One of Ferrari’s most famous models was the “Tour de France,” and the very car responsible for earning that nomenclature is being offered for sale at RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction next month.
The fifth of seven Scaglietti-bodied, first-series competition berlinettas from Ferrari, 0557GT is the 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione originally owned by Marquis Alfonso de Portago, the Spaniard who, with American bobsled racer Ed Nelson, drove across 3,600 miles — including two hillclimbs, a drag race and events at six racing circuits — to claim the overall victory in the 1956 Tour de France Auto, and thus earn the rights to that name for its maker.
The accomplishment was the first of four consecutive Tour de France victories for Ferrari. Among the cars de Portago and Nelson beat in 1956 were a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL driven by Stirling Moss and a Ferrari 250 Europa GT driven by future three-time Tour de France champion Olivier Gendebien.
“Our Monterey sale continues to raise the bar for collector car auctions year after year,” Ian Kelleher, managing director of RM Sotheby’s West Coast Division said in a news release. “Our specialists have handpicked a truly outstanding roster of vehicles for this year’s sale, each vetted for its correctness and authenticity – it will certainly be a great showcase of our focus on quality of product and inventiveness of presentation.
“We’re thrilled to round out what is certainly our finest Monterey offering to date with a car of such incredible historical significance as the first ‘Tour de France’-winning, Tour de France!”
In its news release Friday, RM Sotheby’s noted that 0557GT is “an important piece of Ferrari history… the actual car that instituted the ‘Tour de France’ nomenclature following its overall victory at that race in 1956.”
The announcement was timed with the release of the complete digital Monterey catalog for the RM Sotheby’s sale.
After winning the French tour, Portago won the Coupes du Salon at Montlhery, the Rome Grand Prix, and the Coupes USA race in 1957. Portago, Nelson and several spectators died a month later in a violent crash after a tire blew on Portago’s Ferrari 335 S during the Mille Miglia.
The Portago family offered 0557GT to Alfonso’s friend, C. Keith W. Schellenberg of England, who maintained possession for the next two decades.
RM Sotheby’s reports, “Since that time, 0557GT has passed through a well-documented chain of owners, has been the recipient of a ground-up restoration by marque specialists, and subsequently, exhibited at many of the world’s leading events. It is important to note that it has never been wrecked or suffered any major damage, and remains highly original, which is unusual for a car with such phenomenal racing pedigree.
“In recent years, 0557GT’s success on the track has transferred to the show field, with the ravishing Ferrari earning numerous awards, including at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.”
The car is being offered for sale for the first time in 23 years and is featured in an RM Sotheby’s-produced video.
“The ‘Tour de France’ is the first significant model in Ferrari’s successful 250 lineage – it predates the Testa Rossa, the SWB Berlinetta, the 250 GTO and the 250 LM, and, as such, represents an important milestone in the company’s history,” Alain Squindo, RM Sotheby’s vice president, said in the news release.
“0557GT is part of a very exclusive group of Ferrari’s most historically important individual cars, as famous designations like ‘Mille Miglia,’ ‘Daytona,’ and of course ‘Tour de France’ were earned by singular cars that reigned victorious at those races. 0557GT therefore stands head and shoulders above its fellow stablemates, which it effectively named. Add to that the car’s history with Fon de Portago, its exquisite presentation and freshness to market, and the scene is set for a very, very memorable Monterey auction.”