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1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California SpiderSOLD
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ESTIMATE: EUR 3.200.000 - EUR 3.600.000
AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of EUR 7.040.000

The Ex-James Coburn

280bhp, 2,953cc, single overhead camshaft, single outside plug, roller rockers, alloy block and head V-12 engine with three Weber 40 DCL 6 carburettors, four-speed gearbox, independent front suspension via A-arms, coil springs and telescopic shocks and live axle, semi-elliptical springs and telescopic shock absorber rear suspension, and four wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 2,400mm (94.5 in.)

American certificate of title
Ferrari Classiche Certification Package.

This lot has originated in the United States and is present at the sale under a temporary import bond which must be cancelled either by exporting the lot outside of Italy on an approved bill of lading with supporting customs documentation or by paying the applicable VAT and import duties to land the lot in Italy.

Many Ferrari aficionados consider the 250 GT SWB California Spyder one of the most beautiful and functional cars ever made. Certainly the actor James Coburn did. With body work designed by Pininfarina and built by Scaglietti, the car was a collaboration between the very best.
“I am lucky enough to remember that afternoon in 1951 when my father was driving back to Turin from Tortona in his B20, with me at his side. In Tortona we had met Enzo Ferrari in a restaurant and, over lunch, we had discussed the terms of a possible partnership. Both Ferrari and my father were proud men and neither had wanted to give the other the privilege of playing host. So they had decided to meet halfway. In a way they already knew each other: they had met several times at motor shows. They respected each other very much and had probably already sensed what they could achieve by working together. On his part, Ferrari had no coachbuilder at Maranello and had always had to go out and look for the best. He had already worked with some of the most famous names of the day such as Ghia, Touring and Vignale. Some of the results had been excellent, but despite its wonderful racing tradition, even Touring seemed hesitant whether or not to continue. And Ferrari, as he has often been quoted as saying, realised that his cars needed an image of their own and using different designers only added to the kind of confusion he wanted to avoid. He believed that Pinin Farina could give him what he had in mind…
My father wanted to match his creative instinct with a product of the highest quality; he had ambitious plans to invest and expand and was confident that the future would repay the risks and initial sacrifices. Ferrari was the best of all possible opportunities: a young company that had already won itself prestige and sporting glory, able to offer him the chance of creating something really new.
No other company, not even the biggest and most famous, could have given him the same freedom and the same incentive, because it already had a heritage of its own and traditions that he would have had to respect. Ferrari, on the other hand, was like a King without a crown and my father’s great idea was to give it an image and a personality of its own. His ideal was to make “his” Ferrari the symbol of the sports car par excellence.”
This is Sergio Farina’s recollection of the start of Pinin Farina’s collaboration with Ferrari and it is particularly poignant in that the partnership between the two, along with Sergio Scaglietti, would go on to produce some of the most beautiful and sensational cars that the world has ever seen.
Scaglietti was started in 1951 as a car repair shop and was located across the road from Ferrari’s operations in Modena. A true artisan, Scaglietti’s skills in design and coachbuilding ensured an enduring relationship with Enzo Ferrari. While he was alive, Ferrari’s son Dino would spend a lot of time at the Scaglietti workshop absorbing everything that was going on. Scaglietti was responsible for some of the most stunning designs of the 1950s and 60s and became the preferred Carrozzeria for Ferrari competition cars. Following the infamous ‘walkout’ of several Ferrari employees, including Giotto Bizzarrini, Scaglietti took over Bizzarrini’s 250 GTO design. Simplifying the lines and refining the shape, the result was one of the most beautiful of all Ferraris.
Ferrari recognised the contribution that the sale of road cars could make to financially support the scuderia’s sports and grand prix racing, and the appeal of production convertibles in particular became apparent. They were readily marketable to a select clientele in Europe and particularly attractive to the burgeoning market in North America served by Luigi Chinetti and John von Neumann, which was so important to Ferrari’s cash flow. To respond to this market Ferrari created two legendary series, the cabriolets and the spyders.
The 250 GT Pinin Farina Series II Cabriolets were based upon Ferrari’s first volume series built production cars, the 250 GT Pinin Farina Coupés, and like the PF coupé they were nicely trimmed and fitted for everyday use and long trips. Combining the exciting performance of Ferrari’s race-proven 3.0-litre V-12 with the excellent handling and supple ride of the 2,600 mm wheelbase chassis, the Series II 250 GT PF Cabriolet had a well-earned and highly justified reputation as a superb, elegant and understated touring car with quality interior appointments, soundproofing and Pininfarina’s classic Ferrari styling.
