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R404m Ferrari: Dark history of costliest used car

2014-08-28 08:57

WHAT A PRICE! This 1962/63 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta has been auctioned for the equivalent of R404-million in California. Image: Bonhams Auctioneers.

MONTEREY, California - This classic bright-red Italian sports car was driven hard, involved in several nasty crashes and the cost of spare parts is astronomical.

However none of these factors stopped the Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta from selling at auction in Pebble Beach, California for the equivalent of R404-million - the price of a modest airliner.

The winning bid at the Bonhams auction, part of the Monterey Car Week, on August 14 2014 made it the world's most expensive used car.


Only 39 were built through 1962-64 and all of them have survived.

As classic-car aficionados may know, Ferrari built the closed two-seat coupe at its Maranello factory in Italy for a series of endurance races. The tale of what happened to chassis number 3851 GT is altogether more fascinating.

VIDEO: Ferrari 250 GTO sells for R404-million

In the horse-carriage era the name Berlinetta meant "little saloon" of a sporting type popular in the German capital of Berlin in the 17th Century.

The 250 GTO looked nothing like its namesake buthas become a motorsport icon and in many eyes the most beautiful Ferrari yet assembled. They were painted black, green or blue - there was even a silver and a yellow version. Yet red was the dominant hue and 23 of the 39 were finished in the vivid colour which symbolises the Prancing Horse marque.


Owners included a large number of the rich and famous. Fashion designer Ralph Lauren had a 250 GTO in his garage, as did Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and Walmart heir Robson Walton. Fabrizio Violati, scion of a wealthy Roman family with considerable business interests in agriculture and mineral-water bottling and distribution bought chassis number 3851 GT for 2.5 million - Italian lire that is, a price which equated then to about $4000.

Violati did not tell his family about the car and, to avoid his parents finding out about the purchase, he only drove the Ferrari at night. The sports car was registered with the number plate MO 80576 for Modena (Italy) which it still bears today.

After flirting with yachts the Italian decided to enter the 250 GTO in historic races.


Notes which went with the car when it was offered for auction at Quail Lodge in Carmel, California, said: "Characteristically, Fabrizio Violati always raced just for the fun of it. He drove hard, and very fast, and always pushed even his historic cars to the limit."

The 250 GTO was joined by other Ferraris, and in later years was on display in San Marino as part of Violati's collection of cherished Maranello-built sports cars, a display endorsed by the great Enzo Ferrari himself.

The car is still an impressive performer, even by modern standards. With its three-litre V12 engine, the 3851 GT can accelerate effortlessly to 200km/h, with a top speed well beyond. that Fuel consumption is not given but Ferrari owners are not interested in such minor details.


Violati died in 2010 after many happy years with 3851 GT which he bought as a used car despite its dark provenance: French private racing driver and former ski ace Henri Oreiller, 36, died at the wheel of this 250 GTO. A tyre burst while he was competing in a race near Paris on October 7 1962 and the car rolled.

Oreiller was dragged from the wreckage alive but died in hospital.

The car was rebuilt at Maranello and sold to another gentleman racer who also careered off the track a few years later. The badly-dented Ferrari was knocked back into shape and within weeks 3851 GT was competing again.

Read more on:    ferrari  |  california  |  classic cars

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