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    United States
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The Ferrari presented here, chassis 1879 GT, is a truly fascinating Series II Pinin Farina Cabriolet, of which just 200 examples were constructed between 1959 and 1962. Designed and built by the legendary Carrozzeria Pinin Farina, the beautifully finished Cabriolet was the most refined model in Ferrari’s 250 GT range and, with an original asking price of 5,800,000 lire, it was also the most exclusive. The Pinin Farina Cabriolet attracted an elite clientele that included Fiat heir Umberto Agnelli, Prince Moulay Abdallah of Morocco, and racing drivers such as Porfirio Rubirosa and Jean Blaton.

According to the research of marque historian Marcel Massini, 1879 GT was delivered new to an important and suitably glamorous Ferrari customer: Prince Alessandro “Dado” Ruspoli.

Born in Rome in 1924, Prince Ruspoli was just the type of client that Ferrari had envisioned for their Pinin Farina Cabriolet. Young, fashionable, and of aristocratic descent, Dado Ruspoli was the quintessential playboy of the jet-set era, well known for his extravagant, devil-may-care lifestyle. Described by one journalist as “a hedonist of epic proportions, with an ego as large as his sphere of social influence,” Prince Ruspoli was the inspiration for the main character in Fellini’s classic film La Dolce Vita, performed by Marcello Mastroianni.

In the 1950s, the prince’s primary residence, Castello Ruspoli in Vignanello, Italy, a 16th century castle famed for its pristine Renaissance-era gardens, was a prominent feature of Roman high society. Throughout this period, he surrounded himself with a diverse cast of fascinating characters, counting Brigitte Bardot, Salvador Dali, Roger Vadim, Orson Welles, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, and Truman Capote among his friends. A lifelong patron of the arts, Prince Ruspoli supported ballet and musical companies, studied transcendental meditation, and even dabbled in acting during his later years, taking a small part in The Godfather III.

As would be expected of an Italian playboy prince, Prince Ruspoli had a particular affinity for exotic sports cars. In 1948, he commissioned a Ghia-bodied Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Cabriolet, with which he won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at the Monte Carlo Concours d’Elegance. In the 1950s, he became enamored with Ferraris and owned several, including a 340 America, a one-off 250 GT Speciale, a Series I Pinin Farina Cabriolet, and a 410 Superamerica. By the late 1960s, he had become loyal to Maserati, owning both a 3500 GT and a Mistral Spider.

Prince Ruspoli’s Series II Cabriolet was built in spring 1960, and a certificate of origin was issued by Ferrari upon its completion on June 30. According to Pinin Farina records, this car was originally finished in Grigio Conchiglia (Shell Grey) with red upholstery – one of the most popular color combinations for the model.

It is believed that during production, 1879 GT and another Grigio Conchiglia Series II Pinin Farina Cabriolet, chassis 1911 GT, exchanged identities. Originally assigned Pinin Farina body no. 29732, chassis 1879 GT today bears body no. 29736, the body number that was originally assigned to chassis 1911 GT. Similarly, the entire driveline installed in 1879 GT – including the engine, gearbox, and differential – features internal numbers that correspond with 1911 GT’s build records.

While the circumstances surrounding this identity exchange are unclear, Italian road registration records on file detail that 1879 GT was officially sold new to Prince Alessandro Ruspoli in July 1960, and that it was originally registered as “Roma 404593.” A period image supplied by Marcel Massini shows actress Audrey Hepburn posing with this elegant Ferrari Cabriolet, as identified by its Rome registration number.

In 1961, Prince Ruspoli sold 1879 GT to Roberto Graziani and Liberato Bruti Liberati. It then passed into the hands of another Roman owner in 1962. In May 1963, the Ferrari was sold to Robert John Wagner, the famed American actor.

Mr. Wagner had moved to Europe in 1962, where he took roles in several films, including The Longest Day (1962) and Vittorio de Sica’s The Condemned of Altona (1962), co-starring Sophia Loren. Mr. Wagner and his Ferrari 250 Cabriolet were later featured in The Pink Panther (1964), starring David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Claudia Cardinale. One of the movie’s most memorable scenes prominently features 1879 GT – an absurd car chase in which a jewel thief in a gorilla costume uses the Ferrari to evade Inspector Clouseau.

Throughout his two-year ownership, Mr. Wagner reportedly entrusted his Pinin Farina Cabriolet to the official Roman Ferrari agent Gioacchino Vari for service and maintenance. When he returned to the US in 1965, Mr. Wagner enlisted his agent Giorgio Dickmann to sell the Ferrari on his behalf. In April of that year, 1879 GT was sold to Michele Romano Luccarelli of Civita Castellana, who registered it in Viterbo as “VT 50887.” The Ferrari remained in Italy until 1969, when it was shipped to San Francisco by Italian car dealer Michele Vernola.

Upon its arrival in California, 1879 GT was sold via Rich Motors, a Maserati dealer in Glendale, California, to Oakland resident John Hagop. By 1979, ownership had passed to Donald Nichols, an employee of well-known Berkeley-based Ferrari specialist Griswold & Co. Early in his ownership, Mr. Nichols carefully disassembled 1879 GT and stripped the Pinin Farina body to bare metal in preparation for a complete restoration. The project never proceeded past these initial stages and, for the past three decades, the Ferrari was kept in static storage. Recently acquired by the consignor and presented as it was discovered in Mr. Nichols’ garage, this remarkable Ferrari is being offered for public auction for the first time in its history. A particularly compelling project given its rich provenance and famous on-screen appearance, 1879 GT appears to be an ideal candidate for a concours-quality restoration – one that would return it to its former splendor.

Notably, the Ferrari’s chassis is properly stamped 1879 GT, the original firewall data tag is intact, and the car is accompanied by its engine (including the block – internal no. 396F – timing chest, cylinder heads, carburetors, and assorted internal and auxiliary components); gearbox (internal no. 166F); rear end (internal no. 178F); brakes; exhaust; and suspension components.

Likewise, the Cabriolet body is stamped in several locations with the last digits of the Pinin Farina job number (29736) and retains its original bumpers, steering wheel, seats, glass, window regulators, top frame, instruments, and period Autovox radio. The odometer displays just over 70,000 km, and the Ferrari even retains its original 1970s-era blue-and-yellow California license plates.

One of the most exciting Ferrari discoveries in recent memory, this unrestored Series II Cabriolet is ready to make its return to the spotlight.

Gooding & Company
1517 20th Street
Santa Monica  90404  California
United States
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+1 (310) 899-1960