What Makes a Hundred-Million-Dollar Car?

Touring the Petersen Museum’s “Seeing Red” Ferrari exhibit.

We’re standing in front of what may be car collector Bruce Meyer’s most expensive missed opportunity, but he doesn’t seem at all sore about it. He’s relaxed, wide-eyed, still in awe after all these years of this 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO, original engine and body intact, one of 39 ever made. It could be worth about $100 million.

“When I bought my [Ferrari 275 GTB/4] in 1970, there was a wonderful one of these for sale for $8,500,” he says while admiring the car. “It’s a long story, but the guy wanted to trade me straight across for the [275 GTB/4] and I thought, ‘Why would I do that?’ [The 250 GTO] didn’t have roll-ups and it was going to be my everyday car and I thought, ‘I don’t wanna drive this thing every day.’

“So anyways, that was my mistake.”

I ask Meyer, who is well connected and respected within collector circles, what might possibly justify the price tag. What is it that makes this 250 GTO arguably the most expensive car in the world?

“This car is so flexible. It’s street-able, it’s race-able, it’s handsome, it’s rare. It performed and won races. It checks all the boxes,” Meyer says. “I love the fact that it accomplished something, it has a story to tell besides just being another pretty face.”

“We know it’s worth more than [seventy million], because the owner turned down seventy.”

“I’ve known this car for forty years myself. It belonged to a friend of mine who installed roll-up windows in it and drove it every day. Then he sold it to [Monterey Historics founder Steve Earle]. Then [billionaire businessman and car collector] Chip Connor has it now. We know it’s worth more than [seventy million], because the owner turned down seventy.”

The 250 GTO is the centerpiece of the Petersen Automotive Museum’s “Seeing Red,” an exhibit celebrating Ferrari’s seventieth anniversary in wonderfully monochromatic style. Meyer called in most cars as favors from friends, and the installation feels correspondingly loose and, somehow, unpretentious, as though Meyer and the Petersen had the resources for the ultimate Ferrari “cars and coffee.”

In one corner, there is chassis 01 — the first ever Ferrari off the assembly line. Then, next to that, a 1949 166 MM Barchetta, which was the first Ferrari to win Le Mans. Opposite those, there is the rare, pontoon-fender Testa Rossa, designed without full front fenders so the brakes would cool quickly, and the smooth, timeless Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder (this one with a short wheelbase), owned by Wal-Mart chairman Rob Walton. Meyer opens the driver’s-side door of the Spyder to show off the caramel brown leather interior and then shuts it with a thud. “That’s probably a twelve- to fourteen-million-dollar car,” he mentions casually.

It’s telling that the gleaming new Ferrari LaFerrari is also on display, but mostly rendered an afterthought, absent of character. Michael Schumacher’s 2006 F1 car is in the room, too. “I think there is a responsibility when you have something that’s significant, historic, and wants to be seen,” Meyer says. “There is a responsibility to share it.”

After taking a lap together, he surveys the room of immaculate cars, perfectly lit, carefully positioned. “If you’re the last man on earth and you can drive anything you want…what fun is it if you don’t have anyone to share it with?”

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