Ferrari May Race to $20 Million Boosted by Faye Dunaway

A Ferrari convertible of the type that Faye Dunaway drove in the 1968 movie “The Thomas Crown Affair” may sell for as much as $20 million at an auction in California.

The 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S NART Spyder -- one of only 10 ever built -- has an estimate of $14 million to $17 million at RM Auctions in Monterey on Aug. 17. Dealers said it is the standout lot in a series of bellwether sales on the West Coast that will also include high-value offerings from Gooding & Co. and Bonhams.

“California sets the temperature of the market,” Simon Kidston, founder of the Geneva-based classic car adviser Kidston SA, said in an interview. “The rarest classic cars are selling extremely well and the prices are just going in one direction. Ferraris have become the equivalent of Google stock.”

This West Coast series follows a Bonhams event at Goodwood on July 12 that raised 36.1 million pounds ($55.4 million) with fees, an all-time high for a classic-car auction in Europe. The 19.6 million pounds paid for a 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 that Juan Manuel Fangio drove to two Grand Prix victories was a record for any automobile at a public sale.

“The NART Spyder is the car that everyone wants,” said Kidston, who bid as much as 14 million pounds for a client on the Fangio Mercedes. “It’s only had one owner and it’s never been on the market before. They’re so rare. I wouldn’t be surprised if it made $20 million with auction fees.”

Racing Team

The 275 NART Spyder -- named after the North American Racing Team -- was the brainchild of Luigi Chinetti, Ferrari’s North American importer.

“One of those red Italian things” is how Dunaway described an identical car in a scene in “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Dunaway’s co-star, Steve McQueen, went on to buy one of the 10 models, as did the North Carolina businessman Eddie Smith Sr., whose family are the sellers at RM. The convertible would have cost about $15,000 at the time, dealers said.

Of the 120 cars being offered at RM’s Aug. 16-17 auction, 25 are estimated to sell for more than $1 million. A 1953 Ferrari 375 MM Spyder specially commissioned by Jim Kimberly, heir to the Kimberly-Clark business empire, is valued at more than $9 million.

Classic Ferrari racers from the 1950s and 1960s are the world’s most consistently valuable motor cars.

Highest Price

A 1957 Ferrari 250 GT 14-Louver Berlinetta is the highest-priced lot at Gooding’s 10th Anniversary auction at Pebble Beach on Aug. 17-18. One of only eight surviving examples, with a race history that includes a 4th in Class at the 1957 Mille Miglia, it is estimated at $9 million to $11 million.

Bonhams’s sale at Quail Lodge on Aug. 16 will include a 1931 Le Mans-specification 4.5-liter Supercharged Bentley “Blower.” Owned by the U.S. collector Charles R.J. Noble for more than 50 years, it is estimated at $4 million to $5 million.

Though prewar cars tend to be less fashionable investments than postwar Ferraris, another example of a Bentley “Blower,” dating from 1929, sold for 5 million pounds at a Bonhams “Goodwood Festival of Speed” auction in Sussex, southern England, in June, 2012. The racer could go as fast as 137 miles per hour.

Last year’s sales by Gooding & Co., RM Auctions, and Bonhams in California raised in excess of $220 million, a 33 percent increase on 2011.

Muse highlights include Mark Beech on music and Jeffrey Burke on books.

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