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The 1955 Ferrari Mondial in French Racing Blue going to Gooding & Company’s Pebble Beach, California, auction in August has a most remarkable history, first of motorsports prowess and then of a care-taking dedication that spanned more than a half century.
Nicknamed “the Admiral’s Ferrari,” chassis 0556 (0446)/MD has been consigned to the auction by U.S. Navy Admiral Robert Phillips, considered one of the most-revered authorities on Mondial competition cars and who has owned this Ferrari 500 Mondial for 58 years.
He is also the young naval officer who, in the spring of 1960, rescued the Ferrari Mondial that he found in derelict condition in the back shop of a Rambler dealership in northern California. He purchased the car and, while stationed in Oakland, talked the head of the base auto shop into allowing him to work on the car on site.
“The following nine months proved to be quite an education in Ferrari mechanics for Phillips, as he repaired the engine, transaxle, and bodywork,” Gooding says in a news release. “He began racing the car at events throughout California, until the Navy transferred him to Turkey and then to New Jersey.
“Refusing to part with his beloved Mondial, he flew back out to Oakland and drove the car across the country to his new post in New Jersey.”
David Gooding interviews retired Admiral Phillips in this video, which also shows the car in action now and in the past:
The Ferrari had a colorful racing history before Phillips rediscovered it, competing in 35 events in period. These included winning first in class and fifth overall at the 1955 Grand Prix of Venezuela, driven for the works team by Eugenio Castellotti, who replaced driver Harry Schell after Castellotti’s racer was sidelined with driveline failure.
“The Admiral’s Ferrari Mondial was the only Series II Mondial campaigned by the Scuderia Ferrari factory team at the Grand Prix of Venezuela and was the only time the Ferrari factory campaigned a car that was not painted in the customary red livery,” according to the Gooding release.
Phillips never did part with his Mondial, keeping it through the decades as he rose in rank. In 2000, he assigned marque specialist David Carte to perform a comprehensive restoration, “with conservation in mind,” which took all of eight years to complete.
“Admiral Phillips, now considered one of the foremost experts on four-cylinder Ferraris, had completed an enormous amount of research prior to restoration,” the release says. “The body was repainted in its original French Racing Blue, just as it raced at the first Grand Prix of Venezuela.
The car was displayed at the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it won First in Class honors and the Enzo Ferrari Trophy for the best Ferrari on the eniter show field. It also has won more than 30 top awards in 18 concours, including the Palm Beach Cavallino Classic Concorso d’Eleganza, where it won the Scuderia Ferrari Cup for the Best of Show.
Still owned by Phillips, the Ferrari Mondial has an estimated auction value of $5.5 million to $7.5 million.
Gooding holds its annual Pebble Beach auction August 24 and 25 during Monterey’s famed collector car week. For more information, visit the auction website.