SOMEBODY bought himself the car of his dreams, and a solid investment, at RM Sotheby’s a few days ago.
Not a new car, but one a 62-year-old Ferrari with more history than The Iliad.
The 290 MM, chassis no. 0628, fired up an extended bidding contest between three collectors at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles before finally selling for $30.6 million to entering the ranks of the top 10 most valuable motor cars ever sold at auction.
The fully matching-numbers, Classiche-certified 290 MM was campaigned by Scuderia Ferrari for the 1956 and 1957 seasons.
It had many illustrious drivers, among them the great Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill, Peter Collins, Wolfgang von Trips, Olivier Gendebien and Eugenio Castellotti.
It was later bought by Sir Stirling Moss, who also used it to good effect.
The car was one of a sextet built to compete in the Mille Miglia of 1956. Three were 290s, with the MM acronym and another three 860 Monzas.
All had the same Tipo 520 chassis with bodies by Scaglietti, but the 290 got a V12 engine while the 860 had an in-line four.
The car on auction was one of the 860 Monzas, and competed as a works Ferrari throughout the 1956 season.
In its first outing in the ’56 Mille Miglia, it finished second, driven by Peter Collins and Louis Klemantaski.
Ferraris took the first five places that year.
Winner was Eugenio Castellotti in a 290 MM, 12 minutes ahead of Collins and Klementaski, with Luigi Musso third in an 860 Monza, Fangio fourth in a 290 MM and Olivier Gendebien fifth in a 250 GT.
In the 1956 Targa Florio, Gendebien and Hans Herrmann took it to fourth place and it had its last race as an 860 Monza in the Swedish Grand Prix, where it finished third, behind the 290 MMs of Maurice Trintignant/Phil Hill and Peter Collins/Wolfgang von Trips.
The third-placed car had no fewer than four drivers that day: Alfonso de Portago, Mike Hawthorn, Peter Collins and Duncan Hamilton.
It was upgraded to 290MM spec for 1957 season, and entered in Round 1 of the world sports car championship: the 1000 km of Buenos Aires.
The 290 MM of Masten Gregory, Eugenio Castellotti and Luigi Musso won and the one with chassis 0628 ran third, driven by de Portago, Peter Collins and Castellotti, giving the latter the unusual honour of not only finishing both first and third, but also retiring in a Ferrari 290 S – all in the same event.
It was common practice for teams to swap drivers during long races those days.
With its works career over, it ended up in the hands of Stirling Moss, who won both the Memorial Race and the Nassau Trophy at the Bahamas Speed Week.
Dan Gurney also raced it that year, driving it to second at Watkins Glen.
Chassis 0628 then had several more owners in its 50 years in the US, among them the illustrious Luigi Chinetti, who had it for more than 20 years.
Italian-born Chinetti won Le Mans three times, the Spa 24 Hours twice and had many other successes before migrating to the US, where he founded the North American Racing Team and became the US importer of Ferrari.
Chassis 0628 was subsequently given a full restoration and won a Best in Class award at Pebble Beach in 2001.
“We were delighted to bring this highly significant Ferrari 290MM to our Los Angeles auction,” Sotheby’s Europe manager Augustin Sabatié-Garat said.
“The 290MM represents the golden age of the sports two-seater, having taken part in some of the most famous races ever held.
“Moreover, the sheer number of legendary drivers who have been at the helm of this car make it truly remarkable.”
It will probably go on auction again in a year of three, and give its current owner a healthy return on his investment.