The most beautiful car in the world (2019): 1958 Ferrari 335 S Spyder
The fifth Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award has been won by a 1958 Ferrari 335 S Spyder Scaglietti, completing yet another wonderful story of automotive redemption. Like several of the cars on our top 100 listing of the world’s most valuable cars, the one-of-three Ferrari factory team car spent a period of its life abandoned, before being reclaimed, restored and returned to global prominence.
The Ferrari 335S Spider is the ultimate development of the front-engined Ferrari Sports racing Spyder. In period, this Scaglietti-bodied creation was called "the super Testa Rossa" thanks to its outrageous performance. Four were built, three survive.
The 335S Spider was one of the fastest cars on Earth at the time, running a four-liter, quad cam V-12 breathing through six dual 42mm throat weber carburettors, and producing 390 horsepower. With its aerodynamic shell, it was capable of 300 km/h (186 mph).
One of the sister cars ran the first 200 km/h lap (that means it averaged 200 km/h (124 mph) over the then 8.38-mile/13.5-km course) during the 1957 Le Mans 24 Hour. Another claimed the life of driver, Alfonso de Portago, American co-driver Edmund Nelson and 10 spectators during the 1957 Mille Miglia, resulting in the banning of racing on public roads.
As a team, they won the 1957 World Sportscar championship.
At the official 2016 Retromobile auctions, one of the three cars sold for €32,075,200 (US$35,712,945) when footballers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo engaged in a bidding war that ended with it becoming the most expensive car ever sold in Europe or in euro or in British pounds.
The Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award is the de facto world championship of Concours cars, drawing its contestants from the winners of “best in show” at eight of the most prestigious Concours events in Europe and America in the previous 12 months.
The 1958 Ferrari 335 S Spyder qualified for the award final in Paris by winning the 2019 Cavallino Classic Concorso d’Eleganza in Palm Beach Florida on January 26, 2019, so it has been an entire year of waiting for the car's owner Andreas Mohringer, knowing he'd be one of the eight finalists.
It was the second year in a row that Mohringer’s Ferrari 335 S Spyder had qualified for the final, having also qualified for last year’s award by winning the Best of Show award at Villa d'Este in 2018.
Last year the Ferrari came up against formidable competition for the Best of the Best award, in the form of David Sydorick’s 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta, a car we dubbed, “the world's most acclaimed concours car.”
Originally displayed at the New York International Auto Show in February, 1959, the Ferrari 335S Spyder was raced by its first owner, Texan Alan Connell, in period at Watkins Glen, Daytona, Riverside, Elkhart Lake, Virginia International Speedway, and in Nassau Speed Week in December, 1959. It didn’t win in the Bahamas, but a sister car did. It raced primarily in the North American Racing Team colors of the Ferrari distributor of North America, Luigi Chinetti, and won three straight SCCA races in late 1959 in those colors, including Daytona.
In May, 1960, the Ferrari suffered a blown motor and was sent back to the Ferrari factory to assess the cost of repairing it. The costs were considered too great and the car was sent back to America with the motor requiring considerable repairs. Ferrari distributor Luigi Chinetti refused to take delivery of the car and Connell didn’t either, so it was left unclaimed at a New York customs facility while accumulating storage costs.
More than 12 months later, a deal was done to pay the storage costs of approximately $900 and the car and engine were separated – shortly thereafter, the chassis was fitted with a competition engine from a Ferrari 250 GT SWB. It was to be another 15 years before the original engine and chassis were reunited by then owner, Rob Lamplough of Great Britain.
Lamplough competed in the car in the 50th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1974, and subsequently dropped a valve just outside Padua while competing in the 1985 “Coppa d’Italia”.
Since then, the car has been largely recognized for what it is – a “Mona Lisa car.” It may have been considered worth $900 in 1960, but by 1990, when it went to auction with Christies at Pebble Beach, it achieved a high bid of $9,000,000 just before the collector car bubble burst. The bid was refused as being inadequate, but as collector car prices tumbled, so did the value of this car.
In 1998, the car was purchased by telecommunications entrepreneur Bruce McCaw for $5.5 million. McCaw enjoyed the car to its limits, racing it in the Monterey Historic Races regularly over the next decade, before selling it to current owner Andreas Mohringer.
Mohringer has restored the car to its original NART racing colors, and between the two sister cars, one of which sold with Artcurial in 2016, we have the opportunity to see the gorgeous Ferrari masterpiece in both its original factory racing guises. Be warned before you go to the image gallery - you could look at this car for hours.