Why a twisted hunk of metal that used to be a Ferrari just sold for nearly $2 million at a Monterey auction

Why a twisted hunk of metal that used to be a Ferrari just sold for nearly $2 million at a Monterey auction

A hulk of dented, torn and scorched metal that was, decades ago, a Ferrari race car just sold at an RM Sotheby’s auction in Monterey, California for $1.9 million.

While that may be surprising, it’s not quite as horrible an investment as it looks, especially if the buyer is after something more than money: racing history and, for the new owner, a shot at a glory all their own.

One of only 13 made, this 1954 Ferrari Mondial Spider Series I wasn’t one of Ferrari’s fabled V12 models but a an entirely different design. The four-cylinder car was designed for driving on twisting tracks with lots of curves and few straightaways, where a smaller, lighter engine was desirable.

A winning design

Ferrari won world championships in 1952 and 1953 with cars of this one’s design, hence its name “Mondial” or “World.”

Known by its chassis number, 0406 MD, it was originally built with a body by the famed Italian design firm Pinin Farina. (The company name would later be changed to Pininfarina.) Back in 1954 it was driven by Franco Cortese, the same man who had, years earlier, driven a Ferrari to the brand’s very first racing victory.

Complicated history

This car, a different 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Pinin Farina Spider, was offered for sale on the auction site Bring A Trailer in September, 2021.(Courtesy Bring A Trailer) 

As with many vintage racing cars, this one had a complicated life. A year or so after it was built, it was given a different body by the firm of Scaglietti, before being shipped to the United States in 1958.

At some point in the late 1950s or early ’60s the Mondial was crashed and burned, not necessarily at the same time. Decades later, the details are unclear. By then, its original engine had also been replaced.

The car was bought by Ferrari collector Walter Medlin in 1978, and has spent the past 45 years in its current condition in storage.

The most expensive Ferrari ever sold at auction was the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, which was also on the block at RM Sotheby’s. It sold there in 2018 for $48.4 million.

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Ferrari Mondial Spiders in good shape can sell for just over $2 million, said Brian Rabold, vice president for automotive intelligence at Hagerty, a company that closely tracks collectible car values. In recent years some have sold for as much as $5 million.

It could easily take $1 million to bring the car back to its pre-crash appearance and make it drivable again, Rabold said. So, the new owner could at least break even on that total investment. But making money is not the main reason someone would want to purchase a car like this.

“The sale price doesn’t leave much room for financial upside, but for the new owner the bigger reward may be in getting this historic car back to like-new condition and in front of appreciative enthusiasts again,” Rabold said in an email.

The price includes the RM auction house commission, and the buyer is undisclosed.

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