Highly valuable and arrestingly gorgeous classic Ferraris come up for auction all the time. Most of them derive from the 250 series: GTOs, SWB Berlinettas, Lussos, Testa Rossas. And when they do, they almost invariably fetch big bucks. But there’s something about this one that just stops us in our tracks. The long wheelbase, the simple but elegant lines, the French blue paintjob and minimalist racing livery…. That it happens to have an unsurpassed racing history only sweetens the deal, as we’re sure collectors are bound to find out when bidding opens in Monterey next month.
This 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione was one of just 14 made, and one of just nine built by Scaglietti without the louvers on the remaining five Zagato-bodied examples. But what sets it apart is its racing history. It belonged to the legendary Marquis Alfonso de Portago, a Spanish nobleman and gentleman racer who rose to celebrity status in the early 1950s. Renowned for courting both women and danger, de Portago took to motor racing in 1953, proved a quick study, and was signed by Ferrari in ’56.
Portago drove this very car to victory at the notoriously challenging Tour de France, which included two hill climbs, six circuits, and a drag race over the course of six days. With his longtime compatriot and co-pilot Edmund Nelson (whom he befriended as a child living in New York’s Plaza Hotel where Nelson worked the elevator) at his side, the Marquis dominated the event. So kicked off a series of four consecutive wins Ferrari would take at the famously grueling race, cementing this model’s name as a result.
The duo won a number of other races in this car, which proved practically undefeated in their hands. Tragically, Portago and Nelson were killed in a crash at the Mille Miglia mere months later, putting an end to their lives as well as that of the Italian road race. The car subsequently passed through the hands of a number of notable collectors on both sides of the Atlantic, underwent a ground-up restoration in the early 1990s, and has won top honors at numerous events, including Pebble Beach, Meadow Brook, and the Louis Vuitton concours d’elegance.
It’s now going up for auction for the first time in 23 years as part of RM Sotheby’s array at Monterey this summer. The auction house isn’t publicizing just how much it expects the prototypical TdF to sell for, but spokesperson Amy Christie revealed to Autoblog that it’s “expected to fetch in excess of $11 million.” Sports Car Market records a similar example sold by the same auctioneer last year for over $8 million, and another by Gooding Company the year before that for nearly $9.5. But for what the RM describes as “one of the most important Ferrari competition cars of all time,” we won’t be surprised to see this storied example sell for considerably more.