Ferrari 500 Mondial hits Leno’s garage before Pebble Beach sale

The car wasn't bought as an investment. It was purchased for one reason: to be driven

Editor’s note: Follow all of the action and updates on our special Monterey Car Week page.


Rear Admiral Robert Phillips has owned his 1955 Ferrari 500 Mondial Series II for 58 years. That means he has owned a racing Ferrari longer than anyone.

That’s set to change, as Phillips’ car is heading to auction during Monterey Car Week. Before it gets there, Phillips brought the car over to Jay Leno’s Garage to tell us all about why it’s such a special machine.

As a young man, Phillips was serving in the Navy in 1960 when he heard about a Ferrari for sale at, of all places, a Rambler dealer. He was 24 years old when he went to his local bank to take out a loan equal to two-thirds of his yearly salary. Phillips paid $2,225 to buy a rare but wrecked competition-spec Ferrari. Though his parents thought he was foolish, Phillips set out to repair his 1955 Ferrari 500 Mondial Series II.

In fact, learned to repair cars by taking his time and working on this vintage Ferrari. It took him nine months to get it in shape.

Under the hood, the 4-cylinder 2.0-liter Formula One racing was in pretty good shape. The engine made 172 horsepower on the dyno in 1955, and it proved capable of great things when powering this shapely blue beauty in competition. The car took first in its class at the 1955 Grand Prix of Venezuela.

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The car weighs just 1,580 pounds. That’s before the 40-gallon fuel tank is filled, of course. The power flows to the rear wheels through a 5-speed manual transmission without the convenience of synchromesh. Lots of double-clutching is needed to drive this car.

Why is the car blue? It was originally purchased by a French buyer and blue was the French racing color back in the 1950s. It made its way back to Ferrari, but wasn’t painted red, the Italian racing color. The beautiful flowing body was designed by Sergio Scaglietti.

Over the course of his ownership, Phillips has driven the car all over the place. That includes a trip from the San Francisco Bay area to the East Coast after the Navy relocated him.

Now, Phillips is ready to part with the car. Gooding & Company will auction it during its 2018 Pebble Beach Auctions event August 24-25. How much will it fetch? Gooding estimates it should earn between $5,500,000 and $7,500,000. 

That’s quite a nice jump in value compared to the $2,225 Phillips paid for the car back in 1960. Amortized over 58 years, he will surely make more than if he did invest the money, but he has also captured more than his share of priceless memories from behind the wheel.

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