1953 Fiat 8V Coupe ($1.2 to $2 million) struts a sultry body by Vignale, one of the top Italian coachbuilders of the day. It is a study in futurism and sex appeal, a two-door challenge to other eight-cylinder machines from far more famous marques. Only 114 were ever built, and after decades of benign neglect this example was treated to a no-hold-barred restoration in New Zealand. The car’s coming out party amounted to a First in Class showing at the 2002 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. In 2012, it was reunited with its original engine, further enhancing the car’s collectibility.
“This was a car that was made to compete with the Ferraris and Maseratis of its day,” says Gooding. “It is not what you think of when you think of Fiat.”