John Lennon’s Ferrari Chases $6.6 Million Le Mans Racer

John Lennon Ferrari 330
A Ferrari that John Lennon bought hours after passing his driving test was estimated to fetch as much as 170,000 euros ($220,000) at an auction in Paris. The light blue 330 GT 2+2 Coupe was included in a Bonhams sale at the Grand Palais on Feb. 5, 2011. The car was withdrawn before the sale because the seller could not bear to part with it, said Bonhams. Source: Bonhams via Bloomberg

A Ferrari that competed in the 1953 Le Mans 24-hour race and another that John Lennon bought just after passing his driving test are coming up for auction as prices rise for classic models by the Italian maker.

The Le Mans racer is estimated to sell for at least 5 million euros ($6.6 million) at a sale in Italy to be held by RM Auctions Inc., while the Lennon 330 GT may fetch as much as $340,000 at Bonhams in the U.K.

“There’s a feeding frenzy in the auction market for Ferraris at the moment,” the Ascot, southern England-based dealer John Collins said in an interview. “There are new people coming in and there may be some speculators. It’s making it difficult for dealers to buy stock.”

Michigan-based Hagerty’s “Blue Chip” index of the best collectible autos is at an all-time high of 240.9, boosted by a 24 percent increase for classic Ferraris within the last year. The supercar manufacturer is now owned by Fiat SpA.

The Italian sale, at Villa Erba, Lake Como, on May 25 is held in association with the nearby Concorso d’Eleganza, Villa d’Este -- Europe’s foremost beauty contest for classic cars -- and is forecast to raise at least 23.6 million euros.

Ferrari is the dominant marque at the auction, making up 16 of the 40 offered lots, and led by the 340/375 MM Berlinetta “Competizione,” one of three entered by the Italian team in the 1953 Le Mans race. Driven by champions Mike Hawthorn and Nino Farina, it was disqualified on a technicality on lap 12.

The current owner has been identified by dealers as the prominent U.K. collector and historic racer, Paul Vestey, who also owns a 250 GTO, the most valuable of all Ferraris.

History Lure

“This is an important car with a good history,” Collins said. “On a crazy day this may fetch $10 million at auction.”

Ferrari road cars from the same period are also in demand. A 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica owned by the U.S. collector Skip Barber is valued by RM at 1.9 million euros to 2.3 million euros. In Blu Sera Italver livery, it was one of just 36 SWB Coupe Aerodinamico variants built.

The light blue Ferrari that once belonged to Lennon was scheduled to be auctioned by Bonhams in Paris in February 2011 with a high estimate of 170,000 euros. It was withdrawn shortly before the sale owing to “consignor’s remorse.”

It will reappear at Bonhams’s “Goodwood Festival of Speed” sale on July 12 with a revised formal upper valuation of 220,000 pounds -- a price increase of more than 30 percent.

The coupe was in a jam of luxury cars that local dealerships sent to the Beatle’s Weybridge home in February 1965 on the day he earned his driver’s license.

Security Gates

Lennon strolled through his security gates, inspected the fleet of British and Italian sports cars, and eventually plumped for the Ferrari, priced at 2,000 pounds, according to Philip Norman’s biography, “John Lennon: The Life.”

Later that year, the Ferrari was joined in Lennon’s garage by a Rolls-Royce Phantom V Limousine. The Rolls, repainted in psychedelic livery, went on to sell in June 1985 at auction for $2.3 million, which was then a record for an item of pop memorabilia.

Lennon also owned a Mini car for “pottering about in,” author Janne Makela wrote in a book about the star. The Rolls-Royce was for “relaxing” and the Ferrari was “for zoom.”

The Ferrari, owned by Lennon for less than a year, was extensively restored in the 1990s.

Aston Martins

The presale estimate for Bonhams’s annual sale of Aston Martins at the U.K. marque’s factory in Newport Pagnell is also on the increase. Last year the event raised 6.5 million pounds from 46 cars. The 2013 edition, featuring 47 Astons, has a low estimate based on hammer prices of 7.3 million pounds.

The star lot of the May 18 event is a unique DB4GT “Jet” with coachwork by the Italian design house Bertone. Created for the 1961 Geneva Motor Show, it is being sold from the collector’s estate and has not been seen on the market for more than 25 years. It is priced at between 2.8 million pounds and 3.8 million pounds.

A slightly earlier, equally unique 1956 Aston Martin DB 2/4 MkII “Supersonic” with bodywork by Ghia of Turin will be among about 35 cars at RM Auctions’ inaugural sale at Sotheby’s headquarters in New York in November.

Canadian-based RM has previously collaborated with Sotheby’s to hold classic car auctions in London and at the Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy. This is the first time the two companies have joined forces to hold a sale in New York.

The event will “celebrate the motor car and its place in the history of design,” RM said in an emailed statement on April 30. The cars will be put on view in Sotheby’s 10th floor galleries in Manhattan for two days before the Nov. 21 sale.

The Aston “Supersonic,” entered by the Kentucky-based collector Jim Patterson, is representative of the sale’s emphasis on bespoke design. It is estimated at $1.5 million to $2 million.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Farah Nayeri on Cannes and Zinta Lundborg’s interview with Dan Brown.

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