STRAIGHTENING OUT A 47-YEAR OLD CLERICAL ERROR IN MARANELLO

Chip Lamb

Volume 45 Issue 12

Jun 6, 2020

  Some time ago, I let a few colleagues know that a client of mine sought a special Dino. The usual wrong cars (at least for this client) soon crossed my desk. Then the usual stagnancy that so often follows an order to find and purchase set in. The client got attention-deficit disorder and started asking about Porsches and the impetus to put him into said Dino went into back-burner status.

    Some time ago, I let a few colleagues know that a client of mine sought a special Dino. The usual wrong cars (at least for this client) soon crossed my desk. Then the usual stagnancy that so often follows an order to find and purchase set in. The client got attention-deficit disorder and started asking about Porsches and the impetus to put him into said Dino went into back-burner status.

    A few weeks ago on Saturday, I found myself enjoying the stiff breeze on the back lawn of the Ritz-Carlton, perusing the RM Sotheby’s offerings at Amelia Island and shooting the proverbial breeze with my friend and Corvette expert Terry Michaelis, when my phone rang.

    My contact database is on the large side and most folks who call are in it. On this occasion, the ubiquitous Lawrence Elliott was on the other end. If you don’t know my friend Lawrence, you should, particularly if you like Ferraris, wacky clothes and fun stories… and/or have the patience to endure all of the above.

    Knowing that this conversation might take a while, I walked over to a quiet place. On this occasion, Lawrence didn’t want me to survey every Ferrari chassis number or discuss the merits of exhaust system detailing. He had a Dino Spyder with factory “Chairs and Flares” that he swore up and down would be the right car.

    Sure, it was a color change, but it was one he restored in the late 1980s and hey, the car had already been color changed prior to his client’s acquisition of said car, so it was sort of a no harm, no foul scenario.

    I said the usual, “send me pics and as much as you know about the car and we’ll go over it together when I get back, it’s a busy week coming, I’m here at Amelia, it’s crazy…”.

    Later on, I received a succession of e-mails and texts of archival photos Lawrence had of this car; first, a studio-quality gallery that I was advised was from 2014, next, a few photos of the restoration in 1987-88, plus a few other random shots he had from over the decades.

    The car was a stunner, particularly as the work was as old as it was. I decided to present what I had to the client, whose interest was almost immediate and positive.

    I called Lawrence, who explained that the car was part of a complicated trade involving another Ferrari and a rather messy scheme that might involve buying both that car and the Dino to get it done. I replied in the negative, that my client was an end user and that I had no other interested parties for the other car.

    Reviewing my upcoming travel schedule of appraisals and inspections and weighing all travel decisions against the burgeoning threat of the COVID-19 panic that was to get worse in the coming days and weeks, I added a trip to the following week’s workload to go look at this Dino.

    The Dino was in Southern California. This was amusing, as the Dino started out life at Bill Harrah’s Modern Classic Motors, first going to a chiropractor in Millbrae, Calif., then a collector in Burlingame, Calif., then another collector (Lawrence’s client) in SoCal.

    Now restored to its present color combination, it then was sold to an unknown Englishman, bought by someone else who then sold it to Don Williams in Danville, Calif., who sold it to his nephew Shawn, who then sold it to an Ohio dealer, from where it is suspected to have gone overseas. Once more returning to California.

    Lawrence and Shawn were available and went to inspect the car on the same Tuesday, it turned out, that I had planned on making my own inspection.

    Lawrence, for his part, was excited to see, as we call them, an old friend once again. (I got the same pleasure on my most recent inspection trip north seeing a 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton).

    In any event, Lawrence’s first call to me was very bubbly and talking about minute details that were still crisp, fresh or great original that he remembered from being hands-on with the car in the late 1980s as well as when Shawn owned the car again in the mid-2000s.

    A comprehensive overview through many photos followed, including pictures of the Classiché Red Book. Then a phone call.

    “Well, I found something your guy might not like. It’s not matching numbers.” I peered closer at the gallery, given Lawrence forgot how to send high-resolution photos on his first effort. Sure enough, the wrong boxes were checked.

    “How on earth did that happen? I thought you knew this car!”

    “Come on,” said Lawrence, “it’s a Dino. They all had engine problems. It was probably a warranty issue. I’ll call Jim Weed at the Ferrari Market Letter and see if there’s anything in Gerald Roush’s notes. We might get lucky.”

    Somewhat dismayed, I started to survey available information in my archive of Dino appraisals, write-ups and posts on Ferrarichat.com to gather enough information to see if the engine was even in the right range. At least it had a number on it and Ferrari agreed that the number was authentic, even though it was not necessarily to that particular car. My initial study seemed to further dismay me as it appeared at first that the engine was a few months later than our car.

    Undaunted, I sent an e-mail to Marcel Massini, record-keeper extraordinaire in Switzerland: “…. Classiché says non-original. Installed engine is 11808. Looks a bit high for the chassis number based on my data. Can you confirm what correct original engine was in 06468?”

