If you haven’t got a lazy $100 million to spend on your next set of wheels then don’t bother reading on because two weeks ago a rubber mat salesman paid nearly 100 big ones for a Ferrari, in August one of us will pay a former software employee $90m for their Fezzer and last weekend Jeff Thomson’s old Falcon brought a mill.
In a private sale, Dave MacNeil paid $94m for a Tour de France-winning 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO. Dave was 25 and had a cushy job as head of sales for Merc’s AMG business in the US when he decided to move into the car mat caper in 1989. Taking a second mortgage on his home he started importing expensive mats from England. Today he makes his mats in the US and owns a $40m superyacht, a $20m Gulfstream, a $15m helicopter, a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta SWB, which won best in class in May at the 2018 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, and other Fezzers including a 250 GT Lusso, a 275 GTB, a 365 GTB/4 Daytona, a F40, and a F50. But, do you think Dave is really happy?
Talking about the Concorso, I noticed Qantas designer Marc Newson hooning around the grounds of Villa d’Este last month in the most beautiful racing car ever made, the $12m blue Bugatti T59. The Marcster’s T59 is one of only five on the road. Bugatti once said he would only sell the cruising limo he later made to royalty but he refused King Zog of Albania due to his “poor table manners”. Zoggie was an old rascal. He smoked 200 ciggies a day, survived more than 55 assassination attempts, played all night poker, eliminated civil liberties, muzzled the press and murdered opponents. Zoggie said he only smoked after sex. (Many of us have trouble remembering what cigarettes and sex were like.) Another designer, Ralph Lauren, owns one of the other T59s.
In what looks like being the highest price paid for a car at auction, RM Sotheby’s will be selling Greg Whitten’s 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO for somewhere north of $90m at Monterey in August. Enzo made 36 GTOs, all of which are alive and mostly well in the hands of US owners. It was one of the most successful cars that Ferrari ever built and one of the few, like Porsches, that you could drive to the track, win and drive back home. Greg did stuff I don’t understand in the early days of Microsoft and now chairs and part-owns Numerix, which does even more complex things with code. But at least Whitto owns a serious Fezzer collection, which he is rationalising with the sale of his GTO. I think the last GTO at auction went for $50m in 2014.
Meanwhile at Bathurst last weekend someone in the room put their hand up to pay a mill for Australia’s version of the Ferrari 250 GT, the Ford GTHO Phase III. Jeff Thomson paid $23,000 for the red car and owned it for 10 years before selling it. “You could drive it down the street, everyone wanted to look at it, not at a Ferrari … in its day it would have flogged them anyway,” Thommo said. The GTHO sold for $5k new in 1971. Big Red is in original condition and unmolested. I think the buyer would have gone a little higher but it was well sold and well bought.
Talking of Australians, Warwick’s own Matt Campbell debuted at Le Mans with a team win in an RSR Porker in the LMGTE-Am class at last weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Fellow Australians, Alex Davison and Ryan Briscoe, drove well but didn’t get a prize. Overall winner Fred Alonso is now closer to the motorsport triple crown after the Toyota team’s easy win in a hybrid. Unless Toyota stuffed it up again as they have for the previous 20 years it was hard for the Japanese to lose this year. A weird rule penalises non-hybrid teams that are quicker than the hybrid Toyotas.
And in the naughty corner this weekend is Audi, whose boss Rupert Stadler was put in the slammer after prosecutors searched his home and said they had added him to a list of about 20 suspects in a fraud investigation stemming from Dieselgate. Also Maserati, after US authorities recalled all the 2018 models because sub-frame welds may fracture.
Finally, the report you’ve been waiting on. Yes friends, your Weekend Australian Racing Team proudly flaunting the WART logo on Phil Alexander’s Nissan Pulsar beat every other media-sponsored racing team in the event. Superb forward driving by Tom Connolly, nude royal portrait artist Michael Michael, the scion of signs, Shane (don’t call me chook) Fowler and expert driving in an anticlockwise direction by yours truly saw your team take a well-deserved podium (if the podium fitted 10 positions) at Steve Shelley’s Marulan auto heaven track and hamburger haven.
Reader Erwin Zehentner reminded me that stopping for a smoke in GP races used to be quite common. “There is an old video of race ace Achille Varzi jumping out of his Auto Union, take a step back and light up, as 300 litres of alcohol-based fuel went into the tanks. It was always fun when it caught alight, as the flames are invisible and mechanics jumped about trying to beat the flames out. We called it the Shell ‘A’ fandango. What funsters the mechanics are. A pit stop used to take minutes, not seconds, and it was not until 1937 or 1938 that they managed to do one in 25 seconds, for about 300 litres of fuel and four tyres mounted on centre-lock wire wheels.”