Gooding & Company has just added a 1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider to its official Pebble Beach auction docket, joining the 1962 Ferrari 250 California SWB Spider already been announced by RM-Sotheby's as an auction block starter during Monterey Car Week this year (August 12-18, 2019).

Though there are some spectacular unicorns going to auction this year (such as the original Porsche and the 1898 Riker Electric), the prices fetched by the California Spiders will provide a far more reliable indicator as to the atmospheric conditions at the top end of the marketplace.

There may be Ferraris that sell for more, but they are usually road cars built in very limited numbers primarily for racing (e.g. the 250 GTO and 250 TR), or have a spectacular provenance, or both.

There are two main variants to the Ferrari 250 GT California Spider series, distinguished by the LWB (Long Wheelbase - 2,600 mm) and SWB (Short Wheelbase - 2,400 mm) nomenclature. In total, 108 were built, being 50 LWB cars and 58 SWB cars.

That's just enough to ensure that a few California Spiders reach auction each year and with one of each going to auction this year, they will provide an excellent barometer as to the pressures at the top end of the collectible car marketplace.

Not that long ago, it was possible to purchase a Ferrari 250 GT California Spider for less than US$5 million. Indeed, during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, a Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider (#4121GT) that had starred alongside "Charlie's Angels" in the movie Full Throttle, attracted a high bid of just £2,625,000 ($4,277,620) at a London auction and was passed in.

Hagerty's Price Guide currently lists pricing for a 250 California as $17,533,333 for concours condition car, $16,100,000 for a car in excellent condition, $14,933,333 for a car in good condition, and $13,700,000 for a car in fair condition. Movie provenance will generally elevate a car's price up one or two categories, so a California Spider with no particular provenance at all will still command an eight figure price at auction. For example, during the Scottsdale 2017 auctions, a 1960 250 GT California Spider was passed in by Bonhams with a high bid of $10,650,000, but failed to meet reserve.

Just 50 LWB California Spiders were built between 1957 and 1960, powered by a 2,953 cc SOHC 60 degree Colombo V12 engine producing 237 hp (177 kW) at 7,000 rpm.

The SWB California Spyder broke cover at the 1960 Geneva Motor Show, and the 58 that were built are the more desirable of the two variants. For starters, they sold standard with disc brakes replacing the drums of the LWB model and offered a more powerful 276 hp (206 kW) version of the same engine. The SWB Spider stops much better, goes slightly harder, and the handling is a tad sharper thanks to the revisions.

With just 108 extremely desirable California Spiders in the global parking lot, only a few come to auction each year, and the reserve price is usually in the eight figure ($10 million plus) bracket. On top of that, vendor expectations are such that they are often inflexible with the price, someone with a lazy $10 million in the garage often has plenty in reserve.

There was a survey done a few years ago that found the average Bugatti owner also owns 84 cars, three aircraft, and a yacht. Bugattis rarely sell for more than $10 million, so membership of the 250 California Spider owners clubs is even more elite, because you can buy most Bugattis for much less than a 250 GT California Spider.

In our recent extensive feature on the Ferrari 250 GTO, we noted that there is a high correlation between ownership of a 250 GTO and a Ferrari 250 TR (Testa Rossa, another $10 million plus car). There are only 20 genuine 250 TR vehicles in the world and 14 of those owners also own a 250 GTO (a $50+ million car).

Hence, as a general rule of thumb, the pricing for 250 California Spiders is never "soft" and hence a high percentage of those offered are not sold, because the vendor rarely needs to sell.

One of the interesting aspects that came from our research for this article is that Gooding & Company has sold more Ferrari 250 GT California Spiders than any other auction company – 16 in total.

Below you'll find images and links to the 10 most expensive Ferrari 250 GT California Spiders sold at auction.

1 | $18,450,296 (€16,230,000)

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider

Auction House: Artcurial | Paris, France | February, 2015

The world record price for a Ferrari 250 GT California Spider (#2935GT) was set during the official 2015 Retromobile auction held by Artcurial. The high price can be attributed to the provenance of the car, which was formerly owned by famous French actors Gérard Blain, and Alain Delon, and was the gem of the Baillon Collection which became the world's most expensive barn find. The rare car market knows every such model, and this is one of several individual cars which were unaccounted for in the Ferrari Register and thought lost.

The car was the most valuable car in the Baillon Collection which became global news in 2014 as the world has become infatuated with the semi-archeological find of 61 rare cars after half a century of neglect. The California Spider is currently the world's most valuable automotive "barn find."

The Spider was purchased new by the actor Gérard Blain, then sold to fellow actor Alain Delon, who was photographed several times at the wheel of this machine, including in 1964 with Jane Fonda during the filming of Les Félins and on the Côte d'Azur with Shirley MacLaine.

