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A Closer Look at the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spider

1961 ferrari 250 gt swb california spider

There have been some impressive vintage and rare Ferrari models auctioned over the past five years. In 2015, the 1964 Ferrari 250 LM went for a whopping price tag of $17.6 million for the winning bid. At the Same Sotheby's auction held in the United Kingdom, a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spider was sold for close to the same amount, at $16.83 million, but falling just a hair short of its estimated $17 million value. There is something very special about these collectible sports cars and it's enough to make enthusiasts and collectors spend millions for the privilege of ownership. The Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spider is one that deserves a closer look to truly appreciate its uniqueness and value.

The history of the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spider

This model has an interesting past. The Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spider has its roots in the 1959 250 GT Berlinetta. The design team at Ferrari reduced the wheelbase of the model and enhanced the handling. The following year, Designer Scaglietti introduced the 250 GT California Spyder SWB at the 1960 Geneva motor Show in its new chassis. This car was a revision of its predecessor and it featured a 3.0 liter V12 engine with an output of 276 horsepower. This would be a limited edition, as is the custom with Ferrari with a total of 55 examples of the model ever built. One 1961 250 GT California Spider SWB that was formerly owned by film star James Coburn, was sold to Chris Evans for 5.5 million in British Pounds. Another 1961 model year was sold for $15.9 million in February of 2015, and another went for $17.6 million in 2016. Until the 2016 auction, the example going for $16.83 million was the highest price paid for the model, but it was topped at the Omni Amelia island plantation sale.

What makes this car so special?

Although it's probably not necessary, this car is a vintage Ferrari from the early 1960s. That's one very good reason alone, but it goes a lot further than that. It also happens to be a Scaglietti design which tells us that it's the cream of the crop when it comes to premium materials, exceptional workmanship and brilliant engineering for its time. next, we add the fact that there were only 37 models of the 1961 GT California SWB Spider ever made. Not all of the surviving examples are in this pristine condition, so there is another reason why collectors and investors are willing to pay millions for the vehicle. One other feature about this car that makes it rare is the fact that the 37 examples produced are the only of the line to be built with covered headlights out of the total number of 55 250 GT California Spiders.


The Ferrari 250 GT California Spider SBW competed at LeMans in 1960, the 24 hours competition. The model took on the 12 hours at Sebring the following year finishing in the 12th position which wasn't bad at all. In fact, it was impressive for a street legal race car which was just as comfortable on the track as it was on the road and vice versa. This adds to the inherent value and appreciation for the versatility of this highly capable racer/production car. The dual purpose also makes it more fun to drive because it's one of those cars that can win a race at the track, then take you to the market to buy a gallon of milk on your way home.

A comparison of value

in order to understand how a vehicle like this is determined to be of such great value at auction, it's important to understand the dynamics behind the figures. Some of the components of the equation are sheet business principles and others amount to the intangible things we cannot see, smell touch or hear, but we can certainly feel them on an emotional level. If you're not a Ferrari enthusiast, or at least an admirer, this probably doesn't make a lot of sense from an emotional perspective, but if nothing else, it makes excellent business sense. The 1961 250 GT California Spider SWB is a vintage high end car inspired and created by a brilliant and world renowned designer and his team, it's a piece of the history of Ferrari as well as within the automotive industry in general, and it's a rare example. The 1964 250 LM outsold our showcased 1961 California but there were only 32 of them making the model just a little more rare and hard to find. It all figures in to the estimated value of these high priced rarities. The other considerations which need to be made are the emotional attachments enthusiasts feel towards a certain model. This also plays heavily into the decision to go one more on the bidding wars and it can drive the price up astronomically for motivated buyers who want to win, some at it seems, any cost.

Final thoughts

The 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider (sometimes spelled Spyder), SBW, is arguably, one of the finest models ever built by the prestigious sports car manufacturer. In following with the Ferrari tradition, just 55 of the general model were built with only 37 of the variant of the 250 Berlinetta we're highlighting today ever created. This is a rare vehicle with a well-known brand which creates a certain feeling on an emotional level for those who have an ongoing love affair with vintage Ferrari models. It also strikes a resonant chord with level headed collectors who deeply understand the inherent value of this highly collectible example. Some experience a rush of both intellectual and emotional musings at the sight of or mention of this iconic vehicle.Whatever your persuasion, there is no denying that this is one of the most valuable and highly prized Ferrari's of our age.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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