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The price of an all time classic

In the 1960s, a special relationship blossomed between some Hollywood screen legends and the Italian film establishment. Famously, Burt Lancaster worked with Luchino Visconti on The Leopard and Clint Eastwood teamed up with Sergio Leone to make a series of now classic westerns.

Back in the days of La Dolce Vita gifts were often shared between actor and director. Lancaster was allegedly offered the hound that starred along side him in The Leopard, but Eastwood fared a little better. While shooting a little known Italian art house film called Le Streghe (The Witches) in Italy, Eastwood was given a Ferrari by its producer Dino De Laurentiis.

That Ferrari – a 275 GTB4 – turned out to be one of the most classic models ever built, as well as one of the most valuable. Launched in the same year as the film that established Eastwood’s reputation, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, was screened, the 275 cost €8,000 – a small fortune five decades ago.

Today, 275s are still selling for a small fortune – one will cost at least €850,000. “It was the super car of its day, no question,” says Florian Seidel, president of Carfi cionado, a classic car dealership for collectors of rare cars based in Munich. “It is also one of the best looking Ferraris of all time.”

With a Pininfarina designed body, a V12 engine and an advanced suspension system for its time, it is easy to see why it has such appeal. It is also very rare, with only 280 275 GTB4s ever made following its unveiling at the Paris Motor show.

Weak demand in Europe and stricter American safety regulations led to production being curtailed after just 18 months. That, of course, has just increased the allure and mystique of the 275.

“It has been recognised as a collectible car for 25 years now,” says Seidl. “I would guess that 90% are still available to buy.”

Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson – not known for heaping praise on the countless cars he’s reviewed for the BBC TV series, even if they are supercars – believed it was one of the most iconic Ferraris every built and influenced a generation in the process.

“The 275 came from the days when Ferraris were bought by white knights, the people who invented the jet set,” he says. Hardly surprising then that two of the biggest white knights of the age, Eastwood and jazz legend Miles Davis, owned one. Throw in a sprinkling of inherited wealth types like Edsel Ford II, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, who also owned one, then it’s easy to see where Clarkson is coming from.

Today, buying a 275 will cost around €850,000, according to auction house Bonhams. But that’s less than €950,000 a 275 cost before the financial crisis in early 2008.

“The collectors’ motor car market appreciated rapidly between 1987-1989,” says James Knight, managing director of the motoring department of London auction house Bonhams.

“Much of the spike back then was probably due to demographics trends – some of those people who remembered the 275 as a child started buying them 20 years later. Ferraris were and are special, and the 275 was perhaps the most noted of the lot.”

But the early 1990s recession saw the price of a 275 fall dramatically. In 1991, the price fell to a five year low, costing under €150,000. Ferrari prices have often closely followed the ups and downs of the world economy, but more as a lagged indicator than as a lead one.

So questions might be asked about why the price of a 275 fell little after the worst global recession in a generation. Seidl reckons this is because demand for these cars is now driven more by investors than car lovers.

“Today, fewer car lovers and more investors are moving into buying assets like 275s,” he says. The prices of passion investments like Ferraris have also held up strongly during the last few years, as investors ploughed money into them as scepticism towards other, more traditional investment classes grew.

In the meantime, Eastwood’s 275 was sold by Bonhams in 2004 for just under $500,000 to an Italian private collector.

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