On the other hand, there was the California Spyder. Also designed by Pinin Farina, it was based upon the 250 GT Tour de France, Ferrari’s dual-purpose berlinetta, and it shared its character: lighter, more responsive and faster, with characteristics closer to those of a racing car than its more luxurious stable mates. The California Spyder, first offered in the 2,600 mm wheelbase of the 250 GT Tour de France, was developed for a group of performance oriented drivers who wanted both the pace of the lighter berlinettas and the open-air feel of a convertible.
In 1959 Ferrari introduced a short wheelbase 250 GT berlinetta that offered quicker, more responsive handling, followed a year later by its California Spyder variant. While the SWB Berlinetta got a new Pinin Farina designed body, the SWB California Spyder continued with its LWB sibling’s coachwork, styling only drawn and executed more tautly and sharply over the shorter length. True dual-purpose automobiles, they were at home on the streets of Beverly Hills and the open roads and racing circuits of Europe and North America.
Many of Ferrari’s clients were wealthy, famous and titled patrons. In Hollywood, a number of top actors owned Ferraris, including Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and James Coburn amongst them.
Of course McQueen would go on to be an accomplished racing driver as would Paul Newman and to a lesser degree James Garner. Another was James Dean who was killed on his way to race his Porsche 550 Spyder at Salinas, California.
It may well have been Steve McQueen’s influence that sparked James Coburn’s interest in fast cars. McQueen was starring in a successful television show called “Wanted Dead or Alive” and by the end of the fifties already owned a 1953 Siata 208S, 1958 Porsche Speedster 1600 Super and a 1957 Jaguar XK-SS. He would go on to own a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso and a stunning 275 GTS/4 NART Spyder. Between 1959 and 1960 James Coburn co-starred with him in three episodes of “Wanted Dead or Alive”. The McQueen family and James Coburn would remain friends for life. They co-starred together in their first feature film, “The Magnificent Seven” in 1960 and another iconic picture “The Great Escape” in 1963 where they were joined by friend James Garner. Having worked as second unit director on the movie “Convoy,” Coburn’s directorial debut, years later he would be on Garner’s TV show “The Rockford Files.”
James Coburn once said, “Actors are boring when they’re not working, it’s a natural condition. Because they don’t have anything to do, they just lay around and that’s why so many of them get drunk.” A good way to cure boredom is to buy a Ferrari.
The Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder presented here, chassis number 2377 GT is the thirteenth of just fifty-six built. It was completed on March 5th 1961 and sold new through official Ferrari importer Jacques Swaters’ Garage Francorchamps in Brussels to first owner Fredy Damman.
In 1964 it was sold, again via Swaters, to actor James Coburn of Hollywood, California. This would have been shortly after the end of filming “The Great Escape.” Coburn had this car tuned up by Max Balchowsky at his Hollywood Motors. Balchowsky was a successful racing driver famous for his homebuilt Old Yeller racing cars. His garage was a popular hangout for Hollywood’s “genuine car guys” as McQueen, Garner and Coburn were known and James Dean before them. Coburn would go on to own other Ferraris including a 1967 412P.
2377 GT is in wonderful condition, finished in nero (black). The car has been meticulously maintained over its known ownership and includes extensive documentation relating to its restoration and maintenance.With such a wonderful history this car becomes even
With such a wonderful history this car becomes even more desirable, owned for much of its existence by James Coburn, a tremendous actor and iconic film star who starred in some of the greatest films of our age.
Born on 31st August 1928 in Laurel, Nebraska, James Coburn appeared in over 180 movies and television shows. He died in November 2002. Known as being “Tall, lean and sporting one of the biggest grins in Hollywood,” Coburn won an Oscar in 1998 for his role in the film “Affliction.” Coburn shared the same manager as Steve McQueen, the Hollywood legend Hilly Elkins. Elkins said of Coburn, “There’ll never be another like him. When we were kids, he and I and Steve McQueen hung out together. Those two made an impression on generations, past, present and future.”
Surely, this car has made, and will continue to make a similar impression.


This car has a correct Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder engine although we cannot confirm it is engine # 2377GT. Ferrari Classiche have restamped a new and correct internal number for this type of engine.

Reference Number 20670

as of 3/9/2008

Car 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider
VIN 2377GT 
Exterior / Interior Color      Black /      Black 
Configuration Left Hand Drive (LHD) 
Transmission Manual Shift 
Options Exterior: Wire wheels
Interior: Leather interior, Wooden steering wheel 
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