    The next morning, an unexpectedly-quick response came from Marcel: “06468 was born with engine 11806 (last two digits zero six). 06470 was born with engine 11808 (last two digits zero eight). Source: Factory.”

    Bingo, thought I. We’re in the game. Now to prove a nascent hypothesis. 06468 (our car) and 06470 (the one right after it on the line, simply got each other’s engines. But where was 06470? Burned to a crisp in 1977? Left in a field in 1992?

My first call was to Ferrari Market Letter as Jim is always up for a good challenge. Jim and I had a productive chat, should 06470 be found to not have 11806 installed that a plausible explanation could still be reached. We let the situation marinate as I continued to drill down online.

    The first article to come up was an auction analysis written by colleague and friend Steve Serio for Sports Car Market long ago. He had written about 06470, a lovely Pino Verde “Chairs and Flares” 246 Spyder, sold for a then market-correct result at a Bonhams Cavallino auction, January 2001.

    It had been also sold at the 1998 RM Monterey auction and at 2000 Christie’s Tarrytown auction. Would 06470’s engine number have been dutifully recorded?

    No such luck.

    A lucky break ensued. 06470 had been with Bruce and Spencer Trenery of Fantasy Junction as recently as the summer of 2018. It was time to get Lawrence on the phone to Bruce and Spencer to get the owner and send a mechanic to get the number off of 06470’s block.

    Lawrence took his task to heart and I continued to plod away.

    Despite their offices in New Jersey and in Maranello both being shuttered due to COVID-19, I rang up my friend Patrick Granger next. Patrick is new in his position with Ferrari North America but a true-blue car guy whose last posting at headquarters gave him a breadth of understanding of how the entire company works.

    In my position as a contracted appraiser for their financial services department, my interactions with Patrick and my favors for him and for the company as a whole made me think I might have earned a favor. I even had his cell number in my jumbled smart phone contacts.

    “Patrick, this probably won’t work, but I have a bit of a pet project for you and Classiché if you’re up to it.” I explained the situation and was pleasantly surprised at his willingness to take it and run with it despite the drama no doubt going on in his work life trying to run part of FNA from home.

    The hope, however slight, was that Ferrari’s records Classiché had consulted during the certification process for 06468 had an addendum note from then or later on that corrected such records. The correction might actually exist in more than a cursory search of their available data. Patrick agreed with me that one number off was highly likely to have been the sort of error I was suggesting to him.

    With Jim, Lawrence, Patrick & company all working away, I sent an e-mail directly to Spencer Trenery.

    “… It is my hope that you can offer assistance and get your client to do similarly as I think this information is just as valuable to you and your client as it is to us, as we are working with 06468. Should your client ever want to Classiché Dino 06470, it is likely that the inspector would not find engine 11808 in the car as it is in 06468 and thus, through no fault of yours, or theirs, would get a Red Book with an engine change notation in it such as 06468 presently has. If we can get the engine number from 06470 and it turns out to be 11806, the engine originally supposed to be in 06468, we have both hit the jackpot as we will have solved a 47-year-old mystery and proven that we each have numbers-matching original “Chairs and Flares” Dinos that had their intended engines swapped by accident at Ferrari in 1973.”

    An e-mail from Spencer’s father was in my inbox. There was a clean, clear, crisp photo of Dino engine 11806, along with the following note: “Dear Chip; “Here is the engine number of the car we sold… Also, as you mentioned, if the engine numbers were reversed at the factory, please supply a letter correcting the history from the factory. Best, Bruce.”

    This confirmed my hypothesis, that engines 11806 and 11808 were swapped on the production line and that Ferrari’s internal records are, in fact, incorrect. 11808 was fitted to 06468, 11806 was fitted to 06470.

    An e-mail was sent to Patrick Granger. “Based on this new information, I would like to request that a revision to the Red Book be provided for 06468 reflecting that it has its original factory-supplied engine and that all keepers of the records be notified of this in the event that the owner of 06470 ever wishes to obtain Ferrari Classiché certification.”

    “In addition, Bruce requests a letter from Ferrari stating that 11806 is indeed correct to 06470…”

    The endgame of all this is that my client is the owner-to-be of 06468, Ferrari, Marcel Massini and Jim Weed are updating their records and Bruce’s client gets a free verification and sorting out of his numbers.

    Thanks go out first to Marcel who quenched my initial plummeting doubt and supplied the first and most pivotal clue, to Jim for his ongoing support, to all the folks at Ferrari for all they do and Lawrence, who’s got my back with lots of goofy Ferrari information searches I do on an almost daily basis.

    Chip Lamb is a collector automobile dealer, appraiser and licensed professional auctioneer in Augusta, Georgia. A contributor to many mainstream and specialty automotive publications over many years, Chip is also an appraiser for Ferrari Financial Services as well as many other financial and insurance institutions and private collections alike.