Ferrari detail. Ferrari Owners' Club
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Ferrari Happenings
Birner at Gstaad
story & pics by Andreas Birner
Click here for Auction Results

Our website was fortunate to have two of our distinguished European contributors in attendance at the recent Gstaad auction. In addition to Marcel Massini's article, we hope you enjoy Andreas Birner's
incisive report and beautiful photography as much as we did.
A Tradition
The Bonhams' Ferrari auction has been the final highlight of the Ferrari season for the last six years. Always held in the prestigious Palace Hotel in the world famous winter resort of Gstaad in Switzerland, the Bonhams' sale has become the only auction that is dedicated exclusively to the marque and thus usually attracts the “Crème de la Crème” of the international Ferrari family — be it in Gstaad or on the phone. In 2003, the auction was scheduled for Friday, December 19.The picturesque setting of the small but super-exclusive Swiss mountain village was once more underlined by a lovely white cover of snow, providing the typical “pre-Christmas atmosphere” that is so helpful for an auction. 35 Ferrari automobiles had been announced for the sale, the majority of them being part of a collection that was under the hammer after spending years buried in a Geneva underground car park.

Michel Lepeltier
The story of this collection is a tragic one: Michel Lepeltier was a garage and petrol station owner from Geneva who gathered an impressive collection of road going Ferrari GT cars over a period of 25 years. His stable of 14 Ferrari was his only hobby and passion aside from his demanding job, but it also became his cruel fate. On April 16, 1990 two teenagers ambushed Michel Lepeltier at his home, intending to steal his recently acquired Ferrari F40. In a scuffle with the robbers he was shot dead. While the criminals were later caught and sentenced only for minor offences due to a lack of proof and because of their age, the Lepeltier family Companies soon went bankrupt and Michel’s widow Denise had to hand over her husband’s collection to the bankruptcy court of Geneva. The cars were entombed in an underground car park and left to deteriorate. Finally and fortunately, the decision was made to sell all the cars in the 2003 Bonham's Ferrari auction at the Palace Hotel in Gstaad.

The Sale of the Lepeltier Collection
Michel Lepeltier’s 308 GTB Vetroresina (s/n 19275) in an extremely rare lime green colour (“Verde Germoglio”) that had only covered 7,935 kms. from new was the first car in the sale. Fitted with a non-original exhaust system and some mildew on the passenger seat, it fetched 45.948,-SFr — almost 34.400,-€ for its German buyer after German VAT had been been paid on the hammer price. A strong result for a 308 GTB Vetroresina that for sure reflects its original mileage and its rare and spectacular colour.

Likewise remarkable were the 190.632,-SFr that were paid for Lepeltier’s yellow, one-owner-from-new 365 GTB/4 Daytona (s/n 15069) by an enthusiast from northern Germany.

Swiss dealer Carlo Perego paid 300.855,-SFr for Lepeltier's metallic gold 275 GTB/2 Shortnose, s/n 06827. Interestingly, its typical 1960’s / early 1970’s colour was NOT original: the metallic silver-grey paint could be seen on several spots beneath the car’s current livery.

Michel Lepeltier's 250 GT Lusso (s/n 4509GT) had been the car that started off his passion when he bought it as a used car in 1965. This burgundy example had had a major crash repair in Italy in its first year that has obviously been carried out very carefully since it is hardly visible on the car. Despite that, together with the 275 GTS (s/n 07841) with badly repaired accident damage (190.632,-SFr), Lepeltier’s 250 GT Lusso was the poorest in the collection in regard to its condition. The well-known French dealer Jean Guikas of GTC S.A.R.L. fame paid 240.232,-SFr for this two-owner Lusso — a lot if one thinks about the work that is needed to bring the car to presentable condition.

Another low mileage-car from the collection was the 512 BB (s/n 30865) that Michel Lepeltier had bought new on March 12, 1979. With only 9,067 kms. on the odometer it will stay in Swiss ownership for 96.942,-SFr. A lovely yellow Dino 246 GT (s/n 06024) was one of a very few cars that Michel Lepeltier had restored. At 85.920,-SFr, it represented a good and realistic buy.