2 | $18,150,000

1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione

Auction House: Gooding & Company | Monterey, 2016

This 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider (#1603 GT) is one of just nine alloy-bodied LWB California Spiders that were built for competition purposes. It sold with covered headlights, disc brakes, and the 275 hp engine designed for competition, that ultimately became the standard engine in the SWB model. This car (#1603 GT) was raced in period with a fifth place outright in the 1960 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race. Following an extensive restoration, it won a Platinum Award and the Competizione Cup at the 2011 Cavallino Classic.

3 | $17,990,000

1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione

Auction House: RM-Sotheby's | New York, 2017

This car (#1451 GT) is another of the aluminum-bodied cars built for competition, and it more than lived up to expectations when it ran in the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it finished third in class and fifth place outright. Used throughout its life, the car has done exceptionally well both on the lawn and on the track as it has alternated between concours and vintage racing events.

4 | $17,160,000

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider

Auction House: Gooding & Company | Amelia Island, 2016

This car (#2871 GT) amply demonstrates the value of provenance to the price of an automobile, having been originally owned by famed Industrial Designer Gianfranco Frattini and having been featured in the 1963 Academy Award-winning Film Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.

The 1963 comedy anthology film featured Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 37th Academy Awards.

5 | $16,830,000

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider

Auction House: Gooding & Company | Monterey, 2015

This car (#3095GT) is an example of the most desirable non-alloy California Spider in near perfect condition, but with no particular outstanding provenance. Of the 58 SWB spiders built, there were 37 built with covered headlight, and these fetch the higher prices at auction than those without the headlight covers.

6 | $15,180,000

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider

Auction House: Gooding & Company | Monterey, 2014

This car (#2903 GT) was the highlight of the official Pebble Beach Auction in 2014, featuring the sought-after covered-headlight treatment, the even rarer optional factory hardtop, and a provenance including actress Barbara Hershey. When bidding stopped at $15,180,000, it held the world record for a Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider. All the cars above on this list have sold since.

7 | $11,275,000

1960 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione

Auction House: Gooding & Company | Monterey, 2012

This car (#1639 GT) is an alloy-bodied LWB model with a long competition history on both the track and the concours lawn and has been successful in both fields. It has a competition specification engine, disc brakes and covered headlights.

8 | $10,949,359 (€7,040,000)

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider

Auction House: RM-Sotheby's | Maranello, Italy | May, 2008

This car (#2377GT) was formerly owned by Hollywood leading man James Coburn, and when it hammered down for $10,949,359 (€7,040,000) to Ferrari enthusiast and UK-based media personality Chris Evans, it was the most valuable car to have ever been sold at auction, and the first car ever to sell at auction for more than $10 million.

The sale price broke a world car auction record that had stood for 21 years, that of the 1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe that was sold by Christie's in November, 1987 for £5,500,000 ($8,532,588). The record was broken again the following year by a $12.4 million 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa , then subsequently by a $16.4 million Ferrari Testa Rossa, a $30 million Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow W196, a $38.1 million Ferrari 250 GTO, and $48.4 million Ferrari 250 GTO.

Sold by RM Auctions in conjunction with Sotheby's (RM Auctions subsequently became RM-Sotheby's), the SWB California Spider was the star lot at the company's regular "Ferrari Leggenda e Passione" auction at the home of Ferrari.

9 | $9,453,996 (€7,855,000)

1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder

Auction House: RM-Sotheby's | Maranello, Italy | September 9, 2017

This car (#1503 GT) underwent a full restoration in the 1980s by the late Wayne Obry of Motion Products in Wisconsin. The restored car toured the United States for several years, winning 35 concours awards between 1988 and 1992, including Best in Class at both the Meadow Brook and Pebble Beach Concours in 1988, and Best of Show at the FCA National Concours in 1989. The vendor at this sale acquired the car in 1998, and it was properly stored in his private collection. It was shown only once at the XII Palm Beach Cavallino Classic in January 2003, where it won a Platinum award.

10 | $8,800,000

1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider

Auction House: RM-Sotheby's | Scottsdale, Arizona | January 17, 2014

This car (#1055 GT) illustrates just how much money can be spent getting a premium car into concours condition. In 1994, the owner spent a then-stratospheric $150,000 on a restoration, which paid off when it took out best-in-class at the prestigious Cavallino Classic. In 1998, the car was purchased by a new owner in Germany, who sent it to Dutch marque specialist Piet Roelofs for a complete engine rebuild.

Other recent sales of 250 GT California Spiders

Other California Spiders that have previously been inside the top 10 but have been pushed out in recent times include a 1962 SWB ($8,580,000 by RM-Sotheby's at Monterey, 2012), a 1959 LWB ($8,500,000 | RM-Sotheby's | Monterey, 2015), a 1958 LWB ($8,250,000 by Gooding & Co | Scottsdale, 2013), a 1959 LWB ($7,700,000 | Gooding & Co | Scottsdale, 2015) and a 1959 LWB ($7,260,000 by Gooding & Co | Monterey, 2012).

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