The sports racer is connected with iconic figures of California racing history, and a brief moment in the spotlight with a Hollywood legend
Editor’s note: The ClassicCars.com Journal will be covering all of the action during Arizona Auction Week in Scottsdale, Arizona. Check out our other coverage here.
A 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider sports racer, impeccably restored and with a glamorous history, will be offered by Bonhams during its Scottsdale, Arizona, auction in January.
Four iconic figures from motorsports, Hollywood and popular culture are connected with this roadster, which draws its provenance from California’s spectacular sports car competition scene of the 1950s.
The car, with coachwork by Pinin Farina, is most recognizable from a series of famous photographs from the period that show actor and motorsports fanatic James Dean admiring the striking Mondial and sitting behind the wheel during road races in Santa Barbara.
Dean encountered the Ferrari while it was owned by dealership legend John von Neumann, who is credited with introducing both Porsche and Volkswagen to California, and who sold sports cars to the stars through his Competition Motors dealership. Dean, who brought his Porsche Speedster to the race, was shown the car at the track, resulting in the historic pictures of the actor whose life was cut short a few years later in a road accident.
The Mondial, chassis 0438MD, was owned originally by another well-known figure, Dominican Republic diplomat Porfirio Rubirosa, a wealthy bon vivant known as one of the greatest playboys of all time. Rubirosa raced the car at Santa Barbara, accompanied by his then lady friend, actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, before the car was sold to von Neumann.
While in von Neumann’s possession, the Spider was raced at Palm Springs and later at Torrey Pines, where it was driven by a young Phil Hill, who was destined to become a world-renowned legend of motorsports.
“Associated with such illustrious personalities, this Ferrari Mondial Spider is a very special and highly significant piece of California car and pop culture,” Bonhams says in a news release.
The Mondial Spider is one of just 12 built, and in more-recent years restored by Ferrari’s own Classiche department in Modena, Italy. The roadster, which is Ferrari Classiche Red Book-certified, remains highly original, with its factory body, chassis and transaxle, according to the news release.
After its restoration, the race car won a number of prestigious awards, including first in class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Platinum Award for Best Restored Ferrari from the Ferrari Club of America, and the Phil Hill Trophy for Best Competition Ferrari by the Ferrari Club of America.
Bonhams gives no pre-auction estimate for the Mondial, but count on it going well into the millions.
Bonhams’ Scottsdale Auction takes place January 17 at the Westin-Kierland Resort during Arizona’s famed collector car auction week. For more information, visit the auction website. A video of the Ferrari 500 Mondial Spyder can be viewed at Ferrari video.