The speedometer of the il-fated F40 from the collection showed 3,078 kms. Several buyers started a bidding contest on it; eventually it was knocked down to a family friend for 366.989,-SFr. “Michel Lepeltier etait un ami et un bon homme!” (“Michel Lepeltier was a friend and a righteous man!”) proclaimed the buyer, gaining applause from the audience.

The highly original, metallic silver-grey 275 GTB/4 (s/n 10011) fetched 504.768,-SFr, reportedly paid by an Italian enthusiast. Lepeltier's 288 GTO went for 344.944,-SFr to the garage of Carlo Perego. The “creampuff” of the Lepeltier collection, the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta (s/n 2649GT) that had received a modified nose with covered headlights in the early 1970’s, was sold for 1.050.372,-SFr to collector Dr. Mauro Bompani of Modena/Italy. According to Dr. Bompani, he will have the car restored back to its original specification.

Afterwards, it seemed that the sale of the Lepeltier Collection was a "hidden no reserve sale" since virtually all cars were sold, some of them clearly below their bottom estimate.

Other Cars of Interest
The initially oldest car of the auction, a 212 Inter with a replica “Touring Barchetta” body by Allegretti (s/n 0183EL), was withdrawn since it was pre-sold some days earlier. So, eventually Wilfried De Buck’s rare 1952 342 America Coupé Pinin Farina (s/n 0246AL), was the most aged Ferrari of the day. It remained unsold at 440.000,-SFr — surprisingly, since this is the typical car for American enthusiasts to buy, to restore and to present at a Concours d’Elégance. Probably the weak Dollar kept one or another American buyer from bidding. Although in Belgian ownership, s/n 0246AL is registered tax-free on Guernsey — a reason that may have kept EU-citizens from a purchase, too.

The second oldest Ferrari wasn’t sold in the auction either; 250 GT Coupé Boano (s/n 0521GT) was modified for historic motor racing, including an upgraded spare engine (the original engine would have come with the car), non-original air-vents in the fenders, an outside fuel filler cap, a roll-bar and the removal of the bumpers. Bidding stopped at 180.000,-SFr but at the time of this writing an aftersale was still pending.

Swiss dealer Carlo Perego did not just buy two cars in the auction, he had also entered two cars in the sale: a 250 GT Lusso (s/n 4591GT) and 275 GTB/4 (s/n 10627), both of which remained unsold. A rare 330 America (s/n 5061GT) was sold for 75.814,-SFr to a telephone bidder — who might soon be surprised to find out that no magnet was willing to get stuck on almost the entire front section!!

One-off: 330 GT / 500 Superfast Speciale s/n 6267SF
A very interesting lot was the 330 GT / 500 Superfast Speciale (s/n 6267SF) from the collection of Erich Traber. This Ferrari combines a 500 Superfast chassis (stamped “SF 6267”) and a 500 Superfast body with a 330 GT engine. The chassis number plate in the engine compartment, however, reads “330 GT”. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands had been the original owner of this unique Ferrari, and he did order it “tailor-made” to his needs. Why he choose the four-litre 330 GT engine instead of the five-litre 500 Superfast aggregate is unknown. Now s/n 6267SF has found a new home in the Netherlands at 422.100,-SFr.

The Daytona and its Variants
A black German-owned 365 GTB/S4 Daytona Spyder conversion by Richard Straman changed hands in the aftersale for 245.743,-SFr and will stay in Germany. Another 365 GTB/4 Daytona had been converted far more radically: s/n 15275 is the famous Shooting Break by Panther Westwinds. Following the idea and the design of Luigi “Coco” Chinetti, Jr. and an American customer, English specialist Robert Jankel handcrafted a spectacular and unusual two-door Station Wagon on the then brand new Daytona chassis. Although its looks are a matter of taste and although the entirely re-designed interior is rather disgusting, this Ferrari remains an unique item in the Ferrari history.

