Is this £1.5M Ferrari a hunk of junk or the ultimate blank slate?

by Andrew Newton
23 August 2023 3 min read
Is this £1.5M Ferrari a hunk of junk or the ultimate blank slate?
(Todd Kraemer)

Now that the sun has set on the Monterey auctions, we’re looking at nearly £314 million in total sales, including the fifth-most expensive car ever sold at auction — the 1967 Ferrari 412P — for £23.8m. Significant, sure, but that sultry piece of rolling sculpture just didn’t bring much excitement or bidding on the block, and it sold at the price point everybody expected it to. Instead, there’s another piece of Ferrari racing lore that got people buzzing. Something a little … rougher. It’s a 500 Mondial from 1954 (or at least it used to be), and it brought £1.47m.

That’s 17 per cent over the car’s high estimate. Bent, burnt, incomplete, and ugly, is this another case of barn-find mystique, of emotions triumphing over financial sense? Or is it what publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide Dave Kinney calls “a savvy buy?” Those questions are enough to make this 500 Mondial the most interesting sale at the 2023 Monterey auctions.

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wrecked Ferraris at RM/Sotheby's
(RM Sotheby’s/Darin Schnabel)

The 500 Mondial hails from the company’s early days of sports car racing success in the 1950s. Though everybody loves the roar of a V12 Ferrari, the bark of a four-cylinder Mondial or Monza took plenty of chequered flags. Designed for Grand Prix racing by Aurelio Lampredi, Ferrari’s first four-cylinder engine powered the 500 F2 to World Championships in 1952 and 1953. Then Ferrari fitted a detuned version of the alloy four into a sports car, called it the 500 Mondial (meaning “world” or “global”), and offered it to customers. Just 13 of these Spiders were originally built by Pinin Farina.

This Mondial, chassis #0506, is reportedly the second one. Sold new to a Milan-based dealer, it was driven by Franco Cortese (who had driven the first Ferrari to the company’s first victory in 1947) to second in class at the 1954 Coppa della Italiana. He drove it again to a fourth in class and 14th overall at the Mille Miglia, and after being rebodied by Scaglietti it finished eighth at Imola. More races at Imola, Oulton Park, Monza, and the Targa Florio followed, and by 1958 it had sold on to America, where it racked up some West Coast race appearances. By 1963, the Lampredi four-banger had been replaced by an American V8 of unknown origin (it was just a cheap old race car at this point, remember) and then at an unknown time it crashed and suffered fire damage. Must have been some shunt, by the looks of it. After passing through a few owners, the battle-scarred Ferrari was sold to Florida real estate developer Walter Medlin in 1978.

wrecked Ferraris at RM/Sotheby's
(RM Sotheby’s/Darin Schnabel)

Which brings us to the twenty-first century. In 2004, Hurricane Charley gave Florida a Category 4–sized smack and caused billions in damage. Among the casualties was the barn housing Medlin’s 20 Ferraris (including the Mondial). The structure collapsed, raining debris down on the cars. Later relocated to Indiana and stored for another decade, the cars were finally brought out for sale in Monterey, arranged in a sort of diorama-like “as found” display during the preview, and given an appropriately fancy, auction catalogue–worthy name: ‘The Lost & Found Collection.’

The group also included a 1956 410 Superamerica with missing trim, no steering wheel, and exhaust dragging the ground, as well as an alloy-bodied 275 GTB with great history but ghastly appearance. There was also a 365 GT 2+2 with the roof caved in, and a 308 GTB Vetroresina with a busted windshield. Compared to the 500 Mondial, they all looked showroom fresh.

Aside from the mangled bodywork and frame, the Mondial comes with its factory-issued chassis plate as well as rear-axle corners, matching numbers five-speed gearbox, a 3.0-litre four-cylinder engine sourced from a similar 750 Monza, and a long future of shop bills.

That last one isn’t explicitly spelled out, but the people bidding on a 1.5-million-pound car aren’t stupid. They know a seven-figure restoration is the next step. Maybe there’s something reassuring about starting from the bottom.

“I know it sounds crazy, but this Mondial represents the ultimate blank slate,” says Kinney. “You’re buying a wadded-up pile of parts, so there can be no surprises. No panic about missing parts, because, frankly, most of them are. What about prior damage after taking the car apart? Not a problem here, it’s all damaged.”

As for the restoration, it’s certainly not something an owner can tackle with his mates on weekends, but it’s still a relatively simple decision. “Take it to Ferrari for a full factory restoration or have any one of perhaps 25 name-brand shops restore it. There can be no corner-cutting, no ‘I got a friend in Des Moines who can get you a deal on chrome.’”

As they say, all it takes is money. “Remarkably similar to the price paid at the auction” is Kinney’s guess.

wrecked Ferraris at RM/Sotheby's
(Dave Kinney)

What’ll it be worth when it’s done? Well, old race-car prices can vary widely depending on history and originality, but 500 Mondials have sold before. One sold here last year for £1.65M, and that was a running and driving race winner. However, another one brought €3,717,500 (£3,269,840) in 2019, and in 2018 two others brought £3.9M and £3.5M, respectively.

Once restored, chassis #0506 will also be eligible for top-level events like the Mille Miglia, and probably any concours up to and including Pebble Beach. That’ll be one hell of a before-and-after photo.

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