Lifestyle

The Most Beautiful Superamerica


The ultra-rare, very expensive, very fast 1963 Ferrari 400 Superamerica was prized by Rockefellers, Agnellis and Enzo Ferrari himself

The 400 Superamerica was launched in 1959. It featured a Colombo V12 displacing 3,967 cc and also boasted disc brakes, a first for Ferrari's road cars. Over the course of a five-year "production" run, only 47 cars in two series (short- and long-wheelbase) were constructed.

These were very much bespoke automobiles, built to order. The demanding clientele at whom the 400 Superamerica was aimed had a wide choice of finishing details on their cars. No two Superamericas are exactly the same, and variations are both small and large. The appeal of the fabulous cars brought owners ranging from Nelson Rockefeller to Aga Khan, Gianni Agnelli to Enzo Ferrari himself.

5029 SA is among the rarest examples of the Ferrari 400 Superamerica, the Series II long-wheelbase, covered-headlight Coupe Aerodynamico. Delivered new in Italy, it was finished in elegant Grigio Argento (silver gray) with a red leather interior. By the early 1980s, this Superamerica had come to the U.S. and was painted dark blue with black.

In 1998, 5029 SA was sold in Switzerland, and shortly thereafter a full restoration was carried out by some of the most respected European specialists. This included bodywork by Carrozzeria Zanasi in Maranello, Italy, while Tappezzeria Luppi in Modena retrimmed the interior. Mechanicals were handled in Nyon, Switzerland, by Ferrari (Suisse) SA. Work was completed on the restoration in 2002.

Returned to its original colors of silver gray and red leather seats, 5029 SA was exercised the way powerful, capable cars such as this should be, successfully completing the Coppa Milano-Sanremo rally in 2004. It was sold at auction in December of 2005 to the present owner.

The Superamerica is ultra-rare, very expensive, very fast, and built for a demanding and exclusive clientele. The low grille opening, covered headlights, and long sloping rear deck combine with the double curvature of the windshield and rear window to give the car a taut, muscular look in keeping with its performance capability. Inside, the lavish interior and thickly bolstered seats coddle the passengers in sumptuous Italian hides fit, quite literally, for a king.

5029 SA is in superb condition. It is the desirable long-wheelbase Series II configuration, which provides more interior comfort and legroom—a welcome improvement on tours and rallies. It is equipped with the original number-matching engine. A proven performer in vintage rallying, this 400 Superamerica will now, as when new, put its new possessor into a very select group of people and provide a sublimely memorable ownership experience.

The SCM Analysis

This car was sold at Gooding & Company's Scottsdale auction on January 19, 2008, for $1,320,000.

Stop ten Americans on the street and ask them what bespoke means and there's a good chance none of them will have the right answer. It means to have something made according to the specifications of the individual. The concept is uniquely European, as bespoke is generally associated with the kind of luxury items that royalty or an upper class European would commission. Custom-made shoes or a Savile Row suit are bespoke; a chocolate cake from Safeway decorated with "Happy Birthday Bob" is not. There was a time when the finest manufacturers built bespoke automobiles. The Ferrari Superamerica is one of those cars.

In the late 1940s and early '50s, while Europe was still recovering from World War II, raw materials, fuel, and cash were scarce, yet Enzo Ferrari sensed there was a market for a high-powered GT. Introduced in 1950, the 340 America was the first attempt to put a powerful Lampredi V12 engine in a Ferrari GT. The name "America" was intended to associate the car with America's "bigger is better" culture, as well as to make Americans aware of this new Italian marque.

Powered by Ferrari's legendary Lampredi engines and dressed in an assortment of beautiful bodies from Italy's most talented carrozzerias, the 340 and the subsequent 342 and 375 Americas were smash hits in high-end exotic car impact, if not numbers. Although only about 40 of the Americas were built, their influence was instrumental in establishing Ferrari's success.

Great discretion in coachwork, features, and trim

By the mid '50s, Ferrari's 250 series had changed the company from a manufacturer of short runs of rapidly evolving models to a series-production-based manufacturer. Enzo Ferrari again sensed it was time to move up-market, this time with a bespoke GT model for his most affluent and demanding customers. The new car would use a common chassis and drivetrain, but would allow the client great discretion in the choice of coachwork, features, and tune. The model would be a step up from the previous "America" and was aptly named the Superamerica.

In 1956, the 410 Superamerica was introduced. Following the "more power is better" theme of the prior "Americas," the 410 Superamerica featured a near-5-liter Lampredi V12 and was offered in tuning levels up to 400 horsepower. The 410 Superamerica lived up to its billing by reportedly being able to spin the rear wheels in third gear. The 35 or so examples were produced in vastly different configurations as both coupes and cabriolets, as well as in long- and short-wheelbase models. No two 410 Superamericas were exactly alike.

The 400 Superamerica followed the 410 and while a formidable automobile, it probably fell short of the 410. By 1959, when the 400 Superamerica was introduced, Ferrari had refined the Colombo-designed V12 as a reliable and less expensive alternative to the Lampredi, and a 4-liter version of the Colombo engine was developed for the 400 Superamerica. The new V12 was rated at 340 horsepower, a disappointing 60 less than the most powerful 410 engine.

While the powerplant may have been a step backwards, the coachwork options continued to impress. Ferrari's 47 or so 400 Superamerica customers commissioned an impressive array of coupe and cabriolet models in both LWB and SWB variations. Four show cars called Superfast I, II, III, and IV were built during the 410/400 Superamerica's production. They are identified by their Superfast chassis number; however, they feature Superamerica mechanicals and are part of the Superamerica family.

Nineteen sixty-four marked the introduction of the newest car to the "America" series. It was named to align it to the Superfast show cars and was called the 500 Superfast. It followed the ultra-premium "America" theme but only offered one engine and body configuration. Thirty-six 500 Superfasts were produced, and although they all differed in some detail, they were quite similar in their essentials.

An astonishing double price over 2005

In 1963, the "America" name would be used again, this time as life support for an aging 250 GTE. The last 50 250 GTEs were fitted with larger 330 engines and called 330 Americas.

The Superamerica name would be recycled in 2005 for a new car, this time tied to a slick open-top option used to coax a few more sales from an aging 575 Maranello. However, aside from the name, this model had no meaningful ties to the earlier model.

5029SA is to me the most beautiful of all the Superamerica's variations—a Coupé Aerodynamico with covered headlights. The car is the third from last one built, which means it also sits on the preferred long-wheelbase chassis, and it was described as having been extensively restored and presented in excellent condition. SCM's Auction Database shows 5029SA was sold in 2005 for $561,000, which then eclipsed a high estimate of $465,000.

This time it brought an astounding double what it sold for in 2005. The sale even topped what I would have expected for one of the rare 400 Superamerica cabriolets. The high-end Ferrari market is red hot, and I can't help wondering if the music's going to stop. This was a highly desirable variant of an important Ferrari and today the price was right, but I wouldn't put any bets on it selling for a higher amount two years from now.

Details

Years Produced: 1960–64

Number Produced: 47

Original List Price: $17,800

SCM Valuation: $600,000–$1,200,000

Tune-up Cost: $3,500

Distributor Caps: $450 (two required)

Chassis # Location: Left frame by steering box

Engine # Location: Right rear above motor mount

Club Info: Ferrari Club of America PO Box 720597, Atlanta, GA 30358

Website: click to visit

Alternatives: 1954–57 Mercedes 300SL coupe, 1955–57 Pegaso Panoramica Touring coupe, 1955–58 Bentley S1 Continental fastback

Investment Grade: A


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