Nick-named “The Hearse” by Bonhams Europe president Simon Kidston, s/n 15275 remained unsold at a high bid of 320.000,-SFr. The owner, Paris-based one-off station wagon-collector Jean-Claude Paturau, had expected about twice the amount of money but the author, too, is afraid that the highest bid probably represents all the money in the world that anyone is willing to pay for it! Daytonas could be bought in all variants this time at Gstaad, and so the star of the auction was a 365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione (s/n 15685). The ex-N.A.R.T. team car from the ownership of Swiss collector Jean-Pierre Slaviç does not have its original engine any longer after Chinetti’s team swapped it with the one from s/n 13855 back in its racing days. It is unknown whether this was the reason for that bidding stopped at 1.4 million Swiss Francs — two million would have been needed to convince the owner to part from this very competitive car.

The Splendid and the not so Splendid
The probably best restored Ferrari of the day was a model that usually doesn’t attract that much (financial) attention: A dark metallic grey 365 GTC/4, completely restored to concours condition some years ago by renowned Swiss specialist Bruno Wyss. Entered by Wyss in the sale, the vendor eventually bought his own car back for 130.009,-SFr — probably the record breaking price for a 365 GTC/4 since the early 1990’s!

A nice 365 GT4 BB in rare “Rosso Dino” (orange) was sold for 113.476,-SFr, reportedly to a Hong Kong resident Italian. This plain orange car definitely lacked its black “Boxer trim” on the lower body section that would complete its very original look. Obviously dreaming of the times of the “Ferrari hausse” in the late 1980’s was the French owner of a 400 GT Cabriolet (s/n 23647). Converted when new by the German company “Con-Moda” of Cologne, this red convertible had horrible paint and a rough engine compartment, combined with a so-so conversion. The high bid of 58.000,- SFr was rather sensational in the eyes of the author, but the vendor apparently had the hopeless idea of getting about 90.000,-SFr…

Bargain of the Day
A real bargain was the 512 BB/LM (s/n 30559), the second car in the sale from Jean-Pierre Slaviç’s garage. Fitted with a normal 512 BB engine block, the racecar surprisingly didn’t motivate anyone to bid more than 400.000,-SFr. The lucky buyer, French dealer Jean Guikas, had to pay only 444.145,-SFr in total.

Another racecar, and the last one of the sale, was the 550 GT of French team “Red Racing”. The FIA GT warhorse failed to sell at 340.000,-SFr, probably because of the fact that it will not be competitive against the Procar 550 GTs and the 575 GTC in the 2004 season, and collectors are not too motivated buyers for non-official racecar conversions, especially non-winners.

If one looks at the results, it turns out that this auction's sale rate would have been rather poor if Bonhams had not secured the prestigious sale of the Lepeltier Collection. These cars were apparently sold at no reserve, although this was not mentioned in the catalogue nor officially announced. All the Lepeltier cars were in either original or bad condition, reflecting their long period of neglect. Needing at least a big service, the purchase of a car from the collection could soon turn out as a very costly adventure for the buyers.

Some cars were sold at rather modest prices, too, of course. But the chance to buy a Ferrari out of a almost “forgotten” collection obviously generated some sort of a hunter’s instinct in many enthusiasts that made them forget about the undiscovered and expensive-to-solve technical problems that cars coming from long time storage usually bear as well as the import taxes. This does of course not affect a “blue chip car” like the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta or the 275 GTB/4. The fact that many examples had a remarkably low mileage and just one or two owner(s) naturally helped the auctioneers since this still is a most desired quality of collector cars.Two “big bangers” like the 365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione or the 342 America failed to sell, while good quality or cheap examples changed hands. The expectations for the Daytona Shooting Break and the 400 GT Cabriolet Conversion were just fantasy.

With some exceptions, the material entered in the sale aside from the Lepeltier Collection was not spectacular, nor in attractive condition. This reflects the situation of a European market plagued by the weak economic situation. The owners of good-quality cars wisely decided not to part from them at this time since the latter doesn’t promise satisfying results, and the buyers keep their money for desirable examples instead of spending it on dubious vehicles like conversions or cars in a “so-so” condition. At the moment, it is probably hard for an auction house to find quality cars for a sale — the fact that there was no late-entries in the 2003 Bonhams Gstaad auction might strengthen this hypothesis.

The Gstaad Ferrari auction is, as yet, missing from Bonhams’ 2004 event calendar, but following this after all very successful sale the author sees a good chance that next year's Ferrari season will again close in the Swiss Alps.

Andreas Birner ©



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