Back in 2004, a barn in Florida was destroyed by Hurricane Charley. Within its walls was a Ferrari collector's dream: 20 cars, including an ultra-rare 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider. As one of 13 in existence, you could imagine how many examples are still surviving nearly 70 years later. Whether this chassis qualifies as "surviving," though, is debatable. Either way, somebody just paid almost $1.9 million for it.
See, this Mondial was wrecked and burned, then left to sit in its "race-preserved" condition. While not operable, it was still very desirable by collectors, so the owner entrusted RM Sotheby's to find the Mondial (as well as the rest of the collection) a new home by selling it at auction. And sell it did, to the tune of almost four SF90 Stradales. Not that one would expect anything wearing the prancing horse badge to be particularly cheap, but a crispy and crumply shell? For $1.875 million?
You see, there's a lot of value when you start attaching people, places, and events to cars. Hell, even parts for rare cars (like a transaxle with James Dean's name attached to it) can see values skyrocket up into the six figures, given the right backstory. Likewise, the reason this busted-up barchetta shattered the million-dollar barrier possibly becomes clear with some context.
Its lore begins with its inception in Italy. This particular example was the second 500 Mondial built, and ultimately one of just 13 original Pininfarina-bodied Spiders to ever exist, though the car would eventually be re-bodied by Scaglietti. Its original finish was in Rosso Corsa paint—Italy's international motor racing color—while the interior wore less-fiery Similpelle Beige vinyl.
Enzo Ferrari sold the Mondial to Franco Cornacchia. Cornacchia was one of Ferrari's earliest Milan-based dealers, heavily involved in the '50s racing scene, and his schtick was taking delivery of cars from Ferrari, racing them under his own team, and then selling the cars once he'd demonstrated their worth in competition. That's exactly what he did with this car by placing Ferrari's "first" factory driver, Franco Cortese, behind the wheel.
Cornacchia sold the car the following year, in 1955. It spent three more years racing, changing hands once more during that time, before it was exported to the United States in 1958 where it continued to stretch its legs on racetracks into the '60s. By 1963, the car had a new owner who plucked the original 2-liter inline-four from the engine bay and replaced it with an American-built V8.
At some point over the next two years, the Mondial was crashed and suffered fire damage. It was then sold to Ed Niles, an avid Ferrari buyer and seller who reportedly moved more than 100 Ferraris during his collecting tenure. Ed resold the car in the early 1970s without an engine.
The race-preserved (a fancy way of saying that it wasn't restored from being crashed) Mondial then passed hands several more times before landing in the long-term care of Walter Medlin, a real estate agent who served jail time after a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service. Eventually, the barn that held the car collapsed during a hurricane in 2004, revealing a hoard of 20 classic Ferraris owned by Medlin—including this Mondial.
RM Sotheby's was ultimately entrusted with selling off the group of cars, dubbing it the Lost and Found collection. The sale of the Mondial specifically was a huge deal given the rarity, and it also included a number-matching gearbox, rear-axle corners, and the factory-issued chassis plate. The buyer would also receive engineer Aurelio Lampredi's Tipo 119; a 3.0-liter inline-four that would normally be found powering the up-classed Ferrari 750 Monza.
Sotheby's expected the hammer to fall somewhere between $1.2 and $1.6 million. That would seem like a big ask granting the condition, but keep in mind the same auction house also sold a restored Pininfarina-bodied 500 Mondial Spider for more than $4 million back in 2019. Ultimately, this one sold for a whopping $1.875 million.
It's not clear if the new owner will restore the Mondial back to its original Rosso Corsa glory, or if they'll enjoy the car from beyond the driver's seat in the same condition that it has been preserved in for more than half a century. It evidently hasn't had much of an effect on the Ferrari's desirability, after all.
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