Posted on December 12, 2019.
This article first appeared in The Daily Telegraph
The world’s most expensive car is at the centre of a High Court battle between a top dealer and a US collector, as a judge must decide who is entitled to the £37m vehicle’s gearbox.
Classic supercar trader Gregor Fisken, 55, bought the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO in October 2017 on the understanding that its missing original gearbox would be sourced and later handed over. But the seller, Washington-based lawyer Bernard Carl, claims Mr Fisken quibbled over the logistics of delivering it and has breached the terms of their contract, meaning he no longer has any rights to it.
Mr Carl is demanding that Mr Fisken hand over $500,000 (£380,000) to cover his efforts in locating the “unique and special” gearbox, which is being held by a classic car dealer in America. They are locked in a battle at the High Court in London, with Mr Fisken suing Mr Carl for breach of contract and insisting he hand over the gearbox – branding it a “travesty” that he hasn’t already done so.
Just 39 of the incredibly rare Ferraris were built between 1962 and 1964 and the model is considered the holy grail among the world’s wealthiest collectors. The $44m (£37m) Mr Fisken paid is the highest publicly verified sale price of a car. Only the second GTO ever built, it has an illustrious history, having been driven to first in class and second overall at the 1962 world famous ’12 Hours of Sebring’ endurance race in Florida by celebrated motorsport drivers Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien.
After Mr Fisken’s company, Gregor Fisken Ltd (GFL), bought the car in 2017, it was immediately sold on to a wealthy anonymous collector. William Hooper, for GFL, told the court: “Mr Carl undertook to use his best efforts to recover and deliver up the gearbox, in consideration for Gregor Fisken Ltd accepting the GTO without it.” But the pair fell out when Mr Carl said the US dealer in possession of the gearbox wanted $25,000 (£19,000) in “release monies” to hand it over, the High Court heard. The tension escalated when the two dealers tried to arrange its delivery to England, quarreling over who should pay the release fee and shipping costs, and where it should be picked up from.
Mr Carl claims Mr Fisken refused to collect the gearbox from California and this “repudiated” the contract, so GFL no longer hold any title to it. He also argues that GFL doesn’t have any right to sue for breach of contract because Mr Fisken sold the car on straight away to the anonymous collector, so he was “merely acting as an agent for a principal”. He claims he had previously been willing to give Mr Fisken the gearbox, telling the judge in evidence: “The gearbox and the GTO are worth more together than apart. It makes commercial sense (to unite them) and I never opposed the idea.”
Mr Fisken argues that GFL, as a classic car dealership, would routinely need to have a buyer lined up before entering into an agreement with a seller, so this does not “repudiate” any contract. He is also insisting that he is given the gearbox rather than its cash equivalent as it is a priceless item which will return the vehicle to its “original and complete state”.
Mr Hooper said: “The gearbox is a unique and special item. Damages would be inadequate. The restoration of original parts to cars of this nature is of great significance. “This is not simply about the unique nature of the gearbox itself, but the restoration of the GTO’s provenance.”
The hearing continues.