Money, money! That’s all we talk about following an auction. Of course, it’s the Pharaonic sums of money paid out for the rarest vintage cars which catch the attention of the media. If lovers of beautiful vintage cars are willing to pay a small fortune for a particular model, it’s often to acquire a piece of history, rather than for beautiful styling or exceptional mechanics.
Take for example the Ferrari 275 GTB/4S N.A.R.T Spyder, recently purchased at auction in Pebble Beach at a cost of $27.5 million (an amount identical to the numerical designation of the car) by a wellknown Quebec businessman who owns an impressive collection of cars bearing the Cavallino Rampante. Is it at all surprising that his acquisition was transported to Quebec in an armored truck with a police escort?
Like most high-end collectors, this automobile, price aside, has a storied history. Wealthy American Eddie Smith, the car’s first owner, made the purchase after accompanying his friend, Luigi Chinetti, to Maranello. Initially there were plans to build twenty-five 275 Spyder GTB/4S, but for reasons unknown, only 10 cars were produced, thereby establishing the car model’s rarity.
Actor Steve McQueen drove a Spyder in the film The Thomas Crown Affair, and purchased one soon after shooting. However, the car was rear-ended in Los Angeles, and deemed irreparable. McQueen, who knew Eddie Smith’s father well, offered to buy Smith’s car, to which the businessman responded: “Steve, I like you, but I don’t love you.”
Eddie Smith Jr. recounts in an archived document (petrolicious.com) that no amount of money could convince his father to sell the car. Smith Jr. relates that his father was crazy for the car and continued to drive his Spyder despite its rising value, his father maintaining that it was, after all, just a car. He remembers his father as a kind of ‘philanthropist’ of good will, spreading happiness around him with his good humour, and recounts that he never saw his father live a bad day. Smith Jr. sums up by saying his father was an exceptional man who drove an exceptional car. Since the death of Eddie Smith six years ago, his favourite Ferrari has been garaged, and it was only recently that the family, by mutual agreement, decided to sell the car, and direct the proceeds to the benefit of various charities.
“It’s finally out of prison,” says Smith Jr., with a heavy heart, adding that the family will be sad to see the car go, but nonetheless take consolation knowing it will put a smile on many faces, including that of Eddie.
P.S. This Ferrari joins a particularly rich collection of vintage cars privately owned in Quebec; the Demers family of Thetford Mines being, without question, the leading family of auto collectors.
By: Jacques Duval
In collaboration with Richard Petit
Photo: Eugene Roberston, courtesy of RM auctions