What if your family heirloom turned out to be an object whose value seemed to rise exponentially every year? That was the conundrum facing one North Carolina family whose late patriarch had bought a Ferrari convertible on a whim in 1967 — and managed to buy one of the rarest, most beautiful cars ever crafted by the brand. Next month, that Ferrari will likely bring at least $14 million at RM Auctions in Pebble Beach, Calif., — in a way that honors the family name.
As the video above illustrates, the car was owned by Eddie Smith, who spent his childhood in an orphanage and later founded a successful mail-order business in Lexington, N.C. Thanks to a passion for fast cars, Smith became friends with Luigi Chinetti, the man who launched not only Ferrari's U.S. business but helped build much of its racing reputation as well.
After the launch of the 1966 Ferrari GTB 275/4 with its 300-hp V-12, Chinetti talked Enzo Ferrari and coachbuilder Pininfarina to building him a convertible model, saying the demand would be great enough in the United States to make the project worthwhile. Chinetti had plans for 25, but only ten were built, each for a cost of $8,000. Smith picked up his copy at the factory in Maranello, and it's been in his family ever since.
Those ten cars — dubbed the N.A.R.T. Spyder, for Chinetti's North American Racing Team — rank among the most desirable Ferraris ever built. Steve McQueen chased after one; years pass between one coming up for sale, and given the skyrocketing prices for antique European sports cars, RM Auctions expects Eddie Smith's old car to compete with the most expensive vehicles ever sold at Pebble Beach. For Smith's descendants, who held onto his favorite sports car, the results won't mean a windfall for them — they're donating the proceeds to a variety of charities; Smith himself never forgot his orphanage upbringing, even rising early every morning to cook breakfast for his employees.
"We wanted to do something that would have brought a smile to my dad’s face,” says Eddie Smith Jr. “He owned Ferraris for all the right reasons and loved driving and enjoying them in the company of fellow enthusiasts. We feel that it needs to be enjoyed and driven by someone who will appreciate the car with the same passion as he did.”
Photos: RM Auctions
- Luigi Chinetti
- RM Auctions
- Enzo Ferrari
- Pebble Beach