California Dreaming at Gooding 2903 GT
The Ferrari California spyder is the epitome of nearly everyone’s idea of what a true open sports car should look like. It was the right car at the right time for the right market, and was a happy marriage of raw Ferrari V-12 power and performance allied with the gorgeous coachwork by Carrozzeria Scaglietti.
The earliest examples were built on the long-wheelbase (LWB) chassis shared with the 250 GT Tour de France Berlinetta and Series I Cabriolet, and it was in 1960 that Ferrari introduced the short-wheelbase (SWB) version along with the SWB berlinetta. When compared to its predecessor, the 250 GT SWB California benefited from a more sophisticated chassis, and its Scaglietti coachwork was more aggressive and sporting in appearance – a function of its compact proportions. In total, Ferrari built just 106 250 GT Californias – 50 of the early LWB version and 56 of the final SWB variant.
The 250 GT at auction here, s/n 2903 GT, was completed on September 20, 1961, and was the 24th SWB California built. In October, it was delivered to Ferrari’s French distributor Franco-Britannic Autos Limited, where it was prepared for its public debut at the 48th annual Salon de l’Automobile held at the magnificent Grand Palais in Paris. Following its show debut in Paris, s/n 2903 GT was sold to the factory’s official Geneva concessionaire, Garage de Montchoisy.
The first recorded owner was Swiss, and later it came to the USA and was owned in the late 1960s by actress Barbara Hershey of Los Angeles. It was stored at Cris Vandagrif’s Hollywood Sports Cars until July 1976, when sold to Spencer Stillman.
2903 GT went through a succession of owners until obtained by Ferrari collector Charles Wegner who commissioned a comprehensive restoration that remains the foundation of the car’s presentation today. During his ownership, Mr. Wegner exhibited the freshly restored Ferrari at two leading marque gatherings – the Monterey Vintage Ferrari Concours in Carmel Valley, California, and the 1994 Cavallino Classic in Palm Beach, Florida.
It later went to collector Gary Schaevitz, who drove s/n 2903 GT in three consecutive editions of the Colorado Grand. In spring 2000, the California joined the stable of the current owner, Paul Hallingby, who participated with it in the Copperstate 1000 and Nova Scotia 1000 rallies.
In 2014, the current owner applied for and was subsequently granted Ferrari Classiche Certification for s/n 2903 GT. In addition to the Ferrari Classiche documents, the sale of s/n 2903 GT includes a history report compiled by marque historian Marcel Massini, copies of the factory build sheets, and an original California Spyder hardtop.
Source: Information and image from Gooding & Co. Image by Mathieu Heurtault.